While I was waiting for my son during his swimming class, I overheard a little boy sitting behind me speak unkindly to his friend. His mother wasn’t around, but she was tending to her other children at the time. The little boy’s friend was much younger than he was and so his young friend couldn’t stand up for himself. I matter-of-factly told the little boy that what he said was not kind. The little boy didn’t reply, but he did speak nicely to his young friend afterwards.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that I have grown up hearing now and then, but only when I became a mother did it take on real meaning for me.
The essence of the meaning is that it takes a community (or “village”) to help raise moral, healthy and happy children. It doesn’t mean it is up to the community completely to raise children, but rather the community assists parents in their parental roles.
Children need a lot of nurturing and positive guidance and this cannot come only from their parents.
As a parent, I am all for others whom I trust in my “village” to help guide my children. Because whether I like it or not, I am not always able to be around my kids the older they get. The same goes for other parents.
As a mother in our “village”, I strongly believe in helping guide my extended family’s children, my friends’ children and even the young music students I teach. Children need a lot of nurturing and positive guidance and this cannot come only from their parents. Unless they live on a remote island somewhere, like the Swiss Family Robinson. Good luck to them.
We should welcome trustworthy partnerships and supports for helping raise children. They are becoming even more necessary in this crazy, big, wide world. More especially for the single-parent scenarios, which are becoming increasingly common.
So Then, Who is Your Village?
- Our family, extended and immediate
- Friends (such as school parents)
- Medical professionals (occupational therapists, nurses, etc.)
- Religious instructors
These are the people who will most likely have regular opportunities to teach and guide your children. Please also note, because you are the parent, you need to follow your gut instinct about those in your village that you should trust your child with. Exercise caution and don’t ignore your feelings.
On the other hand, you don’t really have to trust the parent too much who is preventing your child from throwing ice cream in another kid’s face.
Please do not be offended if these trusted people try to assist and correct your child, because they are almost always only trying to help. We should not be parents who think our children are perfect little angels and absolutely infallible. Be straight up with yourself and see your child for who they really are. Only then will you be able to parent them in the best way. In a loving way, of course.
If those in your village ever correct your child inappropriately, ask your child about how they felt and then speak in private to the adult if necessary. You are your child’s foremost protector.
Why should we help others raise their children?
A Parent Cannot Be with Their Child Everywhere, All the Time
As a parent, I know I cannot be with my kids 24/7, it’s a fact the older they (and I) get. I also know they are still learning and developing in many areas and so I would hope that the responsible supervising adults will remind them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, or to be reminded to be kind and say sorry. Every situation is a teaching opportunity for a child.
I also tell my family members and trusted friends who babysit for me that if one of my kids behave badly, they need to be corrected. And the best way to correct a child is in a loving, matter-of-fact way.
When I see children who do not have their parents close by who are doing something wrong, I take the initiative to help them and kindly correct them. I am no longer afraid of saying something because I know how important it is. And as a parent, I would be grateful to whoever it was who appropriately corrected my child for misbehavior if I wasn’t around. However, we also need to be careful about overstepping boundaries. We should never undermine the parents’ primary role in raising their child.
Like when I taught in the children’s Sunday School. Boy, there’s a lot of proxy-parenting that happens during that time! From asking the little boy in the back row to stop poking the girl in front of him, or taking another child who was jumping up and down on the chairs and letting them sit on your lap instead – there were many opportunities to show kind guidance to the children at church.
It Helps Children Feel Valued
Being helped or corrected by another adult in the “village”also helps children to know that what they do is noticed, and that people around them care enough about them. Children will always feel that most of the time someone is watching over them. They may be less inclined to do naughty things.
Like when you see a child fall and hurt themselves, you run over to help them, don’t you? A feeling of community will be instilled in the child as you come to their aid and carry them back to their parents.
We Are Agents of Socialization
When my husband took a course in basic Sociology, he shared with me some interesting concepts of socialization. Members of the community are known as agents of socialization.
What is socialization anyway? Well, it’s basically the process whereby children learn the norms of society. It teaches children the community’s values, beliefs and behaviors in order for them to become healthy members of the community. We can be agents of socialization! *Insert cheesy smile*
If we have been placed in a situation to help or correct a child, may we take the opportunity to do so in a loving way.
Children Take Non-Parent Adults a Bit More Seriously
I know this may seem strange, but honestly, kids get a bigger shock when someone other than their parent blows the whistle on them. Like when I tell my nieces or nephews to not behave in a certain way – they are more embarrassed and remorseful than when their parent has caught them out. Children get used to their parents nagging them frequently, so when they hear it from someone else – they get the picture much clearer!
When I see a child picking their nose and eating it, I kindly correct and tell them that they just ate tons of “Jerry-Germs”. Or I ask them if they are digging for gold. They get the point, feel embarrassed and (hopefully) one day they will ditch their green-finger habit. That’s how they learn that nose-picking is both unacceptable and unhygienic in society.
As positive members of our communities, we should be caring about what other people’s children are doing. If we don’t care, we risk the rising generation becoming degenerate and entitled human beings! We can make a difference in the lives of others in our community as we take the initiative to teach children in our “village” how to act respectfully and with integrity.
If we have been placed in a situation to help or correct a child, may we take the opportunity to do so in a loving way. Children take those experiences and lessons they learned into adulthood. They will never forget it!
Do you have any experiences about how your “village” raises children? Comment below!