Being raised in the 1970’s was great! There was a true sense of community (a village) were welcomed in one another’s homes and treated like part of the family. It was not uncommon to eat meals at someone else’s house. We had much respect for our friends’ parents. Kids were well rounded as a result of having experiences with other families; eating different foods, participating in different family activities, sharing different holiday traditions, etc.
Because of the close family ties shared within the community, it was acceptable for other adults to correct anyone’s children. I remember being at my Grandmother’s one weekend. A group of us girls were spending time together, doing what young girls do – laughing, talking, and giggling. As we walked down my Grandmother’s street one of her neighbor’s stopped us. The woman thought she heard someone in the group use profanity. None of us had but we were respectful enough to stop, listen to what our elder had to say, and take the correction being given. Once she finished we kept walking and continued on with our fun.
When I made it back to my Grandmother’s house a few hours later, she questioned me about the incident. The neighbor had called my Grandmother to tell her she suspected one of us had used inappropriate language. I remember my Grandmother talking to me firmly and making her expectations of my behavior very clear. Again, I listened as she spoke and took the guidance to heart even though I was not guilty of the offense.
Although I grew up in a home with both parents, I was raised by a village of people that included aunts, uncles, grandparents, older cousins, neighbors, teachers, department store employees, and more. I grew up knowing that a standard of behavior had been set for me and people who cared about me would be watching to ensure I met that standard. When I didn’t, they guided me back on track. It didn’t always take discipline in the form of a spanking, although I did receive my share of them from my parents. A firm tone with a few direct words was often enough.
We Are No Longer a Village
As the years have passed, it is disheartening to realize how far from this we’ve come. How many family feuds have we seen because a relative told someone else’s son or daughter what they could or couldn’t do? How many of us can honestly say we would not be upset if the neighbor down the street stopped our child and corrected them for riding their bike on their freshly manicured lawn? How many of us would say “thank you” to a store employee after they’ve admonished our child for running through the store?
I was at the community pool not long ago. There was a group of six young people playing together in the water. The oldest was a young man that appeared to be in his late teens and the youngest was about five years old. Within minutes of me being there, the oldest in the group began using very foul language. Knowing that correcting other people’s children isn’t as acceptable as it used to be, my first thought was to ignore it. After several more minutes of it however, I couldn’t. I asked the young man if he would be kind enough to use better language, especially because of the younger children. He proceeded to curse me out and the other kids thought it was funny. That was a very sad moment.
The solution is complex because life is so very different now than in 1970. In some communities, neighbors don’t even know the family next door to them. People don’t
always have our child’s best interest at heart today so we have had to become much more cautious as to who we allow our children to be with in our absence.
Yet it is quite possible to have a supportive, loving, and safe village looking after our children. Start the dialogue. You may be surprised at who else in your circle has been searching for the same thing. Take steps this New Year to build your village. You’ll be glad you did, and your children’s lives will be enhanced because of it!
As parents, we do the best we can to set the standard of behavior for our children but it still takes a village to help reinforce it. Prayerfully we can get back to a village mentality; there is a great need for it, and the resources (caring adults) are available.