What comes to mind when you hear the word “power”? Does it evoke thoughts of control and abuse or do you think about empathy and compassion?
When I talk about raising powerful men, I get a mixed reaction, that is until I provide further explanation. As the mom of two boys, I am constantly looking at the world through the lens of sons as black males. I think about their future and how we are influencing how they see themselves and their world. I am frequently torn between reminding them of how the world sees them as black men and empowering them to be proud black men. It’s a delicate balance of teaching them that they are powerful while reinforcing that power isn’t measured by race, gender, money, or position. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that many in our society are using these measures to benefit how they use power. Yet, that doesn’t give me an excuse to allow my sons to believe it.
I am not naive enough to believe that my sons will not face pressures to either exert what power they believe they have but I am hopeful that the foundations we set will guide them to make the right decisions. I don’t believe that we have to tell our sons that they are greater than or more accomplished than other children in order for them to feel valued, loved, or understood. I believe it’s important that they recognize their strengths and limitations while appreciating the strengths of others.
When we talk to our children about power and leadership, we have to remind them that leaders earn respect by having respect for themselves and others. Power comes from a place of love and not fear. To be powerful, our children have to see the best in themselves as well as in others. While our children may see people that contradict what we are teaching them about power, we can focus on how we raising better leaders for tomorrow.
We are raising future leaders and we have to inspire how they perceive power. When I think about a powerful person, I think about someone who is aware of and manages his/her feelings. A person who knows that power does not lie in controlling, intimidating, or abusing others in order to get results. A powerful person is mindful of how he/she communicates with others. A powerful person is accountable for his/her words and action.
What we say in the presence of our children about the opposite sex, shapes their perception of males or females. We don’t need to disempower boys to empower girls. We don’t need to dismiss the strength of girls to empower boys.
We can value our children’s strengths and abilities without teaching them to devalue what others have to contribute to the world. If you want to raise powerful children, it begins with showing them that power is not exclusive but inclusive. As the late poet Maya Angelou stated, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”