6 Ways to Raise an Activist | Parent Allies


Today we are grateful to the brilliant Yolanda Williams of Parenting Decolonized for sharing her wisdom as we launch our Parent Allies: Normalise feature.  Normalise brings the focus on all sorts of different families who are living child rights in their homes because we recognise that too often in this online parenting world there is an assumption that the audience is filled with middle class, cis, two parent, white families. Take a look to get involved.  Welcome Yolanda! 

When I tell people I’m raising an activist, they usually ask why. Do you really want her to put herself on the line for strangers who probably wouldn’t do the same?  My answer:  HELL YEAH!  Activists have voices and they know how to use them. Activists follow their passions and are voracious learners. They are empathetic, compassionate, and altruistic. And they have to understand how to be diplomatic problem solvers. Why would I choose to raise my daughter any other way? So, with the goal of raising a badass disruptor of the status quo in mind, I had to think about how I planned to bring out those qualities in her with my parenting.

How can I ensure I’m not silencing her voice before she even has one?  How do I make sure I’m protecting her emotional and mental health?  What kind of parent do I need to be to raise an activist?  A conscious one. I’m not talking about wokeness (which is important too), but a parenting lifestyle. Conscious parents engage and connect with their children using emotionally intelligent discipline choices rather than punitive methods (like spanking) because the brain thrives on connection and empathy.  Do you want to raise the next generation of activists?

Here’s what you need to do.

“The way you see a child is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they will become.” –

Lynn Robbins

Respect your child’s voice

How many of us were told children should be seen and not heard?  How many times have you heard an adult say “stay in a child’s place”?  What is that place exactly?  These phrases diminish children’s voices.  It tells them that their opinions are inferior to adults.  Just because children do not have as much life experience as adults, does not make them or their opinions inferior. When encouraging your child to speak up, teach them how to do so without name-calling or disparaging the other side. At the end of the day it is up to us to model respectful communication, especially during conflict. 

Understand normal child development and adjust your expectations accordingly

So much of conscious parenting is about changing our expectations and being intentional about learning how children’s brains work, child development, and unlearning toxic parenting mindsets passed on from our own childhood. Understanding what is normal makes us more empathetic to growing pains like tantrums and pre-teen bad attitudes. We can still feel frustrated and upset, but we discipline to teach them a better way to communicate instead of just punishing them for their very age appropriate behavior.

Treat your child as you want to be treated

One of the ways I was able to fully commit to conscious parenting was to accept that children are equal to adults. That’s a hard concept for many adults who were raised, by words and/or actions, to believe children are inferior to adults, akin to property. I’m sure there’s someone reading this now, disagreeing with me. To be clear, I’m not speaking of your intellectual equal, although it is a scientific fact that children are born geniuses. They are equal to us in the sense that they deserve the same respect adults demand, with the same rights to health, safety, and the pursuit of happiness as adults. Despite differences in size, experience and power, adults and children are inherently of equal worth, and their perspectives and experiences should thus be considered on the same merits as those of adults. The day every child is treated with respect and dignity is the day our entire society’s values and power dynamics will change.

Allow them to make decisions 

As children grow older, they like to explore and push boundaries. What they are looking for is a sense of autonomy and self-confidence, an important cog in the wheel of development. The way parents handle this is crucial for the child’s development.When children are not allowed to explore in a child proof home or are punished and smacked by parents for what is in reality,  age appropriate behavior, they develop a sense of shame and doubt. So, allow them to make decisions by giving choices. Something as small as choosing their snack from the two you offer, not only stops power struggles but gives them the confidence to make decisions and improve their problem-solving skills.

Model leadership

Conscious parenting challenges parents to move from solely managing their children to also LEADING them. Leaders provide guidance, direction, clear structure, boundaries, and positive discipline to address undesirable behavior. Kids learn with their eyes. We need to SHOW them how to be leaders that inspire, empower, challenge, and motivate others in a supportive environment.

Affirm your child as often as possible

Because your inner voice shapes your perception of people and events around you, it is important we affirm our children as much as possible. We need to let them know that their mere presence brings us joy.  Most parents get caught in a transactional affirmation loop which sends the message that they are only valuable or loveable or worthy when they are obedient.  Affirm them, show them affection, and love them, even in trying moments. This is how you build unshakeable confidence.  The kind of confidence one needs to challenge the status quo.

Model self-care and healthy boundaries

Self-care has to be an intentional act. You HAVE to find the time for it. Even if we never hit or yell, our children can feel our energy. They also have the amazing ability to blame themselves when they see us unhappy or stressed out. This means creating boundaries around your time and your mental health. This means saying NO respectfully and teaching your child to do the same. Activists are known for putting others in front of themselves, so it’s imperative you teach that they can’t pour from an empty cup.  

Of course speaking out comes with its risks, especially to black children. We are already seen as more aggressive, angry, and undeserving of protection. Black people put their bodies on the line whenever we speak out, angering people with a vested interest in our oppression. Which is why conscious parenting in and of itself is activism. Every time a black parent chooses conscious parenting, we are fighting against white supremacy, as we are decolonizing minds to raise liberated black children. It isn’t an easy lifestyle though. Conscious parenting is hard af. It takes more work, more patience, more intention. It requires us to heal ourselves, or at least start that process and/or understand ourselves better. It requires us to think differently about children, what they need, and why they act the way they do. All under the gaze of old-school family members, judgemental stares from strangers, and that ever-present white gaze. This way of parenting in the black community is harder because we are judged harshly when our kids “misbehave”. So, be gentle with yourself as you clear out those ingrained, generational patterns and beliefs. Change is hard but it is worth it, especially if you want to raise an activist. 

Yolanda Williams is a Certified Positive Discipline Coach and Host of the podcast Parenting Decolonized, a show that unpacks how colonization has impacted the black family and teaches parents how to raise liberated black children without breaking their spirits. When she’s not advocating for the safety and liberation of black children from white supremacy and parental oppression, she’s chasing her toddler around the house and trying to remain sane.

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