Every aspect of raising children, from toilet training to feeding is influenced by cultural beliefs and personal values. Children, in turn ascertain who they are and what they do through these practices. As the cliché states: “Children are like sponges.”  They absorb routines, traditions, languages or identities and if properly directed, can grow to be well rounded individuals.

On average, human beings can be conditioned to adapt to almost any situation, if it is done correctly. For instance, both my sons would drink water, willingly as oppose to only juice–since they were infants. Friends found it amazing. “How’d you get them to want water?” they’d ask. “My children only want sweet drinks,” as if my wife and I had performed some sort of brainwashing magic trick.  This was merely attributed to conditioning; a word that is usually associated of with negative connotations. The same way children learn to eat candy at early ages is the same way they learn to eat healthy. Conditioning can be used in a positive manner. This method of parenting is not a difficult concept to adopt.

I strongly believe if both of my sons are placed in any environment and around people of diverse cultures, they will be able to communicate and adjust to those settings. It is extremely important to reassure their confidence and build their self-esteem, when raising powerful men in today’s society. As African American boys, my wife and I try to give them a sense of pride and awareness, while trying not to instigate intolerance and condemnation toward others of different ethnic backgrounds. We also try to instill a foundation of spirituality and knowledge of all faiths without isolating specific religions. This is so they develop an open mind to divine ideas. When they are old enough, they will be able to make an educated decision on which spiritual path to choose.

Our children, who are now eleven and thirteen years old, are interested in all genres of music, cultures, foods, movies, books, etc. Why? Not because they are any different from the typical child, but simply because we exposed them to everything under the sun. We take the time to explain, in detail, what it is that they are experiencing.

My older child loves to read novels, studies aspects of Asian culture and language, taught himself how to play chess, is learning how to edit video, illustrates and plays the violin and piano. Meanwhile, the younger child also draws, acts, sings and builds his own puppets.  He is an aspiring puppeteer. Because of his ability to correspond with others he has landed the opportunity to meet one of his idols, who is an accomplished puppeteer in his own right, providing the voice and personality behind one of the beloved Sesame Street characters.

My wife is very strict when it comes to education. We feel that there is a stigma placed on African American males that can hinder their achievements and opportunities; however, we feel with proper education, guidance and wisdom we can aid in the paradigm shift, breaking the destructive stereotypes and open doors that may have been otherwise closed.

As parents, we are careful to balance self-pride with diverse understanding toward other traditions and beliefs through positive conditioning. As a military family, we often travel to different locations enabling us to meet other families from all over the world. This experience allows our boys to learn about other beliefs and values, facilitating appreciation for the differences found in other children.

As a father, I am proud to say that my boys are well on their way to becoming powerful men in a diverse society, because of the positive conditioning that they are raised with.

M.W. Bennett

M. W. Bennett was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and is happily married with three children; two boys and a girl.  Growing up in New York, Bennett was surrounded by art and creativity. He developed himself as a cartoonist, poet, play write, published author and musician:  www.sunjatasaga.com He proudly served in the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom, with Combat Operations in Najaf and Fallujah. Artistically, he has written and published a Novel, wrote and illustrated the comic strip called “O.N.E.” (Officers, NCOs and Enlisted), which appeared in the local magazine in Kuwait called the Desert Voice. He also Co-wrote and performed in two Equal Opportunity plays, promoting an environment free of discrimination and sexual harassment to 300 Soldiers and civilians. M. W. Bennett is presently fulfilling his duties as an Army Recruiter in the New York City Recruiting Battalion with his loving family.

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