It is extremely important to keep our children out of legal trouble at an early age as dumb mistakes as a youth can come back to haunt them later in life. In California, the three strikes law has resulted int he 25 to life sentence of thousands of people, many for non-violent offenses. Two childhood convictions for seemingly small crimes like shoplifting, or joyriding in a car are seen by the "system" as "robbery and ""grand theft auto". A third conviction for something as simple as drug possession or forgery could land your child in jail with a minimum 25 to life.
Although the recent election has modified the California three strikes law there is is still grave danger in getting involved in the prison system including the loss of years, abuse in prison, extended sentences and even death.
In our recent blog post "Recipes for Destruction - The Prison System" we presented the "recipe" for the round up and incarceration of minority youth by the prison industrial complex. This article forgoes the symbolism and cuts straight to the chase with real talk about what black fathers must do to keep our kids out of prison.
The first and most obvious thing that our fathers must do is to simply be present in the lives of our sons. Absentee fathers is THE leading cause in the destruction of the black family and for the most part we have no one to blame but ourselves.
When a father abandons a family (and his child) often times that young man feels unworthy of love. He can feel like a mistake and it can definitely cause him to act out in ways that are self-destructive or that will lead him into trouble in school and with the law. The simple act of being there whether it be physically or even with a weekly phone call shows the child that he is worth something, he is not a mistake and that you actually care about what he does. This first simple act of caring goes a LONG way to keeping him on the right path.
If you abandon your child you show him you don't care about his life. If you don't care about his life why should he?
Being there is a great first step, but it is not nearly enough. You must impart your wisdom (or lack thereof) on your young man. Teach him about right and wrong, morality and about being a good man. A simple set of morals and values to live by set the standard for your young man to live up to. As a child he will not want to disappoint his father. As he becomes a man he will not want to disappoint himself.
Children need guidance. More importantly, they want guidance. When you impose rules and teach them values you show them that you care how they turn out. Adherence to rules gains them love and acceptance that children need to develop self esteem and self-worth. They develop the sense of right and wrong that ultimately will keep them out of trouble with the law.
The more happy a child is with his relationship with his family the less likely he will do anything to mess that up.
Educate Them On Life and the Dangers of Prison
One of the most important thing you can do as a father is to teach your children early about the ills of dealing with the police and prison. As a child (10 and under) the police love your little black children; giving them stickers and helping them find their lost toys. As they hit their teen years they somehow turn from cute little kids into potential dangers to society by too many rogue policeman. You need to educate your children on this sad reality of life as a young black man.
In addition to this change in life you also need to educate your child on the poor quality of prison life. Too much TV and glorification of prison by the media gives a false impression of the harsh realities of prison life. If you've been to prison, tell your children emphatically that this is the last place they want to be. If you have never been, find someone who has been there to help educate your child. Buy "scared straight" videos, take them on a prison visit, or find neighborhood programs to assist you. You must let them see the consequences early enough in life, BEFORE they get into trouble. Once they are in their mid-to-late teens it is far too late.
Finally, you need to teach them about the loss of rights and opportunities as a result of prison. Our posts "How to Silence a Revolution" and "Solitary Confinement - Torture Chambers for Black Revolutionaries" both discuss some of the impact a prison record and hard time has on their future. I urge you to share these with them along with the many other lessons you can impact on your offspring.
Financially Provide and Teach Them to Provide for Themselves
Who do you want to teach your kids how to make money - you or "the streets"?
Show him the value of a hard day's work. Show your son your paycheck so he understands that work equals money. If you're an entrepreneur teach your son about how to start a business. Expose him to other black men who are successful as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists or teachers. If you don't know any of those people direct them to our website as we are trying to spotlight as many of those people possible. The bottom line is that you if you teach your child HONORABLE and SATISFYING ways to make money they will not need or want to steal, lie, rob or sell drugs to get it.
The flipside of this is relegating your child to a life of poverty by abandoning him financially. If a child has to watch his mother hustling all the time to make ends meet he will obviously do the same. If he has to choose hunger or the hustle you know what he is going to do. If robbing a store or selling drugs is the only way to get nice things your son will definitely do it. Anybody would
Fathering children is something that should make any man proud, but fathering a child without providing for him should be viewed as a badge of shame.
It should be the goal of every father to make sure that EVERY child that they father have as good or a better life than their own. Anything less should be seen as falling short. Until we collectively adopt this philosophy we will continue to leave our young black men at the mercy of the streets, gangs, rogue police and the everyday savages that can be American life without the strong support of family.
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