Growing up, we knew everybody on my street. Parents pooled cars to take children to school and shared school run duties. Our neighbors knew us and each family was interested in the welfare of the other family. You cannot misbehave when your parents are absent because you know there are other “guardians” that will put you back in line. I recently stumbled on an article where a woman boasted that we longer need the community to raise a child. She said that she is a stay at home mum who is solely responsible for her children, providing all they need at every time. The article got me thinking; has the popular saying that “it takes a village/community to raise a child” been proved false?
With all due respect to parents and their effort in raising their kids, I still believe this saying is as true today as it was when it was first used.
Our society may not be as close knit as it used to be but children are still being influenced daily by people and events around them. Most importantly, what they learn sticks with them and will come to the fore with time. Sometimes your child does or says something and you ask yourself “where is this coming from?” Because you know it couldn’t possibly have come from you or your spouse.
As parents, we would love to think we are the all and all where our children are concerned, but that is not really the case. Let’s consider the following:
The kids spend time with Granny and Grandpa. During that period they learn a lot. One parent even complained that her parents feel she is not raising her children well because she is not doing things the way they did. So whenever her children visit her parents, they take time to educate them on certain cultural values they are missing at home.
What is the mission statement and vision of your children’s school? What values does the school demonstrate – diligence, meritocracy, excellence OR status symbols, paying for grades, mediocrity etc. whatever the school’s standards are, you can be sure that your children will exhibit them sooner or later.
A friend was shocked when her son started removing ‘h’ from ‘house’, ‘have’ and other such words while adding ‘h’ to words that start with vowel sounds. Can you guess where the child got this from? Yes! The teacher. It’s quite amazing that most children accord more respect to their teachers than their parents and consider their teachers words as irrefutable (even by their parents).
Adults are greatly influenced by religious leaders and environment, talk more of children. Children also emulate such leaders and sometimes would correct their parents when they feel mum or dad is going contrary to what they were taught in church.
“Tobi’s mother allows him to watch grown up movies, so why can’t I. Eloho’s mother says this or I like Uche’s mum because….” Your child does sleep overs in a friend’s house but how well do you know the parents of that friend or school mate?
This may apply more to families where both parents work but even mums that stay at home may have nannies or other domestic help to assist with the house chores. These group of people have tremendous influence on the children, especially when the parents are absent and they exert this influence positively or negatively.
Sagging jeans, funny (and sometimes age inappropriate) dance steps, slangs, fashion ideas, swag, blings and outlandish lifestyles….need I say more? Celebrities and cartoon characters are icons for children and also influence their language, attitude and values. Children are so bombarded with information that after sometime, they start copying those behaviors.
Children do not only listen to what we say, they observe things going on around them and really think of what they observe. One child whose parents hardly went to church built a solid relationship with God through their neighbor. The parents were so busy they had no idea when the transformation happened.
A child doesn’t even have to know the person to be influenced them, positively or negatively. Once a child observes something different from what they are used to, curiosity sets in and they tend to ask questions. If for some reason the answer is not satisfactory, they tend to try experimenting to discover the “truth” for themselves.
Children also learn from their friends, school mates, their parents’ friends and extended family members. They do not have to be formally tutored by all the people that make up our community to learn from them, it can happen through simple observation.
So…do you still think you are the only one raising your child? You might want to have a re-think. Raising a well-rounded child requires more than paying school fees and buying them things.
In a bid to ensure that they are the sole source of their children’s identity, some parents put lots of effort into discrediting teachers and other adults that their children come in contact with, sometimes to the extent of being rude or derogatory to that adult in the presence of the child; which only serves to teach the child bad manners.
I think parents should be more concerned about where our children gain the bulk of their life lessons and be available to correct the wrong things they may be imbibing. In their various encounters, children pick different things and may have questions or areas of confusion, parents should be available to provide clarity as much as possible. It is from communication that you can realize that a particular relationship is a bad influence and take action to discontinue such a relationship.
With God, vigilance and open communication, we will surely bring all of these contributions together to produce well rounded children.
…so help us God.
Do you have a story or experience to share on communal parenting? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org