How about that video taken of “Baltimore Mom” Toya Graham doing some child raising as my Mother calls it. When she saw her son participating in last Monday’s rioting in Baltimore, she knew exactly what she had to do.
Mom’s intuition kicked in when she heard that both school and the mall were shutting down early. Her son should have been home by now. She had told him the night before to come straight home from school. She went to the mall where she saw her son with a black hoodie and mask on, throwing rocks at police, according to CNN. The mask idea didn’t work quite as well as he had planned, or maybe he didn’t figure on his Momma showing up.
Graham had no idea she was being filmed as she dished out some tough love to her 16-year-old son. The video went viral, and she became somewhat of a celebrity. Many have applauded Graham and her actions, myself included. But some people have condemned Graham calling her everything from a woman Uncle Tom to a sell-out. People on the other side of the coin are making racist accusations about her education, how many kids she has and where she lives.
I’m on the side of those who praise Graham for having “…chased down and “beat” her 16-year-old son –a child, nearly a man, taller and stronger than her– in the middle of a riot.” I am amazed at how many people are critical of her actions.
She left the safety of her home and tracked down her son in the middle of a full-scale riot. Not a simple task, I was in Los Angeles during the April 1992 riots over the acquittal of the police officers who had beaten Rodney King. I know from first-hand experience that during a riot is not the best time to leave the house. I pray to God that I never have to live through another one. Some people seem to think that after finding him she should have asked him to share his feelings, taken his PlayStation away or had him write, “I will not throw rocks at the police” one hundred times.
As I followed this story last week, one thing that clobbered me, is there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to correcting kids. Toya Graham’s confrontation with her son also confirmed that some folks don’t understand the difference between abuse and discipline. Her child had disobeyed her and gotten himself into a very dicey situation, and she took decisive action. From what I saw the slaps didn’t hurt him much if at all. Once a boy gets to be sixteen he’s not a little kid anymore, and it’s very hard for most mothers to hurt them with their hands anymore; those days are over, never to return. I should know because when I was sixteen my momma was busy raising me and my younger brother. Believe me, she bopped me upside the head at least once.
Significant disobedience calls for significant consequences, especially when rebelliousness can result in severe injury or death. That’s how the real world works. Anyone who thinks that a sixteen-year-old black man-child throwing rocks at the police in the middle of a riot is not in danger hasn’t been watching the news lately. If something had happened to Graham’s son, this year’s upcoming Mother’s Day would have been a Mother’s Day she’d never forget, for all the wrong reasons. Old school parents have a saying; I’d rather give you a whopping here at home and straighten you out; and not have the police whoop you out in the streets and straighten you out in a casket. Here are five things I learned from Super Mom Toya Graham and the Baltimore riots.
- The first thing I learned is children have to realize that their actions will have consequences. They can learn in the real world or learn at home. It’s always best to teach them life lessons at home but during an emergency you have to improvise. When the danger is immediate, you’ve got to instruct them quickly and efficiently. As long as you’re the teacher they’ll be alright.
- Secondly, once we set the rules, we can’t be soft as milk toast when it comes to enforcing what we have said. We must follow through even it means getting off our butts and snatching them out of the lions den. Parenting is not for wimps
- Third, the consequences must be tailored to the situation. Getting a bad grade is not the same as a child grumbling about something you told them to do, or worse, totally disregarding what you told them to do
- Fourth, when your try to get a teenager to be responsible, sometimes there will be tension in the relationship. Just remember your child will not love you every minute of every day. You are there to be their parent, not their friend. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s accurate.
- Fifth, sometimes you do need to step in to protect children from the natural consequences of their behavior. The natural consequences of rebellious behavior in teenagers is usually nothing major, but there are times when it could lead to terrible injury or God forbid, death. During those times Mom, Dad or both must take charge if given the opportunity. Sometimes we have to save our kids from themselves. “Experience is a cruel teacher. It gives a test before presenting the lesson.” Do you remember when you taught them to cross the street???
Those are some priceless lessons, but there’s more. I see Grahams experience from a dad’s point of view. After all, my tagline is KC to LA Dad. In order to see the situation from the proper perspective, you’ve got to read this post written by a Mom. She looks at the situation through the eyes of a mother and gives us inside information into what was really going on. (Warning this post is not for the squimish or folks who see everything through rose-colored glasses.) Check out this brilliant post by Bougie Black Girl, Black Mothers Will Always Lose: In Defense of Baltimore Mom Toya Graham. Have an outstanding week! God be with you till we meet again.