7 Principles of Kwanzaa: A Parenting Model

October 15, 2012

Part One

Parents of all races and nationalities are crying out for help. Parenting classes have grown exponentially. Parents in too many instances have lost control of their children and are at the mercy of the child welfare or juvenile justice system.  The profile of American children suggests that something is terribly wrong. More children now have mental health disorders which has fueled an unprecedented reliance on pharmaceutical medications to treat children, with long-term effects that remain unknown. The conventional response has emphasized coercive methods, with parents and schools encouraged focusing on regulating children’s behavior. Neatly one out of three black households (29 %) is headed by a single woman, the highest percentage of female-headed households in the U.S.

Further, more children are now entering the child welfare and juvenile justice system, where blacks are overrepresented. And, more children, especially black males, are failing and dropping out of school at a rate that is beyond the crisis level. That children are murdering children no longer shocks the conscience; it has become normative. All of this crystallizes the urgency for effective parenting. Kwanzaa and the 7 Principles offer an effective model for this exigency which threatens the future for many children. The maxim “children are our future” is no longer so; they may very well be our death unless we intervene.

The Kwanzaa Model

Kwanzaa presents a compelling framework for an effective parenting model. This model can be gleaned though the 7 Principles and the Kwanzaa activities. Beginning first with the 7 Principles we observe:

  • Unity/Umoja: Empirical studies affirm that strong family ties mediate against deviant behavior. Thus, children who are tethered to their families and have robust bonds with their parents are significantly less likely to engage in delinquency or anti-social behavior. The Kwanzaa value umoja/unity, instructs everyone in the family to strive for and maintain harmony and build strong bonds of unity in the family.
  • Self-Determination/Kujichagulia: African American history is replete with examples of potent parenting models both for single and two-parent families. Andrew Billingsley writes that a “1930 study by sociologist Irene Graham showed that a smaller percentage of black children in Chicago lived in broken homes than their white peers. Ninety percent of black children lived with their own parents; and a portion of the remaining the tenth lived with relatives.” Self-Determination/Kujichagulia demands that blacks turn to their own historical cultural models for parenting.
  • Collective Work and Responsibility/Ujima: The African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The African American community parenting model, often referred to as the ‘extended family,” is one of the most powerful models of parenting. Few can refute the claim that the most achieved and the most ethically bound generations were the outcome of the African American community parenting model. This model knitted together a social network which transcended individual households. Neighborhood adults had the authority, which they exercised, to observe, report on, and discuss the behavior of children in different circumstances. This network reinforced the discipline the black child received in the home because other adults in the neighborhood assumed responsibility for monitoring and maintaining a standard of public or social behavior for all children. Collective Work and Responsibility/Ujima instructs that all adults are the parents of children and the degree to which this is practice is the strongest determinant of ethically grounded high achieving children.

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