Last week I wrote that the best gift a child can get is their parent’s time. The second best present is educational and will help your child develop his or her mind.

One of the biggest problems I see occurring in the black community today with our young people is that far too many don’t THINK! They act and react with no thought to the consequences of their actions. In days gone by, we could depend on the churches to give lessons that would always end in, “The morale to this story is …” But far too many churches have moved into prosperity ministries and thus fear offending their congregations.

That has led to the loss of ministers who would once preach “fire and brimstone” sermons. There are no more warnings of damnation in eternal hell. Far too many sermons now have a “go along to get along” mentality. Add the current “come as you are” philosophy – what one wears to church is informal – and no longer are people asked to step forward to do their best. Those who can afford to buy a decent outfit to wear to church no longer feel the need since everyone accepts how they look. The prevailing attitude is: “At least they’re here.” That attitude adds to our young folks not thinking of their appearance or separating themselves mentally and physically from their everyday behavior when they go to church.

Teaching a child to think is the parent’s job, first and foremost. The school system and church are supplements. For example, you can constantly tell a child to not touch the hot stove. And when they don’t listen and touch it anyway and burn their fingers, then while comforting the child, the parent can turn it into a teaching moment.

One of the best and least expensive toys to teach a child to think is Checkers. It is a basic game of move and countermove. Checkers is a war game in its simplest form. If you leave your “man” open to attack, the other player will take him out. It also teaches your child to think beyond the moment. They will quickly learn that if they don’t think out their decisions, they will lose. And when they have thought out their moves, then they don’t get caught in a trap. One of my friends uses Checkers whenever he wants his child to earn the privilege. If they can win the Checkers game, they can have whatever they have been asking for. His son, who used to lose every game, is now giving his dad a run for his money.

My favorite board game is Monopoly. I still remember the day my son and I first played. He was probably around 9 years old and had bought both Boardwalk and Park Place. He put houses and eventually a hotel on both. I can still remember chiding him for foolishly spending all his money until I landed on his property and went bankrupt. Those “teaching” moments can teach the parent as well.

Have a very Merry Christmas and remember to Celebrate Kwanzaa. And give them the second best gift of all: Teach them to think!