Tag Archives: Ground Control Parenting

GCP: Back in Action, Back to School

Greetings GCP‘ers!  Hope you enjoyed your summer break (we certainly did) and are settling back into your fall parenting routine. We at GCP have been spending a good bit of our break focusing on ways to improve this site and create a stronger and more interactive GCP parenting community. Stay tuned, upgrades coming soon.

So much to focus on for our boys as school begins! As you work on getting your school aged guys back in the groove of early morning wake-ups and full days of school, there are lots of ways to make sure they are getting the best back to school start possible. Here are some:

Parent Tool Kit: Check out the Parent Tool Kit, found here. It is chock full of resources to help you monitor and support your son’s academic and personal development. Download the new free Parent Tool Kit app so you can keep track of his progress and receive helpful parenting tips from your smartphone.

Common Sense Media Back to School Guide: Common Sense Media, a great site that provides parents with information, advice, and tools to support their children’s safe and positive use of media and technology, offers a guide to help parents answer the many questions that commonly come up at the start of a school year. This guide, found here, addresses issues for children of all school ages.

Help Your Kindergarten Son Get a Great Start to School: Common Sense Media also shares tips for helping your kindergarten son make the adjustment to “big boy school”. Check out “Get Ready for Kindergarten with Practical Tips, Tricks, and Tools” found here and “5 Teacher-Approved Apps to Get Your Kid Ready for Kindergarten” found here.

Secrets to Raising Really Smart Kids: In August 2014 Essence Magazine published “Secrets to Raising Really Smart Kids”, found here. This very thoughtful article gives parents “Achievement Prescriptions” for helping children of all ages reach their academic potential.

Easing the Back to School Transition: There are lots of resources on-line to help you guide your son through the tough transition back to a school schedule with a minimum of stress. The National Association of School Psychologists shares“Back to School Transitions: Tips for Parents”. PBS Parents’ offers “Back to School Tips for Parents”. Scholastic has an impressive assortment of back to school articles and resources for parents in “Back to School: Start Smart”, found here.

SchoolHouse Rock Lives!!: Couldn’t resist sharing this blast from the past: Remember SchoolHouse Rock, those delightful cartoon video shorts aired on ABC on Saturday mornings which taught us about grammar (“Conjunction Junction”), history (“I’m Just a Bill”) and other subjects using really catchy tunes? On Sunday September 7th, ABC will celebrate this beloved series with a new special, “The ABCs of SchoolHouse Rock”. LOVE SchoolHouse Rock!! When my kids were little I found a DVD of these videos, and this became our go-to car entertainment. To this day any one of us can belt out ” Interjections” upon command. This is undercover learning at its best. If you don’t know about it, run over to YouTube and check them out. And watch this ABC special!!

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Can’t get back to GCP blogging without mentioning the horrific killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and its aftermath. We have watched every parent’s (especially every Black parent’s) nightmare come to life with the tragic death of an unarmed young man at the hands of the police. So much has been said about this already. So much analysis, so much anger, so much angst. We are encouraged by the news that the Justice Department has just launched a broad investigation Thursday into the police department in Ferguson, Missouri in addition to its ongoing investigation of the killing of Michael Brown.

As always, GCP must ask: How do we talk to our sons about Michael Brown and dealing with the police? We will address this in an upcoming post. Stay tuned. Welcome Back!!!


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Filed under Academics, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources

Thoughtful Thursday: Christmas Poems

Season’s Greetings, Everyone! This being the last Thoughtful Thursday before Christmas, we bring to you three Christmas poems by very well known poets. Maya Angelou read her poem “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem” at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House on December 1, 2005.

“Carol of the Brown King”, and “Shepherd’s Song at Christmas”, both by by Langston Hughes, are found in a collection of his Nativity poems for children. Enjoy!!!


Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

― Maya Angelou

Carol of the Brown King

Of the three wise men
Who came to the King,
One was a brown man,
So they sing.

Of the three wise men
Who followed the star,
One was a brown king
From afar.

They brought fine gifts
Of spices and gold
In jeweled boxes
Of beauty untold.

Unto His humble
Manger they came
And bowed their heads
In Jesus’ name.

Three wise men,
One dark like me –
Part of His

Langston Hughes

Shepherd’s Song of Christmas

Look there at the star!
I, among the least,
Will arise and take
A journey to the East.
But what shall I bring
As a present for the King?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring a song,
A song that I will sing,
In the Manger.
Watch out for my flocks,
Do not let them stray.
I am going on a journey
Far, far away.
But what shall I bring
As a present for the Child?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring a lamb,
Gentle, meek, and mild,
A lamb for the Child
In the Manger.
I’m just a shepherd boy,
Very poor I am—–
But I know there is
A King in Bethlehem.
What shall I bring
As a present just for Him?
What shall I bring to the Manger?
I will bring my heart
And give my heart to Him.
I will bring my heart
To the Manger.

Langston Hughes

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Interesting Christmas Gift Ideas

Incredibly, we are but a handful of days away from Christmas. If you haven’t finished your shopping for the young ones, you may want to consider some of the guidelines and gift idea suggestions below. (Please don’t tell us if you’ve already finished; we don’t want to hear how organized and together you are. But if you are that organized, you can start shopping now for next Christmas.)

Books: We know that not every child, and especially not every boy, is thrilled to find books under the Christmas tree. But we also know that reading for pleasure is a wonderful and important skill that we can and should encourage them to pursue at every turn. PBS Parents has compiled a list of the Best Books For Boys which is worth a good look. Not only does this link, found here, list books that are popular with boys in a variety of age groups (with middle school readers being the most advanced group), it also has tips for parents on how to encourage your son to become a more avid reader.

Holiday Books: Having those holiday books that you pull out and read at each Christmas can be a fun family tradition. Common Sense Media offers a detailed listing of holiday book offerings for children. The list, found here, is weighted heavily with books for preschoolers, so parents who want to start this tradition early will have the most books to choose from.

If you have older children, check out “A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories” compiled and edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and “Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters” by Patricia C. McKissack, Fredrick L. McKissack and John Thompson. Both of these books look at the celebration of Christmas from a historical perspective. “The Treasury of African American Stories (Vol.II)” features Christmas stories and poems originally published in Black newspapers, periodicals and journals between 1892 and 1939. “Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters”, which was first published in 1994, describes the holiday celebrations of both slaves and slave owners on a pre-Civil War plantation. Its authors won the Coretta Scott King Award for this book in 1995.

Media and Games: Common Sense Media also has a Holiday Gift Guide to help parents navigate the age appropriate issues in buying media related Christmas gifts for their children. Their guide, found here, offers holiday gift ideas designed to inspire, educate, and entertain children of a variety of ages and stages. Their suggestions are arranged by age and media type, and they include movies, video games, books, music, TV shows on DVD, apps, and websites. If you are trying to figure out how to maintain your family’s policies on appropriate gifts for your children as they are showered with gifts from well-meaning but clueless relatives, you should check out Common Sense Media’s article “Spare Your Kids an Inappropriate Gift”, found here.

Up for An Historical Game? If you’ve got older children who love board games and history, sounds like they will enjoy “Steal Away”, a board game which allows its players to escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The object of the game for each player to reach freedom and then, as history dictates, reach out to help others left behind before time runs out. Per its website, found here: “In this action-packed game, players flee the plantation for freedom. Aided and challenged by outside forces, they must avoid being caught by slave-catchers with help from a network of safe houses. They may even meet Harriet Tubman along the way!”

Find anything really great out there for your sons? Let us know!! Happy Shopping !!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Inspirational Quotes

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday thoughts were found in a small blue book called “Famous Black Quotations and some not so famous” which has graced my shelf for as long as I can remember. Here are a few quotes to think about and share with your sons.


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If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Frederick Douglass

Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get.
Frederick Douglass

Strategy is better than strength.
Hausa Legend

One feels his two-ness–an American, A Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
W.E.B. DuBois

I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Ralph Ellison

Your world is as big as you make it.
Georgia Douglas Johnson

A child who is to be successful is not reared exclusively on a bed of down.
Akan Proverb

Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.
Malcolm X

Mastery of language affords remarkable power.
Frantz Fanon

Nothing succeeds like success.
Alexandre Dumas

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It’s Not You, It’s Him: Teen Boys Have Trouble With Empathy

The Wall Street Journal recently revealed news which should gladden the hearts of parents of teenagers everywhere: “cognitive empathy”, the wiring in children’s brains that enables them to understand and care about how others think, only begins to develop at age 13. So when your sweet middle schooler disappears and is replaced by an eye-rolling, door slamming “who is that?” child, it is not a sign that you’ve done something wrong, it is that their brains just won’t let them know any better.

What will come as no surprise to parents of boys, this study, authored by Jolien van der Graaff, a doctoral candidate in the Research Centre Adolescent Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, further indicates that while girls begin to be concerned about other people’s views and feelings at 13, boys generally don’t start this process, which helps them solve problems and avoid conflict, until they are around 15. And while girls’ capacity to be empathic increases steadily over time, teen boys actually show a temporary decline, between ages 13 and 16, in ‘affective empathy”, which is the ability to recognize and respond to others’ feelings. The WSJ article explains: “The decline in affective empathy among young teenage boys may spring at least partly from a spurt during puberty in testosterone, sparking a desire for dominance and power, says the study in Developmental Psychology. Boys who were more mature physically showed less empathy than others.” Thank goodness, the boys tend to get back on track by their late teens.

So what does this mean for parents? It means that you can stop taking it so personally when your son is crazily insensitive to you and your feelings and/or can’t seem to stop himself from arguing with you at every turn. This is not to say that you have to accept this behavior, but knowing that he actually may not be able to help it can help you move from a screaming and yelling mode to a calmer and more instructive mode when dealing with him. You can set limits on his ability to express his anger or frustration, knowing that he may not be able to turn it off completely. Easier said than done, but knowing this information can help you remember to be the level headed parent versus losing your temper and matching him taunt for taunt.

Check out the full WSJ article here, which also gives parents tips on building empathy in children from an early age. News we can use!

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Education Nation: Parent’s Toolkit

GCP spent the last two days at NBC’s Education Nation Summit 2013, which was held at the New York Public Library’s main branch.   This summit, produced by NBC News, gathered more than 300 of the country’s top thought leaders and influencers in education, government, business, philanthropy, and media to discuss ways to improve our nation’s educational system. The theme for this year’s summit was “What It Takes” for us as a nation to ensure students are successfully prepared for college, career and beyond. Over the next few posts GCP will bring you highlights from these interesting and informative sessions.

One of the most exciting developments of the summit was today’s launch of NBC News’ digital Parent Toolkit. The Parent Toolkit, which can be found at www.parenttoolkit.com, will provide parents with resources to help guide their child’s development in school. There is also a mobile app featuring the entire Toolkit as well as additional opportunities for personalization. You can read more about the launch of the Parent Toolkit here.

This Parent Toolkit features “Academic Growth Charts” for Pre-k to 12th grade which are designed to help you track and support your children’s progress throughout each academic year.  Within each grade you will find academic benchmarks to look for, suggestions of ways to support and encourage your children with their coursework, tips and checklists for parent teacher conferences, and so much more.  Additional segments on Social Development and Health and Wellness are coming soon. We could continue to describe the great features of this toolkit, but a better use of your time would be to head over to the site and check it out for yourself.

Throughout the Education Nation 2013 summit panelist after panelist discussed the vital importance of parent engagement and involvement in our children’s education. This toolkit is a resource designed to help us with this important part of parenting. Check it out, tell us what you think!

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All Star Code: Creating Tech Career Opportunities for Our Sons

Does your teenaged son have an interest in a tech, coding or gaming career? All Star Code wants to help him pursue that interest. All Star Code is a new non-profit initiative that seeks to attract, prepare, and place high-potential, qualified young black men in the tech-career pipeline and help them achieve full-time employment at technology companies early in their careers.

Last Saturday All Star Code launched “Design a Start-up in a Day”, the first of its three introductory recruiting workshops planned for this fall. Nearly 20 high school students spent the day in Spotify’s new NYC headquarters learning to “wireframe” a mock startup company. Students worked on their start-up ideas throughout the day, presented their business plans and pitches to an expert panel of judges, and the judges chose a winning idea. During the day the students also spent time touring the music company’s brand-new offices, meeting mentors who are active technology professionals, and learning about All Star Code’s upcoming summer program.

In the Summer of 2014 All Star Code will offer a six-week Summer Intensive Program targeting 20 of the best & brightest All Stars. The program will include a rigorous programming course and a comprehensive curriculum of entrepreneurial “soft skills” (leadership, innovation, team-work, etc.) that will help All Star Code graduates stand out years later when they enter the talent pipeline of top companies and startups.

All Star Code founder Christina Lewis Halpern, former business reporter for the Wall Street Journal, created this organization in an effort to close the systemic opportunity gap between young black men and the tech industry. Halpern, whose late father, Reginald F. Lewis, was one of the most successful Black businessmen in U.S. history, was inspired to create All Star Code by a Harvard law summer program her father attended years ago that recruited and positioned young black men for success at the school. As Halpern explained in a recent article in Fast Company found here, “I thought, If my father were a young man today, where would he want to go? He wouldn’t want to go to law school. He’d want to be in Silicon Valley. So I thought, well, are there any black people in the space? No.”

Halpern and All Star Code are working to help increase the number of African-Americans on startup founding teams (we now comprise less than 1% of these teams) and in the tech industry generally. Want to learn more? Click here to go to Allstarcode.org.

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Class of 2013: The “Five Wells” of Renaissance Men

As June comes to a close, GCP congratulates all of the young men who are in the graduating class of 2013. Whether they are graduating from elementary, junior high, lower, middle, high school or college, these boys have worked hard and deserve praise for this important accomplishment. These transitions are important steps in their lives and should be heralded. We celebrate the hard work, focus, persistence and brain power that got them through. Congrats to their parents as well, for they have worked hard behind the scenes (and sometimes front and center on whatever stage necessary) to help their sons reach this goal.

I have a particular interest in the Class of 2013, as I have two sons in it, one having graduated from eighth grade, the other having graduated from high school. I have spent more time than usual the past few weeks beaming with pride at my sons. One is heading to high school where new academic and life challenges await, and the other is moving on to the next important chapter of life in college.

At my son’s high school graduation we were treated to a commencement speech from Dr. Robert M. Franklin, President Emeritus of Morehouse College. My son attended an all boys school from grades K-12, and it was particularly interesting to hear from a speaker who graduated from and then went on to run this all male historically Black college. Dr. Franklin had a great message for the young men in the Class of 2013: he challenged them to be “renaissance men with social conscience and global perspective.” A powerful prescription for success.

Dr. Franklin defined a renaissance man as “one who is widely, broadly educated”. He specified five qualities, or what he called “the five wells” which make up the renaissance man:

Well-Read: “Like Leonardo DaVinci, John F. Kennedy, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Renaissance man is first well-read”, said Dr. Franklin. He encouraged the boys to line their shelves with books. “Finance next to philosophy, poetry alongside physics…I urge you to read but read widely.”

Well-Spoken: “Have something to say and say it well…When you stand as public speakers remember the three B’s__be good, be brief and be seated”.

Well-Traveled: “Mark Twain suggested that travel is fatal to prejudice. But I love the Ghanian proverb, “never declare that your mother’s stew is the best in the world, if you have never left your village.” Dr. Franklin suggested that a good place to begin traveling would be the “BRIC nations” of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and added South Africa and Singapore as nations who are also having a global impact.

Well-Dressed: Dr. Franklin acknowledged that this one could be controversial, but that some parents would appreciate it: “Remember that long before people hear the quality of your intellect and your conversation, they will see you approaching from a distance. There is a time and place for every cultural costume, and so be appropriate.”

Well-Balanced: “Well-balanced, to possess a healthy mind in a healthy body, governed by healthy values. Avoid getting stuck in a daily routine rut. Work, but also play. Exercise, but also rest. Explore the world, but also know how to stay home and be content. Worship, listen, and learn from traditions that differ from yours.”

Following the five wells, says Dr. Franklin is the mark of the Renaissance man.

These five wells have stayed in my head since graduation day. Great advice from which all of our sons can benefit. (And our daughters too: we want to raise renaissance women as well.) Tomorrow, Dr. Franklin’s thoughts on how renaissance men find their “social conscience and global perspective”.

A thousand thanks to Dr. Robert M. Franklin for writing and delivering a terrific speech and providing GCP with a copy!

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