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True story – a dad in Virginia has claimed a patch of land between Egypt and Sudan so that his 7-year-old daughter could become a real princess.

Jeremiah Heaton says a few months ago, little Emily asked him if she would ever be a real princess, and he told her she would. At the time. he had no idea how he could honor her wish, but he says he knew he would find a way. He found the land, made the financial investment, trekked to the desert and planted the “Heaton Kingdom” flag.

Now his daughter has an official title and is addressed as Princess Emily. Good dad or bad dad? Well, it depends. I’m all for dads and moms making their making their kids’ dreams come true…within reason. But I think a better tactic is to begin putting the tools in place that will help our kids achieve their goals on their own. Instead of feeding into the fantasy of his daughter being treated as royalty and served for the rest of her life, the role of any father is to set the example how his daughters should be treated.

He does this not just the by the way he treats them, but just as importantly, how he treats his wife and other women. A father’s role in his daughter’s life has a lot to do with her self-esteem. A dad needs to be the first man to tell his daughters she’s loved, that she’s beautiful and that she’s precious. Girls without dads in their lives need at least one father figure to give them the kind of attention that has nothing to do with their physical attractiveness or sexuality. When this happens, a girl is less likely to grow up linking her self-worth to the number of boys and men who want to sleep with her.

As a mom, I want my sons to feel like princes, not because they have a sense of entitlement, but because of the love, nurturing and support they get daily. Their father, my father and I have shown them what it looks like to love, support and provide for a family. The men have shown them how to treat women with respect and I’ve shown them the kind of respect they should expect from a woman.

It’s also our job as parents to help our children develop skill sets – academic, athletic or both that will prepare them to earn a living. They need physical activity, healthy diets to keep their bodies working at optimum levels and they need spiritual guidance, too.

They need to be talked to, not talked at. about their future endeavors and their plans for making them a reality. They need to hear positive, character-building words daily to be chastised when their actions don’t line up with the laws at home and outside of it. How does becoming a prince or princess get them ready for the real world challenges they will inevitably face?

I wonder if Emily’s dad would have been just as proactive if she’d said she wanted to be a teacher, a doctor or President of the United States. The dad who gave a kingdom to his daughter meant well, but giving her the land and the fancy title isn’t enough. Feeling like a princess or a prince has less to do with what children possess and more to do with how they feel inside and how they treat others.

It all starts at the castle—be it ever so humble or a de-luxe apartment in the sky.

What do you do to make your children or spouse feel like royalty?

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