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The video starts by focusing on a father and son sitting in a car. Dad, Jenabu Williams, asks his son, Joshua, if he is ready. Then the pledge begins.
“Today is going to be a good day,” Joshua says.
Williams repeats the phrase.
“I thank God for waking me up today,” Joshua says.
Williams repeats the phrase.
For more than two minutes, the father and son recite a pledge, which includes affirmations to help Joshua spend his day positively.
The pledge allows Williams, and his wife Bennay, a chance to share the things they want their son to value, including the importance of attending school, being a positive community member, and acknowledging failures and trying to correct them.
And, the daily practice is “reinforcing these things and encouraging him to live the pledge,” Williams told TODAY Parents.
Thousands of people have viewed the video, which Williams posted about two weeks ago. When Williams told Joshua that loads of people watched him, he asked: “Am I famous now?”
Williams started the daily pledge with his son about two months ago. The Newark, New Jersey, first-grade student was bringing home bad reports about his behavior. After Joshua tore another student’s project, the Williamses had a talk with his teachers and felt frustrated. What could they do to help their son?
That’s when Williams remembered the pledge. He has spent much of his career mentoring inner city youth and often had his mentees perform affirmations. These daily mantras helped the young men feel better and live positively. He believed it could work for Joshua.
“[I] tweaked the pledge and made it appropriate to the things he faced,” he says.
In the video, Joshua is prompted by his father when he forgets a word but is proud when he can do a whole verse perfectly
“I’m going to school so I can learn and go to college and be the leader that God has created me to be."
“Today, I’ll be empowered by my teachers with the tools to be successful within in my community and throughout my country."
“I apply myself daily. I study. And I ask questions when I don’t understand.”
After making the pledge a daily ritual, the change felt almost instant, says Williams. Joshua stopped acting up as much. Just the other day, Williams asked Joshua if anything happened at school that he needed to share. Joshua admitted that a teacher spoke to him because he was crawling on the floor. Instead of getting angry or ignoring the warning, he did something else.
“I fixed it and I made a better decision,” the 6-year-old told his dad.
Williams feels proud that his son uses the pledge as a way to improve.
“[Joshua] is able to self regulate and I think that is a skill that is not really taught,” he says. “I think now he is developing the skills and as he travels through the day, he is able to regulate himself.”
And Joshua has come to value the pledge. As the two were getting close to school the other morning, he panicked.
“He said, ‘Dad, the pledge. We have to do the pledge,’” Williams says.
Williams, of course, did not forget it. He wants them to recite it as close to school as possible so it remains fresh in Joshua’s mind. While Williams loves that the pledge helps Joshua, he believes it has helped him, too.
“Sometimes as parents we just miss the obvious and it just illuminated some things,” he says. “Now my wife and I are intentional and doing things in a certain way.”