Effective parenting is without doubt, one of the hardest jobs, if not the hardest job, that God has given us as fathers and mothers. Although the Holy scripture tells us that children are a blessing and gift to parents, there are yet times when we find ourselves confused and somewhat worried that we aren’t doing it right enough.
So many people fail the test of parenting before they start the moment they begin to think effective parenting is all about providing care, food, clothing, shelter and school education for a child. Real parenting for humans, definitely goes beyond that.
Almost every animal at some point provides all of these things such as care, shelter, and feeding for their offspring. Are we then not different from animals? If we truly are, it is then safe to say we must begin to look for the things that distinguishes us from animals to truly understand the ultimate difference between human parenting and animal parenting. Primarily, that is the human mind.
While animals may also show some care to their offspring, they still do not have the capacity to reason as humans. They cannot instill morals and values into their offspring. Maximising this advantage may however, take different forms as there are no generally-acceptable rules or principles for parenting. But there seems to be a widely acceptable truth about parenting; that is “it takes a village to raise a child.“
This is believed to be an African proverb that means an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. This, however, does not mean the entire village is responsible for the upbringing of the child or the child is owned by the village.
There are truly different styles and approaches to parenting, which are often dependent on individual knowledge, experience, societal culture, family culture and more. However the African parent tends to bring up a child in a way the child grows to imbibe the cultural values of the land and as well be a responsible adult. One may now ask, with this woke generation, and media-driven society, are these cultural beliefs and practices still in vogue?
The impact of the community in the development of a child
A child cannot decide his or her neighbourhood. Their living and social environment is totally dependent on the choice and circumstance of their parents. This in turn means that the social environment largely determines the kind and quality of relationships the children form, because the majority of relationships children form stems from their family and immediate community. This is why parents’ choice on where to live before and during marriage is one that must be carefully thought through as this can conspicuously affect the growth and wellbeing of their children.
Nevertheless, the impact of the community in the growth and development of a child cannot be over-emphasized. Below are four key ways by which “community parenting” affects a child:
Security – The way villages are designed, neighbours, like houses are closely knitted. Everyone knew each other within the community and when there are strangers new to the community, it was not a difficult thing to recognise them. Hence, there were less security concerns. In the same way, when children are raised in such village-like environment, where members of the community closely relate with each other, there are little or no safety issues. Dr. David Pelcovitz, an internationally-respected psychologist and educator, discussing the importance of a caring community in the development of a child once said: “The risk is much lower when there is a sense of community and people notice if something is wrong. The highest rate of difficulties occur when kids have somehow escaped the caring hand of the community”.
Discipline – Kibie, a 32 year old lady was asked how the community has impacted her life while growing up as a child. She answered: “It helped in two main ways; discipline and encouragement. Knowing that my father is a well-known and revered pastor, if I ever misbehaved in the public, the elders in the community would take holy laws in their hand to discipline me before any attempt or consideration to inform my parents. This in the long run shaped me in consciously living as a responsible child. On times when I behaved well, I was also well, I received good compliments and encouragement.” This affirms the saying that a child not taught by the father/mother will eventually be taught by the world.
Morals – Morals, like charity, begins at home. But what happens when the foundation is faulty? A child not taught morals at home in the house will definitely be taught by the community. Dr. David Pelcovitz, an internationally-respected psychologist and educator, discussing the importance of a caring community in the development of a child once quoted that “the risk is much lower when there is a sense of community and people notice if something is wrong. The highest rate of difficulties occur when kids have somehow escaped the caring hand of the community”.
It takes a village but…
As much as it takes a village to raise a child, the village still has to be managed well. You cannot afford to be careless in leaving your child in unsafe hands in the name of community. There has to be proper boundaries and this is not without exemption for extended family members. They are all part of the community. The truth is when parents live within a community that wants to be overly involved with their children, the good part is that the children gets to have more people in their life who love them and care about them. The bad side is that it can lead to conflict if the parents do not respect the community’s value and approach.
These boundaries allow parents to define their needs, expectations and comfort level and helps foster a good relationship with other families and the community. It also helps the children to adequately express their needs and emotions with other members of the community in a respectful manner. But how do you set boundaries for your children against the community? Three things mainly:
- Define what your boundaries are and share with the children as they grow.
- Establish your values as parents and as much as you can, let your child and the community know you for these values.
- Communicate. Constantly talk and listen to your child always, irrespective of what they have to say. If you shut them off often, when they are abused, they will not have a reason to talk to you.