'Star Trek: Discovery' star Sonequa Martin-Green on parenting, respect and Tooth Fairy rates

·5-min read
Sonequa Martin-Green opens up about her life as a mom. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Sonequa Martin-Green opens up about her life as a mom. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

Sonequa Martin-Green is breaking ground as Star Trek: Discovery's Michael Burnham, the first Black female captain in the sci-fi franchise's history, but the actress is used to being in command in real life, too. Together with actor husband Kenric Green, the mom of two is raising a 7-year-old son and 20-month-old daughter to be respectful and loving little human beings.

"I'm really big on manners," Martin-Green, 37, tells Yahoo Life's So Mini Ways. "I'm really big on respect and being respectful in the house and outside of the house. ... When someone is speaking to you, make eye contact. When you meet someone, stand up. When someone tries to shake your hand, shake it firmly to show respect. If someone is being picked on, you've gotta get in there and do something to help."

Son Kenric — the grade-schooler shares a name with his dad, best known as Scott on The Walking Dead, on which Martin-Green also starred — has "a lot of leadership potential," according to his mom. Though she jokes that it sounds like she's some sort of military drill sergeant, it's important for her to teach him about taking responsibility for himself and those who need help, and "show him how to be a leader and also a giver, in every way that you can be."

That's not to say the Green house doesn't know how to let loose. Martin-Green credits their acting backgrounds with helping her and her husband be playful, creative caregivers.

"We have a lot of fun in our home," she says. "It's a luxury of us both being actors. We're always incorporating that kind of imaginative play. I'm very crafty; I like to do arts and crafts with my kids as well."

Knowing how to incorporate fun into everyday routines has helped the Space Jam: A New Legacy star tackle one of the biggest parent-kid battles of them all: brushing those teeth. Speaking to Yahoo Life as part of her new partnership with Crest Kids Enamel + Cavity Protection toothpaste, which is formulated for kids ages 6 and older, Martin-Green shared the tricks she's used to keep 7-year-old Kenric cavity-free.

"Using an electric toothbrush was really helpful for our son," says the actress, who swears by the Oral-B line of kids electric toothbrushes. "It's fun to play with. ... I make it kind of a game: '30 seconds starts now!' So it's [like a] marathon, just so that he can get excited about it."

She adds, "For us, it was really about making it fun, but also helping him understand how important [dental care] was. It's not enough to just say like, "this is what you need to do.' We talked to him a lot about what could happen if he didn't. And I'm able to use myself [as an example], which is helpful, and say, 'You don't want to go through what I went through. You want your teeth to be healthy.' Because he's got a ton of adult teeth now and those stick around."

While daughter Saraiyah is still in the baby teeth stage, Kenric has already figured out how to squeeze the Tooth Fairy dry.

"So it started out at $1 [per tooth]. And then it actually went up to $5. And our son, being the little genius he is, was like, 'OK, so I think the Tooth Fairy is increasing my amount per tooth because so many are coming in. At first I got a dollar, but now I've got $5. So I think the next time is gonna be $10.' We were like, 'Maybe, son,'" she laughs, pulling a face. "We're going to try to hold him in the $1 to $5 range ... but I wrote him a note from the Tooth Fairy along with the cash and he was pretty excited about that."

Kenric also gets a kick out of his parents' acting careers.

"He loves the fact that I'm on Star Trek: Discovery," Martin-Green says of her "whip-smart" son. "He talks about it a lot. He'll be like, 'Oh yeah, my mommy's on Star Trek,' you know? Or he'll be like, 'Oh, your show, Mommy — Star Trek: Discovery!'"

As a mom, Martin-Green's goals are to help her children make discoveries of their own — exposing them to different cultures to encourage a "worldly perspective" is a priority — and to thoughtfully guide them through life's great lessons. And while she's a disciplinarian when she needs to be, she wants to move past the "do what you're told because I said so" approach she experienced as a child herself.

"We didn't want to do that; we didn't want to lean on that," she explains. "We wanted to be able to explain, 'This is why we're telling you you can't do this thing. This is why we're telling you you should do this thing. This is for you — for your development, for your learning, for your maturation, for your life. We want you to be the best man you can be. So this is why we're telling you these things.'

"Trying to explain those things to him has been really, really helpful because he understands where we're coming from, and why it's not just a 'because I said so' kind of thing," Martin-Green says.

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