Some say it’s an ancient African proverb, others an Italian saying. And the truth is, it’s universal. Parents all over the world know that raising a child takes time, effort and many contributors.
Raising a child is possibly the most important role we will ever play in our lives. In the recent past, the nuclear family was the hero was to raise children. But if we look to past centuries and today, we see a different scenario. The roles of mother and father are changing and evolving.
Grandparents, godparents, aunties, uncles, friends and neighbours are becoming more active role models for our children.
And that’s the way we need it to be. More women are staying in and re-joining the workforce. More fathers are taking career breaks to stay at home with their kids. Gender lines are ever so slowly becoming blurred, but these will only continue to become less defined.
Sometimes it is an active choice to stay in the workforce: parents want to work and advance their careers. Other times it is out of necessity. We find ourselves seeking other people to care for our children; people we can trust with our children’s learning and development.
Traditionally, governesses and nannies were entrusted with children. Today, daycare and after school care tend to take these roles. And with this arrangement comes the chance for our children to socialise with little people their own age. They learn about sharing, negotiation and co-operation in situ.
They experience what the world is like as we as adults know it. You don’t always get what you want, but with skill and daring, most of the time you do okay.
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As parents, our own children are naturally the centre of our attention. Different role models care for our children in other ways. Family members show them new perspectives and alternative ways to observe.
A child’s education is fundamental to their future, and teachers take on part of this responsibility. Classrooms feed little brains, and the schoolyard reveals mateship and, at times, unsavoury hierarchies and perceptions. When children ask about these lessons, teachers, parents, family and friends are the sounding boards. And when children talk, they form their own views, based on the wisdom of their role models.
Allowing our children to develop their own opinions is important. As parents, it is impossible to always be with our children, and at some point, it will be their own knowledge they rely on to make decisions.
Providing children the opportunity to learn for themselves is essential to prepare them for life. As they grow up, they will need to experience and learn a variety of lessons.
Different role models will share their wisdom, offering advice and help on many issues. As parents, we will choose our children’s role models with similar values to ourselves. And in doing so, we give the best gift to our children.
Rather than dictating how our children should behave, we allow them to decide their own path, based on sound judgment and insights from their role models.
It is every parent’s hope to raise a happy and healthy child, and doing this requires care and attention. Nurturing children is a constant task and takes on many facets. At times, we are unable to provide for all of their needs, and this is when our family, friends and the wider community can help us as well as our children. Experience will teach our children some of the core values to successful relationships: trust, honour and love. These are big things to learn, and children gain a far better understanding of these values when they are learned and experienced from more than one person.
It does, indeed, take a village to raise a child who will grow to be respectful and respected in the community. And that makes for the kind of person we want our children to be.
Do you agree that it takes a village to raise a child? Please share your experiences in the comments below.