It’s true that a village aids in the raising of our children. After all, kids don’t grow up in a bubble. They are surrounded by other people, with other thoughts, ideas, and actions that influence them. Whether on television, the internet, or in person, our kids are constantly coming in contact with people and events that affect who they are or will become. The question is: do I want the village raising my child?
I guess that depends on the village. Is it a village of internet trolls that vie for your child’s attention with flashy images, sensual music, and mind-numbing videos? Is it a village of rebellious kids in your neighborhood? Is it a village of your dysfunctional family – the one you barely escaped with any semblance of sanity? No, no, and no thank you.
Is it a village of your child’s school and classmates? Your church family? Their sports, book club, or speech teams? Those are a little trickier, because in these villages you get a mixed bag of both positive and negative influences.
So, how do you take advantage of the village without being taken advantage of by the village? The answer is to stay involved with your children. There will be some things you must simply keep them away from. Then there will be things you strive to shield them from, knowing full well some negative exposure may still seep through. As they mature, teach them how to deal with those negative influences. Stay available to listen to them, advise them, strengthen, and encourage them.
No child can survive the village unscathed. After all, we live in a very connected world. Even the child that doesn’t get out much can simply tap a few keys and voila – people. So, it is important to talk to our children about our own values and standards and prepare them for their inevitable exposure to opposing schools of thought.
Reducing their exposure to things that could pull them away from your teachings is most important when they are young and impressionable. In these formative years, you have the most control over where they go, who they spend time with, what they see, and what they hear. Use that control to monitor and protect them from negative influences that could creep into their character. It’s not enough to simply remove unwanted things and people, you must then fill that void with good influences and you. Yes, you. Spend time with your children – in big chunks and little moments. Fill them with your good teachings.
As they grow older and begin spending more time away from their parents, those things they were taught come into play when they are newly exposed to different things. Keep an open line of communication during this time to help them interpret all the nuances of these new exposures. It is at this time that we must focus on teaching our kids how to live in a village full of thoughts, ideas, and actions that contradict that which you have worked so hard to instill.
As they grow through to adulthood, their own character, beliefs, thoughts and convictions will continually be refined through their life experiences. In this way, the village – whichever village – can be used to positively benefit our children as they are reinforced in accepting the good, while gaining strength to reject the bad. If we stay vigilant, the village can be a tool to grow those responsible, happy, and productive kids we all want to send out into the world.