It’s been said and published and possibly pushed off to the side, but “it takes a village to raise a child.” If you’re not sure what that entails, the basics are as follows:
1. You and your child(ren) are part of a community, like it or not.
2. You and your child(ren) will interact on a nearly daily basis with that community.
3. The community will influence, and possibly instruct you and your child(ren) on how to live in that community, like it or not.
4. If all goes well, the influence and instruction are beneficial to the mental and physiological well-being and safety of all members of the community.
This doesn’t presume that the Village is always correct in all facets of thinking, nor steered by a reasonably-moral compass. Inversely, if all (or enough) goes badly, you find yourself in a barter community ruled by vigilant, self-absorbed despots who value strict order over neighborliness.
But enough about your local HOA…
As this article is titled, yes, I am parenting your kid. “I” is me, in this case, but “I” could be any parent, or adult of influence. A teacher, perhaps. A coach, for sure. A neighbor who hires local kids to yank weeds and rake leaves for a couple sawbucks an hour, absolutely. Kevin’s mom. Shalea’s dads. Derek’s step-parents. All of us, influencing kids. We’re all in a position to be influencing the development of kids if we’re around them on a semi-regular basis. And we should be.
I’ve been around enough kids to know when they crave attention, and how they can seek it. I sit here writing this after a double playdate, siblings hosting siblings here, and half of the visiting team is a boundary pusher. Within 15 minutes of arrival, I was told by an 8 year old that my video games suck. Not long after, after educating him on a safety issue regarding the use of NERF blasters (Rule 1, No close shots), was told that I was “being a hater.” I stared at him in the face. His challenge back to me was a stare. Here’s a kid waiting to see what that will get him. Well, he gets my attention.
I took the blaster away, and reminded him that it’s okay to play a bit rough but we have to take care of each other. And that nobody hates anybody who plays by the rules. And that the next time he does it he can’t come back to the house without his parents, who will be told of his behavior afterwards. Wow. His eyes got big. Then I took out my notepad and jotted something in it. He asked what I wrote… sI truly don’t care if your kid is in my house, a playground, my yard, a flag fooball squad I’m coaching, or a touring theatrical troupe’s presentation of “Hamilton, Jr.”, disrespect is bullshit, and will be met as such.
So yes, I step in and correct what I see when I see it. If I know the kid’s name(s) I’ll address them directly. I’m not trying to overstep any other parenting; it starts inside-out and as a coach I know that external yelling can hurt the process (your kid is playing over there because they LIKE to play there, not to embarrass you, which you’re doing fine at yourself). To use a nearly tired-out phrase, I “adult” when they “kid” so everyone stays within the rules of safe play. Rough-housing is fine if all the kids are into it. But sometimes a kid is swinging a stick that is dangerously too dangerous for this particular session of Flyer’s Up, and somebody really ought to put that stick where it belongs.
For the record, Capt. Talkback has been demoted to PFC Bigmouth and is barred from the grounds until further notice. His parents were notified. And each time he asks, or is brought up as a possible invitee, I’ll remind whomever is within earshot that manners maketh playdates. Likewise, I tell other parents and adults to correct my kid’s behavior that might hurt somebody else, break rules, or worst of all, embarrass me or my wife. Kids are Kids, and I’m not trying to mitigate their natural playful (sometimes criminal) instincts, but they need to have reinforced boundaries, too. Nobody’s perfect, but a village only needs so many idiots.