Aug 29, 2019
An ancient African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” yet in today’s modern and busy world, many parents feel like they have to do it all on their own. Not so, if you know how to cultivate your own modern village. Jeff Everage provides a unique perspective on the “village” concept to help raise children, as well as insight on how to build a village for your own family.
My friend, Jon Young (www.8shields.org), tells a story of his experiences with the Bushmen. The Bushmen are one of the few remaining hunter-gather cultures remaining on Earth and offer a rare glimpse into how we as a species adapted to work in loving extended family units and close communities.
Make sure you read at least as far as the Bushman father’s response. I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard it and realized what it meant to me as a father.
Jon Young and his party were watching a young boy practice making fire with a hand drill. The son was struggling and beginning to show some frustration. He didn’t know it, but his technique was incorrect. His father sat close by his son and watched quietly. The father knew the son’s technique was incorrect and that it would keep him from making the fire, but he did not intervene. He had a smile on his face and was emanating love and encouragement to his son. From across the field, the boy’s uncle approached with the assertiveness of a football coach. He sharply instructed the boy to straighten his back and positioned the boy’s body into the correct posture for the hand drill. The boy immediately did as he was told. Within moments, the boy succeeded in lighting the fire. During the entire exchange, his father simply smiled and watched his son with great love and encouragement.
Afterwards, Jon interviewed the father and son about the experience. He asked the son what he thought of his uncle. The son smiled and said that even though his uncle was hard on him that, “my uncle loves me very much and wants me to be ready to provide for my family when I am older.” When he approached the father, Jon asked why he did not discipline his son as the uncle had. The father’s response was simple and uncommon in today’s western culture. “My job is only to give my son unconditional love and encouragement. If I don’t, he won’t take care of me when I am old.”
Like I said earlier, my jaw fell open when Jon told me that part of the story. Since then, I have learned that having the community participate in the discipline the children is a common concept to many indigenous cultures. American Indian oral traditions teach the same ethics. One such tradition was taught to me by Native American elder, Paul Raphael, a Peacemaker from the Odawa tribe in Michigan. In his community, aunties, uncles, leaders, and elders were the source of discipline, not the parents.
Similarly, in the Odawa tradition, parents guide their children and provide unconditional love and encouragement. When a child needs help, the parents would discuss their observations and make plans with their community to bring discipline and mentoring to their children. Everyone in their village has a role to play. When a community member sees a child displaying behavior that is not sanctioned within the community, they step in. A common saying with the Odawa is, “You are acting as if you don’t have a family,” connecting bad behavior to both family and community.
Think about that a little bit. As a parent, how much pressure would be relieved if you had this level of community in your life? What would it mean to you if your only roles were to provide for, guide, and love your children unconditionally? For me, this would be great news!
If you are open to a different way of thinking about your friends, family and the other parents of the children that go to school with your children, this community concept could change your life. You don’t have to do it all. You would have other people to turn to. You could answer the parent inside you that wants to just love your children unconditionally.
If you agree, your new work as a parent becomes building the community you want to raise your children with you. A community in agreement around who and how you will collectively discipline, mentor, perform rites of passage, and conduct initiations.
Building the village may be the most important work of our parenting lives. Here are some thoughts on how to build that community.
For more information on building a village, Jon Young is an excellent resource and has regular opportunities to learn. Visit www.8shields.com to learn more.
by Jeff Everage
All Topics community confidence conversations emotional self reliance emotions hero intelligence joy of parenting learning modeling navy seal navy seal father parenting preparing for the future preparing you child resistance rites of competence rites of passage self esteem space tantrums tone of voice