How to Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican : Jamaican Book Review


How to Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican (Life lessons my parents taught me) is a funny island approach to childrearing. Through life lessons such as “I’ve Been Working Since My Eyes Were Down at My Knees” and “Fire De A Mus Mus Tail, Him Tink A Cool Breeze” Dahlia D. Welsh recounts the stories of how her parents were raised and in turn raised her. If you want to know how to deal with curfews Jamaican style the chapter ‘Mek Sure You’re Ina Yard When De Sun Guh Down’ tells of how her grandfather’s strict warning about coming home after a party was followed by his presence when his instructions were not obeyed. She talks about her parents strict no tolerance regarding drug use in ‘Spliffs and Tings’ and about the importance of holding your child to their promises and not allowing them to be as they say in Jamaica ‘A Bag of Mouth.’

“How To Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican (Life lessons my parents taught me)” has a life lesson for everyone for everyone. Whether you’re a parent, about to become one or want to know more about Jamaicans “How to Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican” provides an intimate portrayal of the island and her people.


If you’ve spent any time in Jamaica–or around Jamaicans (or their music)–you know they are some of the sweetest people on the earth, people who are not afraid to stand up for their rights or tell you what they think without trying to hurt your feelings or make you feel bad. Dahlia D. Welsh may have been born in America but she was raised a Jamaican in a traditional Jamaican family and she passes along some of the wisdom she grew up with in How To Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican (Life Lessons My Parents Taught Me) ( I once bought a slightly risque album in a Christian Thrift Store and apologetically said to the embarrassed clerk ringing me up, “It’s really not bad by today’s standards.”

Dahlia D. Welsh’s wise homilies on life remind me of the ladies’ response, which stuck with me ever since: “I don’t go by today’s standards.”

In a series of vignettes culled from her personal experience the author sets up stories that serve as both example and precept, then gently drives them home with the kind of guidance with which her parents drove them home to her. She draws some broader implication as well–that the culture handed down from her parents originated in Africa and forms part of a tradition and heritage that goes back to the beginning of all culture. Whether she’s talking about money management, diversity, second-hand clothes (Ms. Welsh has two older sisters) or accountability the advice is aimed squarely at the parent not the child (though the lesson is applicable to both). Being raised a Jamaican from this point of view means the parent takes the responsibility for teaching the child to be responsible.

Utilizing Jamaican folk-sayings like “every mikkle makes a mukkle” “fire de a mus mus tail” and “If a fish could keep him mouth shut he would never get caught” (which also find their way into hundred of Jamaican songs), as well as a keen sense of human nature and good old fashioned common sense, How To Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican addresses relevant issues like substance abuse, dealing with success (and failure), attitudes about sex and peer pressure both practically and with a sense of humor while encouraging a firm hand and a strong foundation–things every parent has to deal with or feel the consequences of not dealing with. This book is a thoroughly enjoyable guide filled with wisdom and compassion, suitable for raising a child who can also spread such virtues.

Reviewed by Chuck Foster Host of Reggae Central on KPFK-LA , Author of Reggae Update Column for The Beat magazine , and Roots Rock Reggae: An Oral History of Jamaican Music from Ska to Dancehall


Every year, my mom calls me early in the morning so that she can be the first person to wish me a happy birthday. When I first moved to California from Brooklyn., it usually meant somewhere around 4 am because, in her words, “Call dem cheaper before eight o’clock.” One year, I asked her to tell me about the day I was born. I guess I was feeling nostalgic for the good old days of someone catering to my every need. However, I knew I was in trouble when she said the following, “All I can remember is….” No good story in the history of mankind ever started, “All I can remember is….” Think about the classics; ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” Dr. Suess’s ‘Cat In The Hat’ starts, “The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.” And of course, every fairytale opens with pure magic, “Once upon a time, in a land far away….” But what did I get? I got, “All I can remember is….”

Well, all I can remember about growing up in Brooklyn is that our two-bedroom apartment was too hot during the summer and too cold during the winter. I remember reading a lot and having to follow a lot of rules. I also remember not really knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up; I just knew that I wanted to fulfill my parents’ American dream of getting a college degree so, I worked really hard in school. I skipped a grade in junior high school, I went to one of the top high schools in New York City, Brooklyn Technical, and then I went to Ithaca College on a full academic scholarship, but after graduation, it was kind of like, ‘What do I do now?’ I moved out to California shortly after graduation and was a production assistant, personal assistant and then after the Northridge earthquake, I decided it was time to get out of dodge. I moved to Washington, D.C. and that is where I realized I had a desire to write. Walt Disney has a fellowship program for sitcom writers and so I gave writing an episode of “Seinfeld” a shot. I was accepted into the program so I packed up my things and moved back to California. After the fellowship program ended, I did some work in the industry, and although I like writing for TV, I love screenwriting more. I have written several scripts including a romantic comedy entitled: “What Are The Chances?” which was optioned in 2005, and a drama that I am currently producing entitled, “Blue Fields.” It is a semi-autobiographical story about the daughter of Jamaican immigrants.

Which leads me to “How To Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican.” I am the last person who ever thought she would write a book, but here I am. The subject matter required little to no research. I interviewed my father, and ‘all that my mother could remember’ about growing up in Jamaica is in the book. I think it is safe to say that close to 100% of books about raising children are either written by parents, nannies or child psychologists, but how can a parent really know if what they have taught their child worked? Ask the child. “How To Raise Your Child Like A Jamaican,” is just about everything that my parents taught me about life that has stuck with me throughout the years. Hopefully, reading it will give you a new perspective on an old ‘profession’, and give you some insight so that the next time you are in Jamaica, you will have a deeper understanding of the island and her people.

Walk good, nuh Mon!
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