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Personal Development
January 9, 2024

The Parenting Code

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IT’S BOTH HUMBLING and a moment for some pride when your teenage son is featured in the national media for his entrepreneurial flair, as Ian has been. He’s been spotlighted on television and in newspapers and magazines for helping encourage Black and brown young people to build their confidence and future opportunities through learning about computer science, personal development and financial literacy.
His media exposure has prompted some other parents to ask how we went about raising “a kid like Ian.” While we don’t consider ourselves experts, by any means, we are happy to share some of the things we did that helped shape our son’s life. As with computer coding, there are some basics that need to be correctly in place; a good operating system, as it were. But like technology, parenting isn’t just a science, it’s also an art.
It takes a village…but that doesn’t mean we let him roam around it unchaperoned.
First off, we believe that parents simply must be on the same page, even if you come from very different back-grounds and experiences of what parenting was like (as we did). From the beginning, we had a shared vision of what we wanted for our family. Even before we had children, we would talk about the values and principles that were important to us. That has meant at different times that we have played different roles in Ian’s life, but we have always known how they fit together into the whole.
Being in agreement like this is important because it makes you a team that can present a united front. Ian always knew that if he didn’t like what he heard from one of us, there was no point in trying to go to the other and win them over because we had each other’s back! We were in lockstep.
While we had clear goals in mind for Ian, we let him be part of the conversation. We wanted him to be confident interacting with adults. When he was small, some friends and family questioned why we let him get involved in “grown-up business,” but we felt it was important he knew how to share his opinions and listen to others.
It wasn’t all just talk, though. We also set an example. If we said he needed to read, we made sure he saw us reading books. If we told him he needed to exercise, we took him to the gym with us. If we asked him to incorporate a daily log into his life to make the most of his time, he saw us doing the same thing.
Love in different shapes
If there’s a lubricant that keeps all these moving parts frictionless, it’s love. When Ian was in preschool and we asked how to best help prepare him for some tests, the director told us, “Just show love to your child, whatever shape that is.” We took that to heart.
Now, love takes different forms of course. There must be plenty of affection and encouragement, but it’s not just all warm and fuzzy. It’s about doing as well as about feeling. Some people confuse loving their kids with giving them everything that they want and all the things that the parents may not have had growing up. We can understand that temptation, especially if the environment you grew up in was challenging, but we have seen so often how a “give my kid everything that I never had” approach doesn’t turn out too well.
One element of love is ensuring children feel secure, and that they are safe and provided for. Love also means discipline. Our sons and daughters need to know that there will be consequences if they don’t do what they should or what is expected of them. That’s not being unkind—it’s helping prepare them for the real world.
We have also believed that, as the saying goes, it takes a village. We have wanted Ian to benefit from the example and advice of other people. But that doesn’t mean we let him roam around the village unchaperoned. We were always very careful about who we let into his life, which meant limiting his interaction even with some family members. We’re not criticizing the way that anyone chooses to live their lives, but those values had to be in line with the way we chose to raise Ian. Now that he’s older and we have instilled in him as much as we can, he’s free to make decisions for himself about who he relates to, of course.
We have also tried to ensure that he knows that love can be messy and love takes commitment—in marriage and in families. So we have been real; he has seen us have disagreements, and he has seen us work through challenges together and come through them stronger.
We can’t talk about love without mentioning faith, which for us is the bedrock of everything. We have always made an effort to ensure that God was a part of his life—taking him to church, teaching him to pray and nurturing his own relationship with God.
Finally, we believe you have to remain flexible. Your core values are unchanging but the way you share and reinforce them needs to change with time and circumstances. What works at one age may not work a few short years later. In many ways, we consider having the privilege of raising Ian as having been “a grand experiment.” We’re extremely grateful for the early results and eagerly anticipating what the future holds for all of us.
Michael and Dulcevita Brock are co-founders of Dream Hustle Code (dreamhustlecode.com), promoting young people’s interest in computer science, with their son, Ian. They have been married for 18 years and live in Chicago.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of WayMaker Journal.