Many students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning as soon as they get to school. One second-grader, Joshua Williams, begins his day with a pledge of allegiance to himself. "It just lays the foundation and the expectations for what he is to do and become," Joshua's father, Jenabu Williams, told A Plus.
The inspiration for this pledge struck him last year, when Joshua had recently entered the first grade and "was having some difficulties just with transitioning into the rituals and routines" of his new classroom. One day, Williams realized he needed to make a daily pledge for his son based on a weekly affirmation that Williams, an executive director at The Boys' Club of New York, began teaching the young men before male mentoring meetings at the nonprofit 15 years ago. "After being prompted from my wife, I actually took some of the things that we say every week," he explained. "And I actually just tailored it to fit the things that … we ultimately aspire for him to do and to be as a young man."
"He now has the language and the skills to regulate his own behavior," Williams added. Through the pledge, one of the most important skills Williams has taught Joshua is conflict resolution. In particular, one line says: "When I'm confronted with a problem or conflict, I think before I react." Those are words we could all stand to remember a little more often. Williams considers thoughtful problem solving an acquired skill — and an important one he hopes sticks with his son long after they part ways in the morning. "Hopefully by saying this every day, he now … has a daily reminder of what he's supposed to do when he is confronted with a problem or conflict," he said.
In the form of a "responsive reading," Williams began teaching Joshua the pledge by saying each line and having him repeat it. "So we started saying it around the beginning of October," he said. "And in less than three weeks — just from the responsive, back-and-forth reading and just doing this every day — before I knew it, one day he said, 'You know what, Dad, I want to lead the pledge.' " That same day, Williams decided to record his son saying his pledge, which would later receive more than 60,000 views on YouTube.
Since Williams started doing the morning pledge with his wife and son, he has felt that they are more connected as a couple and family, respectively, because it gives them something special to share every day. "It's become a part of our rich morning rituals and routines," he explained. "I mean, we've always prayed together as a family, but now we've added this on, and so we do this as well in the morning with our son."
Besides his work at The Boys' Club, Williams is also an educator in an urban public school, interacting with dozens of other children every day. "I see firsthand how so many young men come to school, and they really haven't been affirmed or … even prepared to really start their day," he added. "So we looked at [the pledge] as something that we can use to prepare my son, but also as a gift to his teacher."
Recognizing his and his wife's unique roles as Joshua's first teachers, Williams believes their morning family pledge can help "form solid partnerships" with the teachers at Joshua's school. "I'm not looking for them to solve all of my son's academic or educational needs," he said. "My wife and I, we are his first educators, so we take great responsibility in that."
Since going viral, the pledge hasn't just helped Williams prepare and empower Joshua before school every day, it's also inspired other parents and teachers all over the world to do pledges with their own kids. To those who have reached out to him, Williams explains that while his family's pledge is a "good road map," he challenges them to tailor the pledge to fit their child's specific needs and aspirations.
"I would really encourage parents to sit down and look at some of the things they believe in spiritually, some of the things they believe in morally, some of the things they believe in academically," Williams concluded. "This is what … my wife and I aspire for our son to do, and these are based on our core family beliefs and ideals, so whatever your core family beliefs and ideals are ... then create something that embodies what you believe within your family."