The reason it is so important to have a strong community of people surrounding your child to help them grow into amazing adults.
On Becoming Preschoolwise talks about the importance of a good community for parents when raising their children.
They define community as
“…a group of families sharing common interests, values, and significant commitment to an ideal for the mutual benefit of the individual and the collective membership”.(page 199)
So you could find a community in a variety of places. It might be at church, a mom’s group, your neighborhood, a group of good friends, family, etc.
Why Have Community?
We always need to start with the “why” of what we are striving for. Community is great because:
- It establishes “we-ness.” People learn to care for more than themselves. When you are part of a community, you often serve each other, which eliminates selfishness and develops love for others.
- Members work toward a common good.
- Provides a sense of belonging and association
What Does Community Do?
(main ideas in bold on 199…rambling afterthoughts are from my head)
A community teaches and influences your children. You know the phrase “it takes a village”? I say this all the time, but phrases are phrases for a reason.
It takes a village to raise your child. You are fooling yourself if you believe that you can or will be the only influence in your child’s life. You are fooling yourself if you even believe that would be best.
There will be times you will try to teach your child something over and over again, all with seemingly no success. Dad will come home and explain it, and the child gets it. Why?
Some people just communicate better than others for certain personalities. People are different.
I have seen a similar situation over and over again in reference to church, both in my own children and other people’s children.
You will teach your child a concept at home for years, but as soon as the Primary teacher says it, your child grasps it.
Having other people influencing your children for good is very helpful.
A “…moral community will insulate your child against unfriendly elements” (page 199–bold mine). Think of the power of friends. If your child is friends with children who are taught similar values at home, you child will see your standards in their friends. These friends can support them in doing what they should.
Once your child starts going to school and playing sports, your child will see influences and examples from peers.
I have talked about the need to train your child to stand on his own and choose the right even if friends aren’t.
Despite that training, good friends are vital. I know a mom who is a mother of five, most of whom have moved out and are now living on their own.
Her oldest son is her third child. Her first two daughters are stellar girls. Her oldest son started to develop a peer group of friends who did not live by his same standards. He and his mom both thought that he could and would be a good example and influence on these boys. His mom even gushed about what a great example he would be.
Now, it hadn’t been that long really since I had been a teenager and I saw big problems and flaws with this idea. I know my great group of friends growing up had a good impact on my life.
It is nice to be good examples to others and we should be friendly to all, but I don’t think it is a good idea to spend an extensive amount of time with a group of people with standards that significantly lower than yours. Theirs might come up a bit, but you can be sure yours will go down along the way.
But at the time Brayden was barely one and I definitely didn’t think it was my place to say anything about it, so I didn’t. Even if I had, it wouldn’t have made a difference.
Two years later, this boy was smoking, drinking, skipping school, and doing other various, and frankly dumb, activities. Today is not much better. He definitely has not followed in his older sisters’ footsteps–sisters who served in their church and attained a college education.
Peers are vitally important. Peers with a good influence can be a very positive community for your child. “Over time he is becoming morally and relationally emancipated and self-reliant” and “…his interests will broaden and his attachment to friends will become more meaningful” (page 200).
Simply put, that means over time, you will no longer be the coolest and most influential person in your child’s life. Your child will naturally desire to be independent of you. That is normal, natural, and right.
Your child needs to move out someday. Your child will start to look to friends to replace that position of “coolest.” Friends are vitally important.
Why Have a Moral Community?
- Members of your community will teach your child directly and indirectly
- Your children will make friends in your community (remember my peers talk above?)
- “Children do better when the community they grow up in reinforces the values the parents are trying to instill” (page 200).
How Do You Have a Moral Community For Your Child?
- Seek it out. Find those groups that reinforce your standards. If you can, move to a community that instills your values. A big reason for our move a little more than 6 months ago was to be in a neighborhood with great influences.
We moved about 4 blocks away from our old house, and our old house didn’t have bad influences, but it also wasn’t a neighborhood full of little kids. In this neighborhood, we have tons of kids who can play with each other and be good influences. We know their parents and approve of their parenting.
I know not everyone can just move; in fact, for most that will be highly impractical. If you are moving, consider your new residence carefully. If you can’t/aren’t, seek those relationships that will influence for good. You can find it in church. You might be impressed with a friend at school; invite that friend over for playdates.
I have a good friend from high school who pretty much has my same parenting philosophy–you know, Kelli. I talk about her every so often. She has a son 9 months younger than Brayden. We lived relatively close to each other up until a year ago and we got together often. Our boys played really well together. It was a literal relief to have each other over because our children were raised with similar values and teachings, along with self-control.
You can find great support in your parenting through online groups. Think of what a blessing that is! You can chat with parents of similar value systems and get ideas from each other.
- Cleave to it. Once you find that mom who has similar values as you do, hang on to that friendship! Enroll your children in lessons, in classes, and on sports teams together. Continue to invite that friend over you approve of. Keep up the community relationships you approve of.
- Be involved in it. My husband is the coach of Brayden’s soccer team this year. He was able to choose the children on our team. He is also able to influence what the children do and don’t say to each other on the field. Little 4-6 year olds can be quite competitive, and my husband has to tell the kids to talk nicely and he needs to focus in on “it’s about having fun.” I am glad to have my husband on the field with Brayden, teaching him. And so are the other parents. He is a great person.
- Include those wiser (page 201). Include people in your community who are older and wiser than you are. This can be in grandparents, parents, neighbors, and that nice elderly woman at church. These people can tell you what worked and what didn’t. They can give you pitfalls to watch out for. You will show your children that turning to those older than you for advice is a good and acceptable practice.
The community you expose your child to will influence your child. School, church, althetics, arts, friends, elders, etc. all will influence your child. Take care to surround yourselves with moral community members who have values similar to your own. Since it takes a village, you want your village to be the best one it can be.