Academically, professionally, economically—black women continue to outpace black men. And, I can’t help but wonder if much of that could be attributed to how some single black mothers raise their daughters in comparison to their sons.
In recent years the percentage of black children born into single parent households, an overwhelming majority of which headed by women, has skyrocketed. Nearly three-fourths of black boys and girls are being raised in broken homes—brokenness stemming from the fact that fatherlessness often creates imbalance.
Women understand womanhood. Mothers know what it is like to be a little girl—a teenager, a young adult. We connect with our daughters and, in a sense, often push them to heights we have never reached. Despite our own successes or shortcomings, it is that personal understanding and connection that enables single mothers to raise women. We know how, when and where to utilize discipline and praise to guide them in the right direction.
But, when it comes to boys the journey isn’t so clear. Mothers do not have firsthand experience walking in the shoes of men. While this world may be a cold place for men and women alike, the lives of young, black men can be especially challenging—dealing with everything from drug-dealing stereotypes to the anticipations of failure, intellectual inadequacy. When little black girls go to school teachers do not expect for them to fail in the same way they do little black boys. Black women are not profiled by law enforcement the same way as black men. And, employers are much more inclined to hire us.
Still, too many mothers coddle their sons through life—loving them as boys but not raising them to be men.
My three children are very young (14 months, two and three to be exact). However, I have experienced some of what it is like to train up little girls versus boys and how mothers subconsciously render their daughters differently. My two sons are the oldest, daughter is the baby girl, and our household operates very much in the way one would expect—which is why I am grateful to have my husband there for balance.
Offsetting discipline with praise and reward comes easier with my daughter than my sons. My expectations for all of them are high but enforcing rules and maintaining consistency seems to come naturally with her. It is somehow more emotionally taxing to see my boys cry or get reprimanded, and I can almost always come up with a way to their excuse poor behavior. However, it is that mama’s boy inclination that fosters irresponsibility, unaccountability and laziness. It is what creates the imbalance in households minus dad and ultimately stunts the developmental process.
Think about the mothers who work two jobs to buy expensive video games for their teenage sons who make no effort to keep a steady job and bring home subpar grades. Think about the mothers whose adult sons live at home and have multiple children of their own being raised in others homes. Sadly, the situations are not as uncommon as they should be.
All the while, we are also teaching our daughters to expect more of themselves than the men around them—to give what they do not deserve, to pawn their faults off to circumstance.
Granted there is no cookie-cutter way to parent and there is only so much one person can do. Nevertheless, it is important that we start consistently holding our sons to higher standards and placing the same boundaries on them as we do our daughters.
If anything, we should probably be more stringent and utterly expectant, as more is required of them—everything times ten.
LaShaun Williams is a Madame Noire contributor and columnist whose work has appeared in the New York Times and across several popular sites, such as HuffPost Black Voices and the Grio. You can visit her blog at lashaunwilliams.com or follow her on Twitter @itsmelashaun and Facebook.