Edye Deloch-Hughes was a 26-year-old single mom when she lost her own mother two weeks shy of her son’s first birthday. Aside from Darryl, her supportive boyfriend who eventually became her husband, she had very little extended family to lend a hand or offer advice when times got tough. The couple later had a second son, and both kids struggled with learning in school, which she says presented all sorts of “hell-raising challenges.”
It didn’t help that she and Darryl had different parenting styles. Looking for answers, she decided to read up on how other parents of color were coping with issues like hers. But most of the parenting books were aimed at the general market and rarely focused on the unique challenges she and other families like hers face every day. So she decided to write her one herself.
Raising Hell or Raise Them Well is a simple, faith-inspired guide for parents and parent figures who Deloch-Hughes says are “under-served and under siege.” Hers is a back-to-basics approach with interactive exercises and resources covering more than 90 parenting points on self-love, connections, commitment, communication, character building, discipline, school involvement and safety. We asked Edye a few probing questions about parenting that may be of particular interest to African-American parents.
In your book, you ask people who raise kids to man-up (or woman-up) to the personal stuff that needs healing so they can be a better parent. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Being honest with yourselves. Face your challenges. Call them out and deal with them head on. Negative experiences from our past can affect how we raise our kids in the present. We carry a lot of baggage. Some we acknowledge, some we don’t, some we don’t know we hold. Our upbringing, personal experiences, insecurities and belief systems determine how well or how much hell we’ll raise rearing our kids. Oftentimes we transfer past hurts, hate, anger and low self-esteem without realizing it. And many of us have to deal with challenges outside our home such as violence and racism. The book asks parents to raise their expectations. Sure, we do the best we can, but we can do better if we know better.
You give a significant amount of time to parents giving “The Talk” to their boys. How do you view this in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Every parent has a responsibility to their children to provide the tools and strategies they need to survive in our society. We know “The Talk” is one of those strategies. There’s no guarantee that law enforcement will comply, but it’s still necessary to know how to engage them. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the prison population has increased over 700 percent since 1970. The school-to-prison pipeline is known for prepping students of color for incarceration by arresting and convicting them for mild infractions. This offers free labor for corporations. We can’t allow our children to fall victim to the system. So we must sit our babies down and teach them these particular “facts of life” so they may be empowered and in better control of the outcome. I suggest that parents role-play worst-case scenarios with their children to reinforce the rules learned. When you’re unjustly detained, it’s hard to keep your cool. Better that they practice their reactions ahead of time so they won’t get caught off guard. It’s better to be alive and demeaned than dead and proud.
You mention that it’s important to overcome their fear of “labeling” and get their struggling child evaluated. However, some people feel like Black kids are often hastily put in the special-needs track. What are your thoughts?
Some districts negatively label because they don’t teach the way the kids learn. What I’ve noticed is that many kids who are struggling don’t receive the extra help, and so they do poorly because they don’t get the accommodations necessary to improve academic success. So the students flunk out and often they become behavior problems. Teachers and parents get frustrated and the kids sink down that spiral of failure. But the parents have a say so on how their children are tracked. If the parent isn’t involved, that parent is setting their children up for failure. It’s up to the parent to make sure their children are put on the appropriate track. Parents should reinforce the fact that their learning disability does not define them. Both my sons had learning differences. My oldest was a very good orator and a lover of words. My youngest, who was highly creative, knew he was a “creator.” Though he had an IEP, he still ended up taking AP classes in his junior year because the expectation was set by me to him and his teachers.
What are some of the pitfalls that new parents fall into during the early years of elementary school?
Thinking that the school is responsible for their child’s education, therefore they don’t have to get involved. Wrong. In fact, the parent is the child’s first teacher. How they prepare their child before they enter school determines what the child will get out of it when they enter it. Many parents don’t realize this. Also, reinforcing good study habits early is important as well. If you allow your kids to watch TV or play video games, and don’t check their homework, I guarantee that child will struggle. I’ll admit, homework was a challenge in my household because my husband and I would get frustrated with the kids. We didn’t understand their learning challenges and how to deal with them. My oldest wanted me next to him, but I wanted him to work independently. That led to many arguments. It affected his work habits later on. I wish I was more patient. You must check their homework daily – even if you don’t know how to do it. Following a consistent bedtime regimen helps. Nine o’clock my sons got ready for bed. I read books to them. I’m not going to say they fell asleep like clockwork, but they knew if they were up when the news came on, it was too late.
What would you say to the single parent who needs to be present in his/her child’s school life, but the person doesn’t have a support system and works multiple jobs to make ends meet? What tips would you give to help them stay engaged with their child’s teachers and make sure their child does homework?
One way parents can let the teachers know their situation is by writing a letter. Introduce themselves and their child; talk about the child’s personality, learning habits; likes, dislikes, etc.. Talk about the current situation with work and availability. I wrote a lot of introduction letters. It helped me develop a good report with the teachers, and gave them a heads up on what to expect, so they could effectively address my children’s needs. Both should agree on how to reach each other – via text, email – whatever method works best for both. Good communication is key, especially when it’s hard to physically meet. Parents should find mentors for their children and themselves too. I was a mentor to parents. It helps when you have someone who can give you encouraging advice and support. Getting a tutor for a struggling child helps a lot. It could be a student a few years older that the child can relate to. After school programs work as well. It’s all about planning and commitment. I was blessed to be part of an organization called “African American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education” (A.P.P.L.E.) which had chapters in some of the schools in the Oak Park/River Forest community. I was an A.P.P.L.E. advisor and parent/child advocate at the high school. I also headed the middle school chapter as a volunteer president. I mentored parents and students alike and set up a successful tutoring and mentoring program in the school. Connecting with other parents can provide valuable support.
Faith and spirituality are intertwined in this book. How as your faith enabled you to be a better parent? Do you have any stories you can share?
God is the glue that held my family together. I wasn’t raised in the church. My mother was a spiritual person, but not into institutionalized religion. However, she encouraged me to explore that spiritual side of me. So I did a lot of church hopping — Baptist, African Methodist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Catholic – you name it. I became an agnostic and dang near an atheist at one point, but I understood that was part of my search to find out who I was. The spirit of Christ was embedded in me. It took full bloom when I became pregnant. The process of carrying a child seemed miraculous to me! I couldn’t believe God chose me to experience this gift called childbirth. I didn’t think I would ever become a mom. I felt like God crowned me with a noble mission, and I didn’t want to let Him down. When I lost my Mom, I decided to officially give my life to Christ. I got baptized at Apostolic Church of God. I was loved and accepted as a single mom. No judgments. I vowed to raise my son up in the way that he should go, so when he grew up, he would not depart from it. My husband, a Baptist, soon joined me. We made it our business to raise our kids in a spiritual atmosphere with families who had like minds and goals. It’s so important to surround yourself around positive people. In my book, I suggest you “raise them to praise Him.” According to an Early Childhood Longitudinal study conducted by Mississippi State University, kids who grow up in a faith-based home usually grow up more well-adjusted than those who don’t.
About Edye Deloch-Hughes
Edye Deloch-Hughes has a life mission to use her creativity to motivate, educate, inspire, and empower those who are under-served. A hybrid of many talents and skills, Edye made her mark as an advertising copywriter, creative director, strategist and marketing consultant for top Chicago agencies and corporations. She is also a blogger, educator, and entrepreneur. Edye and her husband, Darryl Hughes, own Hughes Who Productions LLC, a game development/creative service house in the Chicagoland area.