In my youth, parents were the eyes and ears for one another where their kids were concerned. Parents trusted one another to make sure that their kids stayed out of trouble. Sadly, that trend has changed and with that I believe our kids are getting into more trouble than ever before. This post explores the reasons for this phenomenon and how we can begin to swing the pendulum in the other direction.
I think the foremost reason for this change is the loss of community. We are all so busy and so consumed with the rigors of everyday life that we no longer know our neighbors, much less the parents of our kid’s classmates. Moms and Dads both work nowadays, and coupled with the migration to the suburbs the “bedroom community” is the new norm. People spend their evenings in their homes, rarely with enough time to get all of the daily chores complete before they collapse for the night.
The second trend that has caused this breakdown is the digital age. The ease through which we can chat, or send an email, tweet, or update a Facebook status has drawn us indoors. No longer do neighbors meet and talk face-to-face or over the phone. The backyard conversation between two moms is all but history. What has been sold as the way to make the world smaller has become the way the world has grown more isolated. Our neighbors are now strangers, and nobody trusts strangers.
The third reason that contributes to the loss of community parenting is litigation and lawsuits. A small percentage of our population is quick to point blame and pull the trigger at any hint that a lawsuit might lead to some financial reward. Even well-meaning individuals with good intentions are often targeted by these people. The old saying goes that no good deed goes unpunished. This has created an environment where people would rather not get involved than risk being sued, so they turn the other way instead of getting involved.
Finally, parents by and large believe that their kids can do no wrong. Or, at least they don’t want to admit their child’s wrongs to someone else. Any accusation by another parent is quickly met with defensiveness from the accused’s parent. So, parents turn a blind eye to what other kids are doing as long as their kids aren’t involved.
I don’t think it’s a lost cause even with today’s hectic schedules. Here is what I think we can do to restore the partnership with other parents and know what our children are up to:
- Go to school meetings. Get involved in as many school activities as you can as a parent.
- Talk to other parents who have kids involved in the same activities as your child.
- Pick up the telephone. Get the phone numbers of these parents that you connect with in steps 1 and 2 and don’t be afraid to establish and maintain an open line of communications with other parents.
- Trust but verify. If your child is going to someone’s house, call in advance to see if the parents will be home and if they are OK with it.
- Give permission. By now, if you’ve done steps 1-4, you have established trust and rapport with other parents. Extend to them the confidence that they can correct your child within your guidelines during your absence, and if that isn’t working to let you know.
- Remember your youth. As a child you know that you got away with a lot of things and you know how the child’s mind works. Children today are no different; always be on the lookout for any wayward behavior in your child and others.
- Follow your instincts. If you sense that something is wrong, go with it. Do not be afraid to talk with another parent. You might be protecting more than just your child by bringing something to their attention.
The African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. With all of the distractions and temptations that face our kids today, I fully agree. As busy parents, we simply cannot be everywhere or know everything that our children are up to so we need help from others. How else can we restore community parenting? In what ways is it working for you?