The role of parents, the challenges and advice
In our final episode of the series, we look at being a parent. If you’re a father, mother or carer of any kind, this episode is packed full of insight and advice – from how Debbie talked about sex with her children, to the role of parents and wider society in reducing youth violence. With Davis Williams from The Manhood Academy Global, we explore:
- The role of fathers, and parents/carers more generally
- The challenges facing parents/carers today and advice for overcoming them – including for younger parents
- Practical ideas and insights into how to strengthen your relationship with and support your child
Davis Williams, The Manhood Academy Global
Debbie Felix, VRU Parent Champion and Knife Crime Ambassador with The Parent House.
You can listen on all the main podcasting apps by searching “Uniting Against Violence.” You can find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube by searching for Uniting Against Violence, and you can email us at email@example.com.
Hi and welcome to Uniting Against Violence. We are a group of parents who’ve come together to create a podcast for parents, and anyone else that is concerned about youth violence and wants to take action to reduce it. Our grip is a mix of Parent Champions and Ambassadors from London’s Violence Reduction Unit and The Parent House, a charity based in Islington. I’m Ashley and today we’re focusing on the role of fathers and parents more generally. We’ll be looking at the role of fathers today, the challenges for parents and carers, and we’ll be asking my guests for their their best advice. Our guest speakers today are Davis Williams, and Debbie Felix. So thank you for joining me today. Would you like to introduce yourselves and let everybody know what you what you guys do?
Do you want to go? Ladies first?
Okay [laughter] Well, I’m Debbie Felix. So I’m a parent of four. And I’m also a full time registered nurse. I’m a Violence Reduction Unit Parent Champion, also a Knife Crime Ambassador that is supported by The Parent House. And I’m also a family for life champion, also, which is funded by Islington. And yeah, so my reason for kind of engaging in being a parent champion is really to reduce knife crime, because my son was stabbed seven years ago, and to also help with the community with peer to peer support.
And you Davis?
I can’t match that! My name is Davis Williams, I’m the author of a few books. I’m a parent of two, I feel like I got 20,000 children. I’m a workshop facilitator, I’ve got my own charity as well, Manhood Academy, and I’m a vegan chef as well.
Wow. Amazing. So I’m just gonna go straight into my next question. How do you see the role of fathers today? And I’m going to bring that to you, Davis.
How do I see the role of… It’s essential, it’s essential for me. It’s like trying to have a hot bath who have no cold water, you know, you need that balance, you know? And I feel there’s a lot of young boys that are growing up, young girls that are growing up, and even if the father is there, the father don’t know his role, because society doesn’t really encourage that education. You know, it’s like, yeah, teach them how to be hard. Teach them how to show no emotions, and blah, blah, blah. But from my perspective, I’m an educator as well going into schools, I speak with parents as well. Yeah, it’s this no understanding of what is fatherhood, what is manhood, what is masculinity, all these things don’t seem to be important.
And to you as well Debbie?
Yeah, to kind of mirror what Davis said, society tends to look on the role as fathers as just a father of a child. And most of that responsibility tends to be bought on the mothers. And there are a lot of amazing fathers out there. And, you know, we have to give them credit where it’s due. But I think for a lot of fathers and I would say fathers of color, especially black males, it is a difficult process, because I think society makes it that they have to be focused in on more survival than actually loving their child. And that’s not to say they don’t love the child, they do. But they have to find a different way of kind of parenting because for them, survival could be showing them how to protect themselves against maybe, you know, the police, you know, violence that’s out there. And that’s just my opinion. I find sometimes fathers do get a rough deal. And so I’m hoping things start to change. Men go through a lot of mental health and emotionally and mentally I’ve, my opinion is – because I don’t want anybody to take this out of context – I think women can do a lot more to support fathers and men. A lot of the time, they say men don’t really talk about their feelings. But sometimes, if they have this role of being very masculine, and not wanting to get in touch with their feminine side, it’s almost like they don’t feel that they can talk about their feelings. And so, you know, I’ve heard of the Manhood Academy, and I’ve believe they play a fantastic role in giving men that platform and a space where they can talk freely about their feelings and what support and help that they need.
So what’s your advice for parents facing those types of challenges? That may have to be a single parent or that are with someone else but they don’t kind of have the role in the same balance, it may be difficult for maybe the male to then confide in their partner when certain things is happening, that they’re facing with their child.
I would say communication is the key. So it’s about communicating. Having those open conversations. One of the things I do at home is we have Table Talk conversations. So you know, whether it be once a month, once every two months, we get together, and we have a conversation that will involve Dad, that will involve mum, children, and it’s a space where we can openly talk, with fear of no judgment or anything, and have those conversations. Because sometimes, if a male does not get on with their female partner, it’s not that they don’t want to be a part of the child’s life. They don’t want to be with maybe their partner, but they still actively want to be involved with their child. And I think for some women, because they are going through some hurt and trauma, sometimes they tend to reject that relationship that the child should be having with their fathers. And, you know, I’m not knocking any woman because some people deal with trauma differently. But I think having those open conversations is the key so that the child understands where Dad’s coming from, the child understands where Mum’s coming from. And so each parent understands where the child’s coming from, what their view is, what they expect. Because sometimes as parents, we think, because we’re the parent, we kind of just parent in our way without including the child’s feeling or point of view. Communication is the key.
And you Davis, what advice would you give?
Yeah, there’s so much, you know, number one, I would definitely say communication. Yes. But having those real difficult conversations, you know, those deep conversations, not, “Hello, how was school?” or whatever, but conversations that some people are considered taboo. You know, I never understand why I’ve got a good friend. And she would always phone me to talk about her depression, and how low she is, and how the trauma is ruining her life. But she wouldn’t talk about sexual intercourse and her orgasms, and it’s the same spectrum of emotions. Why is it okay to talk about one another? So with young people, they will talk about, yes, the, you know, the evils of society, what they’re going to do to this person, that anger, the rage, but won’t talk about love, they won’t talk about happiness, they won’t talk about their passion. Ask a 16 year old, “What are you passionate about?” So again, you will see they won’t give it the same energy. But if you ask him “Yo, who’s the pagans, who’s over there in Hackney, who you beefin?” they’ll put a lot of energy into it. So I think that starts at the home, you know, they need to see the parents doing that. So the parents need to be like, activated and interested in their own thing. So the children can mirror that behavior. So the first thing for me, is this normalizing certain conversations. And the second thing for me, definitely is showing them love, you know, operating from a place of love, not fear. I’m afraid of heights. Why? Because from a young age, my mum said don’t do this, don’t go on that ride, don’t do this. Don’t, don’t don’t. So as a consequence, I just don’t go on. And it’s embarrassing, because I’ve got a 10 year old son, and I was in Finsbury Park the other day. And if I tell you, my son is short for a 10 year old year, and let me tell you yeah, these are, this is not a roller coaster, it’s one of those little rides, anyway. I looked up and I’m like, “Hell, no, I’m not going on ther.”. My son went on it, like, by himself. And I’m just like, Davis, I need to, like improve that dialogue that I’m having with myself, because I allow him to do it. But I’ve not transformed or I’ve not taken what my mom has given me, I’ve not given it to him as well. So I reserve it, but I can still see I need to work on myself. So yeah, is this allowing yourself to, you know, not speak fear into children.
It’s almost like letting go as well.
Letting go man, yeah, definitely. And there’s so much more as well. But for me it’s those things. And grow with your children as well, you know? My children raised me and I raised them, it’s a relationship. It’s not, I’m going to sit here old school, “I’m never going to change, do it my way. And I’m gonna cause misery in your life.” Like it don’t work, you know.
And also, as well, they’ve grown up in a different time frame. I was just having this conversation yesterday with someone that they’re not growing up in the same time as us, they’re growing up in a technology world. We didn’t have technology back then. So they’re kind of growing within the space that they’re in now. And what is, you know, susceptible to them is not what was susceptible to us. So it’s kind of like where, you know, you’re saying you’re learning from your child or children, you’re learning from them because you have to, because their mental state is totally different from how we were as children. So I totally understand…
Yeah, I believe there’s a lot we can learn from our children. You know, just as much as we learned from the elderly, in the past and are still learning from them. But I think we can learn so much from our children, just by listening to them and like what Davis said, it’s not a matter of just, “How was school?” Again, having those difficult conversations. I remember in our table top talk that we have as a family, we was talking about sex. And at first when I said, “Okay, we’re going to talk about intercourse,” my son was like, “Really Mum, do we have to go there?” Yes. Because that’s how you was conceived. And it’s two people coming together in a loving relationship. And, you know, out of that you were produced. So yes, but I also want you to be safe. When you find somebody who you feel you want to share that intimacy with, that you’re going to be safe with it.” So it’s having those open, like Davis says, open, difficult conversations, and not to shying away from it.
Just coming on from this question, what advice would you give to younger parents or younger male parents that may have to bring up their child or children alone?
It wouldn’t change for me, it’s exactly the same? It can be 16 or 50 for me, it’s the same, that grow with your children. Have those clear open conversations with them. Don’t breath fear into them, breathe life and love and adventure. That’s it. I think it surpasses for me, it surpasses your physical age. It’s more of a spiritual journey that you’re taking with your son or daughter.
Yeah, I agree with Davis. I always like to believe I still have that childlike person in me. So when I’m with my children, you know, sometimes they’d be like, “Really Mum, at your age? And I’d be like, “Well, if I feel 16, I can act 16, responsibly.” But um, I think yeah, having fun with your children. Parenting should be a fun experience. It shouldn’t be an experience where you just feel like, oh my days, I can’t do anything. I’ve done so much more with my life being a parent than I’ve done, you know, when I was single. I like to believe I’m a fun mum.
Sometimes they talk to me, like, I’m their friend. And before, but I used to kind of do a thing where they’re like, “You done WHAT?” Now, it’s like “Okay…” And so now, it’d be that, “okay, you’ve done that. What could you have done differently? Because it would have been a different outcome.” So they’re not frightened to come to me anymore. So they come to me with a lot of things. And some things I’d be like do you really want to be discussing that with your mum? And I’m like no that’s what I want. You know
They’d be discussing if someone else, with someone else you don’t know if not so…
So yeah, so I want them to always feel comfortable to be always – and if they can’t come to me, I’d like to know that maybe my niece is there or, you know. And I bought a pool table. So when we’re playing pool, and they think it’s all fun, I then sort of ask small little questions to try and get: “How was your day? Is anything going on that you want me to know about?” Or, and you know, even when my younger son was stabbed, he thought, “Is my mom gonna think I was involved in that?” No, no, you know, you’re 60 seconds away from the door, you was coming in. When he came in, You know, I came downstairs he called me, “Mum, can you come a minute?” And when I came down, he was actually pulling off his clothes. And I asked him, “What’s the matter?” And he said, he was just attacked by two boys literally 60 seconds away from the home. And he was stabbed five times, had lacerations to his hands. But what actually saved him was that he had a stab vest on. And I know police tend to ask why would he be wearing a stab vest. And he’s wearing the stab vest because two and a half years ago, one of his friends was stabbed to death on his way home. And so my way of protecting my child was to make sure he has some form of protection. And so he suffered one wound which was to the lower left of his torso. And that was just where the stab vest actually ends. But he was stabbed five times. And so if it wasn’t for the vest, he would have been stabbed right through his heart. And so that’s what saved him. So for me, that’s my form of protection. I feel comfortable at night knowing. It’s not for every parent. And I know for some young boys they may feel carrying a knife is a form of protection for them, but it’s not the answer. So for my son, he doesn’t carry a knife. He feels safe having his stab vest on. And normally you know, your child goes out and the last thing I normally used to say was, “Have you got your football boots, don’t kick your shoes out.” The last thing I say to my son that before he walks through that door, “Have you got your stab vest on?” And it’s a shame but it’s the world that we’re living in today where you have to, in order for me to feel comfortable and for him to feel protected and not feel isolated in the home. You know, that’s what I have to do. And unfortunately he has suffered PTSD, so he’s not going out much now. You know, hopefully that changes, it does take time for him to get over his trauma. And slowly he is. But yeah, we can only hope. And so that’s why championing what we do against knife crime or violence is really, really important.
Sorry you have to go through that man.
Yeah. I’ve been through it a few times.
I’m just glad that you were able to that initiative to be like, “You know what, this has happened to his friend prior, I’m gonna protect my son ” and you protected him.
You know, it’s sad, you know, some kids are a product of their environment. So it’s not even like they’re involved. But if you come from a certain area, you know, if I lived in Richmond, I probably wouldn’t expect to be experiencing any of this. But, you know, I live in Hackney, Islington and it’s there. And, and so my first initial thought was, when it happened, “Okay, who you’re hanging around with? And who’s that?” And so my oldest son said, “Mum, it’s not even like that.” So one of the police officers said, sometimes what it is they have these things called ride out. And it doesn’t matter who it is, they don’t have to be involved. They just have to make their mark within the gang. So and they tend to target people who they feel may look a bit like them. And so my thing is, well, when you go into a sports shop, they’ve either got black, gray, or navy, blue tracksuits, you want to feel comfortable, most kids are going to be buying that. So if you’re wearing that attire, it’s almost like you become a target. Yeah. Because you’re wearing that attire, you know, and it’s, you know, my son suffered horrific injuries. I mean, he’s got, you know, he almost tried to hold the knife. So he, he had 10 hours of surgery on his hands. So it severed his fingers. So now, you know, he’s still engaging in his diploma, but he has to dictate to the machine because he can’t type. But I still think things will get better, because we have to have hope. I think if I still keep thinking, “Oh, my God.” And I don’t see the answer is moving out of Islington or Hackney, because you’re just gonna, leaving the problem there and going somewhere else. And that’s not to say it’s not going to happen elsewhere. It could still happen elsewhere.
So what are the unhelpful assumptions or stereotypes people have within roles of being a young parent with young children?
Um, I think one of the stereotypes is because they think they are a young person, that they’re not going to know how to parent correctly. And I think that’s wrong. You know, like Davis said, whether you’re 60, or whether you’re 16, it’s about loving that child and communicating correctly with that child. So I think the stigma is, they just think, you know, it’s children parentign children, and they’re only going to get it wrong. But there are some fantastic young people out there who do a fantastic job.
And you Davis?
Yeah, just bouncing off what you said in regards to hope, you know, I, I agree and disagree. Do you know? And the reason why? It depends who I’m speaking to. I will say, a lot of parents would assume that everything is going to be alright. And I’m like, hell no, this system is churning out, like the amount of stabbings that I see on a daily like, I do this every single day, you know, I wish I wouldn’t do it. I would rather just be chillin and playing computer games, but, you know, when you’ve been, when life kind of scars you, you know, you kind of have to respond in it. So I kind of see myself as an Avenger kind of thing. You know, I can’t just sit there and let certain things happen. So when I hear parents say, “Yeah, I’m gonna get my son black tracksuit or whatever, and let him dress a certain way.” And I’m like, “No, no, even though you should be able to let your child dress, whatever, however you want. But now you’re playing a political game. This is about on the chessboard, if you dress a certain way, if you act a certain way, you know what’s going to happen? Society views you that way. So what is your response going to be, Mum?” So I show mums like and dads, they have to start taking action and start thinking outside the box and stop consuming what JD Sports gives them or Footlocker wherever, you know, like find your own designer brand, or whatever the case is. So I think it’s unhelpful that a lot of parents feel that yeah, that the world is all beautiful and there’s roses, and yeah, once I’ve just locked the door, everything wiill be okay. That’s not the case. Because, yeah, mental health is a big issue as well. Definitely. Yeah. So um, yeah, just being more proactive, you know. So that’s just my key message of like parents, be proactive.
So looking at specifically, like reducing violence, we know there are loads of amazing fathers and that are doing, you know, great work to reduce seriousness within youth violence and our community today, But for yourselves, Debbie and Davis, what does that look like to you? Like, do you feel that the local authorities or organizations that are out there, do you think they’re actually, you know, on the right path? Or could they do more? Or where do you sit with that?
I think it’s a collective thing. And I just think we have to work in a team. And for me, team means together, everyone achieves more. So it’s not just about the parents, it’s about, you know, the schools, the police, we all pay a part of the community. So yes, the parents play a role. But my thing is, my child goes to school from, you know, 8:30 to 3:30. So the school has a responsibility, the media has a responsibility there, you know, even with, you know, YouTube, Tik Tok, and all of these things are things that influence young people. So I think, collectively, we all have a role to play in reducing serious youth violence and violence as a whole.
And you Davis?
It’s loaded question. I don’t even know how to answer it.
Fire away – no pun intended.
Yeah, I don’t know how to answer. Everyone is involved. You know, I just feel that parents need to take more responsibility. I don’t believe this society, or the government, or the so called Local Authority has any authority over what’s happening. I don’t think it’s their jurisdiction. I think solely it should be parents that need to, yeah, collaborate more, organizations need to collaborate more, and create some some kind of oneness, if that makes sense.
Like a community? Or what was the slogan from back in the day where…
…When it takes a village, a village to raise a child. But part of that village happens to be education, part of that village happens to be the, you know, the justice system, part of that village. So yes, it does take a village to raise a child, but we’ve all got a responsibility. And and it’s not about just helping the child, it’s a family, it’s a collective thing. So work with the family, work with mum, work with Dad, and the child, because if you’re just working with a child, and you’re doing all of that work, if Mum or Dad is not in a safe space themselves, all that work you’ve done with the child can be undone. Because Mum’s not had the opportunity to be able to talk express herself, and to, for us to find out where does that mother need help. And so part of the VRU parent champions is that peer to peer support, supporting parents, supporting mothers, even fathers. I would like to see a lot more fathers sort of stepping, coming out and becoming champions. And there is a lot of great organizations that have, you know, focus on the male role, but I would like to see a lot more fathers, sort of coming out in that way.
What is one message you would like to say to fathers that are listening, especially the younger ones, Davis?
Yeah, I would say to the fathers, to the men, yeah, put fatherhood aside for once. Because fatherhood is like, the manifestation of manhood, you know, it’s that the next stage before you get there. To the men, learn how to build institutions, you know, and the reason why I say that is like, I’ve not had Wi Fi for like, I mentioned that, three weeks now. I’m trying to talk to TalkTalk, and I will say their name, you know, don’t invest in them. But I’m trying to get through to someone, it’s a nightmare. You’ve got to speak to one person, and I’m this one individual. And I’m talking to this big beast, what I want is my broadband. It’s frustrating, and it’s energizing. Think about how a young person feels when they’ve got an issue with police or school, they have to go through so many different layers. They’re a young person vulnerable, they’ve got no protection. But you’ve got these individuals, you’ve got these institutions. They’ll never be transparent. They’ll never be like, you can’t even hold them to account, “Oh, I need to speak to this person, that person needs to speak to that person.” And before you know it, like 10 years have gone, you know, look at Stephen Lawrence situation, you know, these things keep on happening. So for me, men need to start coming together to say, okay, what can we build to protect our young people? I do a lot of work in the Islamic community as well. Let one thing happened to a young Muslim boy, watch the mosque yeah?. I mean, how they will just turn up and you know, they will say, “We’re gonna hold you to account.” And there’s a response for that. But within the Black and Caribbean community, that’s not there. You know, so for me, it’s just about how can we create. Otherwise we’re always going to be like putting plasters on open wounds. It’s just not going to work.
Yeah, I think it’s more to do with listening to each other and understanding that you may have a feeling about something and you may have a feeling about something, but also then just kind of meeting in the middle. So that there can be a solution there. Because where you may feel, or that way that young person may feel doesn’t necessarily mean that because they’re frustrated at this moment in time, that they will be frustrated forever. It’s all about change. If you’re going to change then you need to kind of meet somewhere to help that young person develop something so that they can then, when they bring up their child or children, be able to then use those those measures and tools. So I totally understand where you’re coming from with that, Davis.
I think, especially with Afro Caribbean men, there’s so much generation of trauma, that, you know, I do think that sometimes where they can be educating their child differently, it’s more of about survival. And so what they are kind of teaching them is roles on how you survive when you’re out there. Because as a black female, now, I just think having a child, what we have to be thinking about a lot is, if we have a male child, how are we going to protect that child? Is the education system going to educate my child the right way? You know, are they going to become part of the justice system, are they going to be treated fairly? I do believe our white counterparts don’t ever think about that. They just think of we have a child and we’re gonna raise that child in a loving environment. We have so much other things to contend with and think about being a person of colour than our white counterparts would have. So I find it is very difficult, it’s very difficult for men, because a man, you know, they have a child and their thing is to, as the child reaches maybe say 11, or 12, because grooming is done at a much younger age, now, they have to be talking to them: “Look, when you’re going out, you have to make sure you look a certain way or act a certain way. If police stop you, this is what I expect you to do. If a group approaches you, this is what I expect you to do.” A white counterpart is probably not going to even say anything like that to their child, apart from, “Bye son, have a good day at school.” And when they get back, “how was your school day?” So it’s very much different depending on what race you are. I think there’s many great fathers. And for those that are doing a fantastic job, you know, I salute you. And, you know, there needs to be more fathers being commended for the good job that they are doing. I know some mothers will say, Yeah, but they don’t come and see their child. Sometimes emotionally, mentally, they could be going through – so if that man is phoning his child almost every day, it’s still a form of communication. And I know some mothers and some people might say, well, they need to make more of an effort. If they are broken emotionally and mentally, that is the biggest effort that they are making even just to pick up that phone call to say, “Hello, son, you know, Dad loves you, how was your day?” But you know, it would be nice if they could have that physical interaction where they’re going out to the funfair going out to football, but it’s not always possible. And we need to –
– and what about the fathers – sorry to cut you there Debbie – what about the fathers that are actually growing their children from from babies to adults? What would you kind of give them? Because although there will be certain mothers out there that will digest that, you know, they’re not doing enough, or they could be doing more or because they’re going through something emotionally. That’s the reason why they’re withdrawn and not communicating or not seeing their child or children. But for the actual fathers that have had their children from born, and they’re growing those children by their self without female help, what kind of advice would you have for those and commendments? Because they’re, in a sense, doing a mother’s role as well as a father’s role.
Yeah. I think the only thing I would probably say, haven’t really got much set apart from I salute you. Because being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And some people get it right. And some people what society may feel they’ve got it wrong, but I salute fathers. I salute mothers, you know, it is hard, and it’s tough. So all those single fathers out there, I salute you.
Thank you. Well, thank you very much, guys. I really had a great talk and discussion today. I think we raised quite a lot of important issues that are still arising. I’m not sure if this is going to, you know, change anytime soon. I’d like to hope it does because it needs to, you know, happen as soon as possible. But I believe the work that you’re putting out there Davis with your Manhood Academy is amazing. The fact that you’re interlinking more, doing things with other cultures, going into schools as well and also doing a lot for younger males and men is amazing. And for Debbie, having so many titles underneath you, I can’t even say all of them at once. But the fact of the matter is that you’re doing a lot for the community and trying to change perceptions of people’s mind frames around children and knife crime and violence is amazing. And I applaud both of you for taking your time out to be with Uniting Against Violence on our podcast. So thank you very much for blessing me with your grace I really appreciate it.
You’re here with me, Ashleigh, take care. Thank you for listening to Uniting Against Violence, the podcast about reducing serious violence in our communities. We’ve put useful links for things we’ve talked about today in this episode description. If you find this episode useful, please subscribe, share and like our socials at United Against Violence. One word, if you’d like to get in touch with us, you can also email us at Unitingagainstviolence@gmail.com. Reducing violence is a big topic and we know we we can’t cover everything and every perspective. So you’re listening to this thinking about something we’ve missed, we encourage you to start conversations where you are. Together we can unite against violence. This episode was coproduced by Denise Marshall and Sarah Hutt. Guest speakers are Debbie Felix and Davis Williams, with editing by Sarah Hutt and those hosts with me will be Ashleigh Jackson, which is myself. Special thanks to our partners, Islington and Camden Councils, Public Health, the Parent House, Violence Reduction Unit, Crux and our funders, the Mayor of London as well as of course Manhood Academy and our guest speakers. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned for our next episode.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai