Scripture Reading 1 Samuel 2:12-17
“Now the Eli were corrupt, they did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12)
Many of us in the black community have heard of the term “home training” and have a close relationship to the concept. We remember the warnings coming from our parents and grandparents—“that boy ain’t got no home training.” The whole idea behind home training is that it needs to occur in the home. An African proverb states that “the ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.”
With the many negative statistics and social ills that beset our community, now is a good time for us to take a critical look at our homes and the socialization processes we have in place. We have to ask the tough questions. Are we responsible for producing thugs, gang bangers and social misfits? Can we really say the devil made me do it? Can we still blame the evil of white racism on our attitudes and actions?
There is a growing concern with this issue. As a black community we cannot ignore it. But where do we start? For most people, we need to start in the home. But that might just be problematic. It’s a natural inclination to say that training should start in the home…with parents. But what if the “home” needs some home training?
The term home is defined as “an environment affording security and happiness; a place where something is discovered, originated, or developed; an institution where people are cared for.” Based on this definition, many of our homes are anything but caring, developing, happy or secure. I truly believe that most parents want the best for their children. But many are struggling caretakers. Some are disinterested providers. And, still others just don’t give a darn. That is a sad commentary on the status of many black homes, but it is true.
In the book, “Black Children: Their Roots, Culture and Learning Styles,” Dr. Janice Hale-Benson, she states that black children are educationally at risk. About 28% of African-American students drop out before graduation. The achievement scores for black children are approaching critical. This is where I think the home needs some home training. Young parents especially need our help. One of the things we need to concentrate on is an Early Childhood Development Strategy for the community.
I am the Executive Director of the Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority, which is a 28-year old collaborative that was started with Annie E. Casey Foundation dollars back in 1987. We are a state legislated authority to address critical issues impacting youth. Two of our collaborative partners are the Savannah Early Childhood Foundation (SECF) and the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) of Southeast Georgia. The SECF was founded by my good friend, Paul Fisher. Two other good friends, Ms. Sherrie Costa and Ms. Katrina Chance, are affiliated with the CCR&R, which provides information and training to childcare facilities and parents.
There is a tremendous amount of interest in brain development and the first five years of life. Studies have shown that this is a very crucial time for brain development, and we need to pay more close attention to the development of our children at this early age. There are things we can do, and other things we can do better, to create a “home” environment that is truly developing, nurturing and affirming. We are at a place as a black community where infanticide (the killing of an infant) is happening at a more alarming rate. I can’t imagine what a three-month-old baby could do to deserve being shaken to death, but there lies the notion that the environments in which some of our children are being raised are not safe and developing. Yes, many black homes need home training. Yes, training up a child in the way he should go is the Word. But that assumes the person doing the training is himself or herself trained. That’s not the case in so many of our homes.
The concept of early childhood education is about our future. It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now. This is the best time to plant seeds of encouragement, training, education and skills to an entire generation of parents. The human by-product of some of these homes indicates we have a serious problem. We are our brother’s keeper and we are responsible for one another. Each one reach one, each one teach one. The cognitive development of black children is predicated on the cultural and social environment in which they are produced and raised. In other words, social class and ethnicity develop sets of behaviors and attitudes that “train” the home environment. It is this socialization mechanism that we are calling into question. Something is happening (or not happening) where scores of black children are under achieving academically, socially, and morally. Early childhood education is about training the home to train up a child socially, academically, and morally in the way they should go.
It would be somewhat of a moral victory if we could honestly say that the child “departed” from the training. But in many instances they never learned the proper behavior in the first place. That was the case with Eli, a very good man but a bad father. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineahas, brought shame and ruin to their father and sin to a degenerate priesthood. Eli, like many of our men today, was a failure as a father. The primary responsibility of rearing children in the way of God is in the home. As a father, Eli knew the sins of his sons but did not restrain them. This is what the Lord said to Eli:
“In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Sam. 3:12-13).
So many of our black youth are doing vile, ungodly things in our homes and in our communities, and the fathers and/or parents are not restraining them. Early childhood is the time to teach and train them. After a certain time, it becomes too late. The old saying, “bend the sap while it’s young,” means teaching children while they are teachable, while they are young and impressionable. Eli should have disciplined his sons before it became impossible to do so. After a while, children turn a deaf ear. “Nevertheless, they did not heed the voice of their father…” (1 Sam. 2:25).
The terrible fate of Eli and his evil sons is recorded in 1 Samuel 4:10-18. Phinehas and Hophni were both killed at war. Eli, as an old man, fell and broke his neck. As black Christian parents, we can save ourselves a lot of pain and grief if we just do what the Bible says when it comes to raising our children: “And you Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Galatians 6:4). Prayerfully, it will come a time when we will never have to say again “that boy ain’t got no home training.”
“What the child says, he has heard at home”-Nigerian Proverb. “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die” Proverbs 23:13. As a parent or elder in the village, I will correct if need be a young person if I see they are going astray.