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Tuesday

Too Strict, Demanding, Out of Control Black Parents

They go out of control to get their children in control, the big, black, bad a$$ parents banging on doors, throwing things, cursing, and threatening.  You met some "ghetto" or "street smart" types in meetings yelling, saw them at family functions going off on relatives, or sat across from them when they stared angrily at children.  You may have praised them for their strict parenting style, because the children "weren't any problem" or you may be one of them that folks in the family don't have too much to say when it comes to you and your kids.  Tough-talking, mean, strict, and demanding, these impatient parents are secretly out of control despite managing others.  They always have something negative to say about the kids even when they really aren't that much trouble.

I had put two and two together and came up with four issues that I personally experienced growing up and those issues were amplified once I had children of my own.  I recognized that one issue I faced was not having a social life as a tween, because controlling parents didn't think I needed any friends or activities outside of "getting an education...you don't need no friends. Besides, they will get you in trouble."  Everyone?  "Our parents didn't believe in all that...go sit down somewhere and play!"  The second problem was how you made mom and dad looked was more important than what you wanted.  So decisions were made based on what you thought parents would be proud about and how they were viewed by the public more so than one's personal interests.  "No, I can't sign up for that, because my mom said...I think I will take that because my dad said...They wouldn't want me to get that...ask for this...watch that..."  Next, was this issue of being emotionally black-mailed into towing the line or forcibly made to do what was asked by any means necessary.  "I can't all you right now Mom because...So you are going to do that just because I can't be there for you!?  Dad you won't help me because I did...that happened when I was 13, are you serious!?"  Lastly, challenges related to money.  Since children will burden a parent's finances every now and then, they made d*mn sure you heard about it so that you didn't want to ask them for things even if you were in trouble while they spent freely.  "I really could use the help...I know I asked last time, but that was different.  I will buy my own...and I will get that too.  I already too out enough loans, do you plan on helping me?" 

When I added up the problems that kept arising, I came to one conclusion, this dysfunctional parenting stuff had to go and whatever I couldn't conquer, I needed to humbly ask for some help, do the research and read useful material--something many black folks don't like to do.  Instead, it's "My mother said...My dad said...My grandma said...Cousin T.T. said...We turned out alright."  No you didn't.

Strict about grades, where you go, who you see, and what you do doesn't end with childhood, some of these demanding parents keep up with the act.  Then the children grow up and have some ways just like them and will try to check their mates, but they aren't having it.  "You won't tell me what to do I'm a grown a$$ man!  I will be d*mned you sit there and order me around!" says a loved one.  You know where to draw the line.  You can boss those children around, but don't try it with a partner!

The nasty attitude, bully demeanor, and mind manipulation might work for a season on one's kids, but they do grow up and they won't keep putting up with a pushy parent for long.  Until a mother or father, who may now be a grandparent, truly looks at his or herself and examines where he or she is wrong there will always be push back from what appears to be rebellious children and grandchildren.  In addition, the reality is that discerning sons and daughters don't want a wise-talking, neck swaying, finger snapping, in your face cursing kind of parent--that gets old and this is why some children are provoked to do the unthinkable--honor thy mother and father goes out the window especially when one could care less about the Bible. 

I recognize sometimes children will make you "go there," (I have four sons), but if this is happening all the time, you have to ask yourself, "What am I doing wrong?  How am I treating my child?"  The answers usually come back to you between screams, cries, lies, and more, but are you truly listening or too busy thinking about getting power and control back over a son or daughter?

I was moved to write this piece, because I saw the truth from childhood and then again when I looked at the young people in my life and the fear was evident on their faces around parents and the pain I heard in their voices, "My dad said that...My mother did this...I don't like it when..."  A couple of my sons don't have much longer until they are grown men and once they are gone, they are free to be whoever whatever hopefully according to the will of God.

You may know of someone who reached 20 plus or maybe even 40 or 50 plus and gave up appeasing Mama or Daddy it got to be too hard to put up with a strict, demanding parent who rarely had a nice word to say without having far too many criticisms or did some ugly things.  So when aging parents finally need a son or daughter to come around, that door will be closed.  Those who don't know what that feels like to be emotionally and/or physically worn out with parents will judge, persuade, hope, and pray, but unless you have been in an abusive relationship with a parent you don't understand.  For some who have been there, done that, and got over some things (so they say), how they handled their situation doesn't fit all--there is no one size fits all when dealing with relatives.  Be grateful that whatever someone is going through, you don't have to walk in their shoes.

Many people might applaud these tough-talking parents for their rigid parenting styles and wish more were like them, but what they don't realize is sooner or later the emotional breakdown or challenged family relationship will negatively affect the son or daughter (old or young).  A young person might be knocked out the race toward a great career and/or family success not by competitive non-blacks, but his or her own people who just don't know when to stop putting so much pressure on him or her. 

From stressing children about money related issues to demanding that they obligate themselves to family challenges, these critical parents become nothing more than an emotionally draining burden that adult sons and daughters eventually rid themselves of.  With so many people concerned about their personal needs and pleasures nowadays, it won't be long before we will see more and more family strife and less family gatherings especially during the holidays.

Nicholl McGuire is the author of Say Goodbye to Dad and other books.     

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