Ask LIE: Unsolicited advice on discipline?

[From time to time, we receive emails from LIE readers facing a complicated situation involving race and parenting, and we like to turn them over to the rest of our readers for their thoughts, suggestions, and perspectives.]

Dear LIE:

We are the adoptive parents to a beautiful African American baby girl. We took the pride courses, we did research, we made sure to have books and toys that show her heritage- and there is still so much that I feel we need to learn! Our daughter is barely a year old and I am very grateful to have found this site to be able to gain more knowledge on raising an African American child.

Often when I am out with my daughter many very kind and well-meaning African American people offer advice on parenting our daughter. For example, if she is fussy due to being tired or hungry, I might be told that I need to be prepared because “black children are stronger willed than white children and need more discipline.” (those are the exact words of an African American woman who was giving me advice) From what I gather I am being told to spank her- we do not believe in spanking and will not spank our daughter- ever. I am curious though as to why people would suggest such a thing? My daughter is a baby- she isn’t misbehaving-she’s expressing her current needs-  so why I am being told to discipline her?  We do intend to be strict in terms of expecting polite, kind and courteous behavior from our daughter but she is only a baby right now and I find it odd to have strangers telling me to “take her in hand.” I also think it is odd that I am being told that race has anything to do with a child’s behavior? Is it being assumed that because I am white that I will raise a bratty child?

Don’t get me wrong- I welcome advice but this advice that I seem to be receiving is not quite what I was hoping for….Advice on hair care, a good play group, books for our daughter or for us to read, these are the things that I had thought and hoped would be what was offered to us… but the advice seems to be focused on discipline?????


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