It takes a village


You know that saying “It takes a village to raise a child“?

Is that still true?

I have many mommy friends…more mommy friends than non-mommy friends actually. Through conversation with them or through stories I hear, I get the strong sense that parenting advice/suggestions/help from others is sometimes tolerated but usually not welcome. I totally understand and agree that the parents usually know what’s best for their child or the style they want to raise their child in. I hear that sometimes they get so much “advice” it wears them down with self-doubt as to whether or not they know what they’re doing. Or other times it’s unwelcomed and ignorant advice given a circumstance others might not be aware of. It can drive one mad…so to stay sane, they just tell people to take a giant step back and let them raise their child in peace. On the other hand, there is also a lot of truly good advice and help to be had from seasoned and solid parents of great kids…because while “every child is different”, there’s also “nothing new under the sun”. Question is, where or what is that line for a villager to be involved? Do parents want a village around them?

(My guess is it also just depends on the comfort and control levels of every parent. It’s probably even different depending on whether you ask the Mom or Dad.)

I admit, sometimes it would be easier to just not care about the children around me. Hey they’re your kids, I don’t want to step on toes by helping, so I’ll be totally hands off…we’ll hang out again when they’ve left the nest. But sometimes, they really do appreciate the extra set of hands and eyes and help with the children. Especially if they have more than one. So…what’s the approach? If parents do want a village, how to be a good villager?

A conversation was had about this with Ms PR…mommy to a 18 month(?) old, as well as with my sister in law…mommy to four kids under the age of seven. Here are some take-aways that I’ll definitely keep in mind:

  1. Having a relationship with the parents is number one. If you don’t have a good relationship with them, you’re in no position to speak any kind of advice….because what do you know of their situation or circumstance? That said, I did hear of a friend whose baby girl was melting down in a restaurant when a stranger offered help, picked her up and totally calmed the baby down. Probably more the exception than the rule.
  2. Communicating with the parents before doing anything is key. “Is she allowed to do/have/eat this?” “Should I help him with that or let him figure it out?” “Do you want me to tell him ‘no’ or do you want me to just let you know about what he did after?” “Is it ok for her to play with my iphone?” “If She starts disturbing her sibling should I take her out of the room for a bit?” etc.
  3. Get to know what values the parents want the children to have regarding sharing toys, saying sorry, rewards and consequences, delayed or instant gratification, etc. I came across a post where a mom is asking others to NOT help her kids. It’s great! You know what values she wants for her kids and that helps define what to do or not do when around them. So parents, let the friends and family around you know what you expect, it’ll reduce the chances of them accidently pissing you off.
  4. Reinforce and support what the parents say to the kids. Keep the parent’s teaching/methods consistent if you’re helping out and don’t bring in your own way of doing something. Keep pointing back to the parents. So instead of saying “You have to finish your whole plate before leaving the table” (because that’s how you were brought up), say “Your Dad said you have to eat all your vegetables before you can go. It’s ok if you can’t finish the chicken.
  5. Err on the side of being super gentle and less involved with children and wait for the parents to tell you otherwise.

Any other tips for the friends of those with children? Who’s in your village?

One response

  1. I just want to put the disclaimer that this is more for general people, as in, general public. I usually don’t actually think people NEED to be this way with me, generally cuz I let things slide and don’t mind. But for the sake of other parents and sometimes parents who are sensitive, it’s best to err on the side of sensitivity. Just wanted to put that out there. 🙂

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