Teaching My Black Sons: The Affirmations I Use to Create Positive Identity

In kindergarten, I was waiting for my turn to use the slide on the playground; two blonde-haired white girls were in front of me. They were kind and offered to let me use the slide before them. “Let the Black girl go first,” one said sweetly. Completely puzzled, I pondered which one of us was the Black girl. I turned around to see who exactly they were talking about and realized I was the Black girl. 

I was totally unaware of race up to that point in my life. Even though my best friend at school was white, I never thought anything about our physical differences. I told those girls they were wrong, that my skin was clearly brown and not Black. I went home and asked my mom why they called me Black. Of course, she affirmed what those girls already knew: “Baby girl, because you are Black!”

When I realized I was Black that day, race felt like such a far away concept to my 5-year-old mind. My mother could not go to an integrated school when she was growing up in Alabama, but I could and I did. Progress, right?

Recently, I have been reading my two young sons children’s books about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These books necessitate discussing why Dr. King’s dream was necessary and the reality of racial constructs in America. 

Between tiki torch marches in Charlottesville, the mainstream usage of the term “nationalist” and its connotations to white nationalism, anti-Semitic attacks increasing across the nation, and anti-police brutality being falsely equated with being anti-police, these racial constructs feel more real today than they did as a young girl in the South. It feels like the progress we gained is slowly being stripped away.

As a mother of two precious Black sons, it burdens my heart that one day someone just by looking at their faces might feel afraid and find their very existence threatening. My boys are just like any kids their age: they ask me daily when the “germy germs,” known as COVID-19, will go away so they can go to the library again; they never let their dad leave the house without a special toy to take with him to work; they act like they won the lottery whenever they see a fire truck, a police car, or an excavator; they can devour Costco size portions of applesauce pouches in an hour; they cannot sleep without their cozy giraffe print lovies. 

 

Source: Unsplash

 

But there is a day coming when seeing a police car may stop bringing them joy. My hope is that if that day comes that the baby names that my husband and I took months to select will not be reduced to hashtags. 

I cannot control how someone views my beloved sons. But I can shape how my boys view themselves. So, how do I frame my Black children’s identity positively in light of the negative and dangerous narrative from broader society? I shape their identity with positive affirmations of their character and of their Blackness. 

 

I cannot control how someone views my beloved sons. But I can shape how my boys view themselves. So, how do I frame my Black children’s identity positively in light of the negative and dangerous narrative from broader society? I shape their identity with positive affirmations of their character and of their Blackness.

 

I like to start every day with positive affirmations, both for the great day I expect ahead and also affirmations of who I am and who my children are. The word affirmation stems from the Latin word “affirmo” which means to strengthen and fortify. I use affirmations to fortify their self-esteem. 

Start using affirmations as early as you can, it is much easier to build positive self-esteem and an optimistic worldview than it is to rebuild negative self-esteem and a pessimistic outlook. 

You can add an affirmative morning ritual to your day or positive affirmations to your children’s bedtime routines.

 

Here are 10 affirmations that I have my sons repeat:

1. Before I was born, I was dreamed of and hoped for.

2. I am worthy.

3. I am loved. 

4. I am my only limit. 

5. I am as good as anyone else.

6. My brown skin is beautiful, and it even absorbs sunlight! 

7. I come from a long, rich Black heritage.

8. I only answer to what I want to be called. 

9. There is something in this world that only I can do. That is why I am here.

10. How people treat me is a reflection of their character and not mine. 

 

Source: Shutterstock

 

My hope is that these affirmations become more than words, that they form the foundations of their identities so that when the world tries to label them as anything else, my sons recognize it immediately as a lie.  

Self-esteem deals with how you view yourself. I am also intentional about telling my children how I view them from my eyes so that even when they are feeling down they know that an abundance of adoration and good will exists in their mother’s love.

 

What Does Your Mama Say About You?

You are loved and inherently valuable as a human being and the fruit of my womb. I thought of you years before you even existed and celebrate every breath you take. 

Ignore the labels the world puts on you as young Black boys without knowing your character. You are cherished, the answer to my prayers, and have a purpose bigger than yourselves to fulfill. Let every step you take lead you to your destiny. If you make a misstep, cover it with grace and get back on your course. 

The world needs you, and I need you too. You matter.

 

What are some ways you are teaching positive identity or affirmations to your children?

 

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