I opened my big mouth and said that it is nobody else’s business how another parent decides to raise their child. Unless I am employed by the Department of Child Safety and real abuse and neglect is suspected, I should mind my own business. I said we should stop commenting on other people’s parenting decisions. And then I was challenged, but….it takes a village, doesn’t it?
“For disadvantaged children to thrive, many of whom are growing up in lone parent and jobless households, they need to be connected to, and supported by, an extended family” (The Smith Family, 2010).
A UK study of studies which looked at 45 different papers on family and child wellbeing from around the world found a consistency in all groups studied; extended family is beneficial in terms of positive outcomes for children. The UK study suggests we are supposed to raise our kids in community, not alone (Dr Rebecca Sear, 2012). I couldn’t agree more. Kids need to know that people other than their parents love them and value them. Sometimes the assumption can be that well, you’re my parents, of course you have to love me. Plus, other people play different roles and provide other benefits for your kids that you can’t provide. Crazy Uncle Keith might inspire a fearlessness to try something new. Dotty Great Aunt Daisy might engender a compassion for and understanding of older people struggling with failing health. Cheeky Cousin Rusty might be the one through whom your child learns some of his physical limits. There is no doubt that we need others around to enrich the lives of our kids. Aside from that, there’s also the benefit of having (hopefully) willing babysitters, without whom we would be socially deprived from not going out, or broke from paying someone.
But it’s Critical Neighbour Jane who is not a helpful member of the village. Last week on the parenting panel we talked a bit about judging each other as parents. I stand by my comments that it is nobody else’s business how we choose to raise our children. My husband and I are the experts on our own kids and the best two people to parent them. We will sometimes get it wrong. We might even get it really wrong. We will very often struggle. What we need from the village at these times is not criticism, but support. We don’t need people who barely know us judging a parenting fiasco in the shopping centre with a barely concealed eye roll. It’s a five minute snapshot of us. We do better than that most of the time and it’s our journey to take. Parents in crisis need a comfortable chair, a glass of wine and a good vent. Not a parenting manual. Oh, and take their kid to the park for an hour. That’s the best gift a villager can give.