‘I’m not your friend… I’m your mother’

Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph talks about her family.  (Photo: Getty)

Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph talks about her family. (Photo: Getty)

Welcome to So Mini ModiYahoo Life parenting series on the joys and challenges of raising children.

Between Moesha and her Emmy-winning turn Abbott ElementarySheryl Lee Ralph — who will take the stage on Super Bowl Sunday to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — has pretty much cornered the market with firm but loving mother figures. But how would Ralph, mom of a 30-year-old son and 27-year-old daughter, describe her current parenting style?

“I think he’s strict but loving,” the singer and actress tells Yahoo Life. “I’m not your friend. I’m not your partner. I’m your mother. I’m here to dictate the rules of our house. Listen to me, don’t just look at me. Know what I want. I’m trying to tell you.”

Communication is the key to good parenting, says the Dream girls star.

“I don’t think enough parents really and truly talk to their kids to help them understand what they’re saying,” says Ralph. “And stop bad-mouthing your kids. She tries to put you on their level, face-to-face, so they can see and understand what you’re saying. And start early, because they really understand very, very early.”

Ralph spoke to So Mini Ways about its partnership with Microban 24. The Tony winner says her endorsement of the best-known brand for antimicrobial sanitizer products was inspired by her family. Ralph’s uncle died early during the COVID-19 pandemic, making her even more vigilant about keeping potentially deadly bacteria at bay. Struggling to find in-stock bleach and other disinfectants at local stores, she came across Microban 24, which she continues to use at her home.

“The idea that I could spray it on my surfaces to fight those bacteria, I was down for that,” she says. “And he’s been with me all this time.”

Trying to keep a safe and clean home can take on new meaning — and pressure — when kids enter the picture. As a mom, how did Ralph get his children, Eitenne and Ivy Coco Maurice, to participate in household chores when they were younger?

“It was a lesson in finance and life for me,” she shares. “I wanted my kids to understand that we didn’t live in this free house, that we all have debts to pay just because we’re under this roof. And with that, everyone has to give their best shot. And it was up to them to keep the surfaces, keeping rooms clean. You have chores just like me, and if you do them right, you might get a small paycheck on the side, but you have to do your job first. And the kids really respond to that. They love knowing they have a role in life at home, that they have their own things to do first. And as parents, you have to enforce it. You have to teach it. If you don’t. If they do, they won’t learn it. That’s why it’s called parenting.”

While racking up rewards for playing Abbott ElementaryVeteran kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard from , Ralph dazzled audiences with rousing speeches and bites that emphasize the importance of self-respect and determination. Unsurprisingly, she’s good at inundating her children with claims about her, just like her parents did with her.

“I learned from my parents,” she says. “My parents encouraged me. My parents wanted me to know I was smart. They wanted me to know I could do it; I could do it, no matter how hard it might seem. And, you know, being a kid in the 60s, it was easy to think that the world was against you as a child, to see so many children lose their parents to random acts of hate. It was truly devastating. But my parents were always there to teach me something, to help boost my fragile ego in that time as a kid, to build my spirit and that’s literally where I got it from.

“There used to be a saying that talking to yourself is a sign of someone who’s crazy,” she adds. “But my mom always told me that talking to yourself is a sign of someone who’s in charge of their life. So, you know, I talk to myself on a regular basis.”

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