Parenting: “It Takes A Village”…Should It?

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Have you ever been told that parenting a child, "takes a village" to raise them? Stop and think…who is in your village? Do you want your village raising your child? Are you willing to take the bad with the good? I struggle with this regularly.

We raise our young boys, 3 of them, in a bedroom community full of other young families.  I work in a church full of young families, with many children. I would be hard pressed to count how many times I've heard the phrase "it takes a village" when referring to raising a child. The old adage "it takes a village" assumes your child is being raised by a large number of people, that have your child's best interest in mind.  I'm fortunate to have neighbors in their 70's who raised kids 45 years ago. They look out for our kids when they are playing outside, and they even watch out for my wife and chickens when I'm not around. I hear story after story, from my Vietnam veteran neighbor, of the days of old, when kids acted right, because everyone held everyone else's kids accountable. I can see where the village-raising mentality came from.  It's a nice theory. With the "it takes a village approach" raising another child is just as important as raising your own. "Things have changed," he says. 

He's right. Things have changed. Even in my community, a pretty close-knit one, I have a hard time relying on anyone else to help raise my children. My generation of parents really confuses me. It seems that the overwhelming majority are very protective of their child's spirit, which is a good thing. But that comes with a heavy price-tag; the spirit of the other children they are around.  I've noticed that I'm living in a dog-eat-dog world of competitive child-rearing. This type of parenting isn't conducive to the "it takes a village" approach. The conflict takes place when there's an incident between two kids from two different families, and both sets of parents don't witness it first hand. Since they aren't both there to witness the "incident" all they have to go by is a one-sided, 2nd hand account, from their own child and maybe a sibling. Most parents aren't interested in getting an unbiased, neutral witnesses' version of the story, so they take their child's account as a flawless one. This is why it's so common to see disagreements break out between kids, parents, and other authorities.

My biggest struggle with "it takes a village" mentality is that I find that many parents are too trusting of their child's environment and personal influences. This school of thought results in a lot of kids together in activities, without parents, and without accountability. Maybe you can imagine how that works out? Ever heard of "Lord of the flies?" I'll give you a hint, kids with no adults turns into chaos before too long. Working in ministry to youth, I've seen it first hand many times. I'm no statistician but in my 12 years of full-time youth work, I would surmise that parents who trust in the village to hold their children accountable results in the majority of their kids facing mature situations too early for their well-being. And by mature situations, I'm sure you can imagine how dark and damaging that can get. If you need examples, I give them here and here.

Parents get one shot at raising each child. Frankly, I don't want most of my village raising my children. Most adults are too distracted to think of the ramifications of their actions around other children. And if there are no adults around, then you've got children raising children.  No child is fit to be making parenting decisions for another child. But don't get me wrong! I don't think my kids need to be raised in a bubble, protected from every other school of thought, or adult/child influence. A child's intentional exposure to other schools of thought and worldviews is incredibly important through the lens of intentional parenting. This is a tough approach…tough on the parents. Because it's hard work and requires a healthy blalnce.  It requires a lot of early and even pre-mature conversations between parent and child. It takes investigative questions and research into influences you are placing in your children's lives. Obviously, if you can trust another adult or teen to help raise your child, then they need to be part of your child's life. Every child needs positive adult influences outside of their family. It's what makes a child into a well-rounded child and eventually a successful adult.  But intentionally placing an adult in your child's life, because they have proven to be a good influence, is different than allowing the village raise your child for you.

I think too many parents in their 20's 30's and 40's approach parenting with the, "they'll be fine" mentality.  That's a peaceful thought, and very-well intentioned. But it's ignorant, and in some cases negligant. What you get when the majority of parents take this approach, is a bunch of kids and no accountability. The majority of emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically, toughest people I know, were not raised people who stopped with that thought, "they'll be fine." Their parents made sure they were fine, because they talked them through the daily rigors of childhood, and in many cases walked them through it. And if you can't walk a child through a difficult time, you have other trustworthy adults nearby your child to help them process that time.

One thing I get told by experienced parents on a weekly basis, is something to the effect of "don't blink, the kids will be grown before you know it." I believe them, the older my kids get.  These formative years in a child's life are short, and crucial. Why outsource so much time with your kids to people you don't know? So many times I see parents just shuffling their kids from one institution to another, never really spending any quality time together. Many statistics I've read about adult influence, point to the same truth… Parents are the number one influence in a child's life.  Not a village, not friends, not even a girlfriend or boyfriend are more influential. That doesn't mean parent's influence can't get outsourced, because unfortuantately it happens a lot. 

We get one shot at this parenting thing. Let's do whatever it takes to make sure our kids are more than "gonna be fine." We need to hold each other accountable as parents. Let's be our children's number one supporter, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. Let's be intentional enough that our kids know that our voices are the dominant one they hear the majority of the time. Parenting in this way may seem impossible, but it's our task as parents. And we will never acheive this task, until our children are no long a part of our lives. We get one shot at this. Do what it takes to get it right.

 

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Ben is the youth minister husband of @gingercasa1 and father of three awesome boys, ages 8, 6, and 3! He loves sports, music, and ministry and hanging out with his family.

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Comments

  1. Sab Edwards says:

    One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to spend enough time with my kids…always had to work for a living.  Things have changed quite a bit for new parents.  I relyed heavily on my extended family to help me out during all the holidays the school has (that whole working for a living thing getting in the way lol) Quite a few parents now a days don't have anyone close by at all!!

    • I appreciate your responses, Sab. Especially this one. Sometimes I need to be reminded that the first priority for parents is to provide food shelter and basic needs for their children. Sometimes that means working a lot and relying on family and friends to help with the help with supervision.

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