Simply put, to parent means to act as a father or mother to someone. It means to provide care for an individual.
A parent is, therefore, one who whether by biology, adoption or surrogacy, takes charge of caring for a person.
I remember growing up, we lived in a block of flats. This block was situated in the midst of seven other blocks making a stretch of street. Ours was a close – that close was like a community. I had many fathers and mothers in that close. I dared not misbehave. Those were days when as a youth, “that guy” would have to drop you off on the next street where no one seems to know you well enough to “father” or “mother” you. The days when the street drop off and pick up locations had to be shuffled to avoid familiarity.
The days when our teachers were the next parents. So it’s either you are being parented at home, on the close, or in the school environment. The teacher knew all about you. The teacher cared!!!
The days when you are dropped off at a friend’s or relative’s and when it’s time for pick up, the host downloads all about you to your parents.
The Community Parenting days!
Today, it’s quite different. As a teacher, correcting and even disciplining a child in front of his parents is seen as normal, though not so normal. Being normal, I could say to a child with his mum in the school premises “can’t you greet?” and the mum goes, “so you did not greet”. I mean, its normal to have the parent join in the discipline. Not so normal – When as a teacher your boss tells you to be careful in handling the children in your care because she’d rather have you out than lose the fees of that child. So you have a child ask his teacher eating roasted yam in HER OFFICE, “What’s that smelly thing you are eating Ma?” with his hands over his nose. Some of us will say it’s confidence. What happened to manners or minding your business? After all, it’s not your classroom. The “smelly” thing was on her table when you came to find it and for her to have chosen to eat it, the “it” deserves some respect!
Still as a teacher but this time unknown to the parent of the “discipline recipient”, I could go like, “No! you don’t jump over that or you could slip and fall” and the parent just stares and walks away not even saying a simple “Thank You” for saving the child’s from having a head injury.
I come across children daily and maybe because of my type of job, I can say I take note of their acts and responses to acts. There are times when children act and I want to correct the child but there’s this nudge in me maybe because the parent is present at the time. At times, I just gloss over it and let it slide, but then again the same act is repeated. Then I even witness the parent engage in the same act. It becomes evident that the parent is ignorant of the implication of that act. So I find a way to talk the child out of it ensuring to always give reasons why such an act should not be tolerated. I do this knowing that the child would get home and relay the message to the parent when he/she engages in the same behaviour. Now, this is for close families.
What if it’s a spontaneous act?
Depending on the type of act, I call out to the parent, politely to handle his son or I save the child and then courteously speak with the present parent.
This aspect of parenting has really bothered me because I seem to have to correct children on a daily basis (the life of a teacher).
Researching on this topic, I found out that the parents from other parts of the world would rather not have anyone correct nor discipline their child. Reason being, “They make me feel like I am not doing my job as a parent”. But for this part of the world, the Community Parenting characteristic still has its footprints in our hearts and minds. From the opinion poll, conducted on randomly selected parents, I gathered that parents have no reservations when their children are disciplined in their presence. One parent added, “I would feel embarrassed. Whether the person is close to us or not, I would still feel embarrassed. And that child better knows they have it coming for them when we get home”.
To parent communally means to look after each other. It means you’ve got my back and I’ve got yours. It makes me as a parent feel relaxed when I’m out of the house because I have a backup. I used to have this neighbour who was a businesswoman and so left the house and got back at late hours (no particular time). This was different for me because I had to be at work early. But with her, I had my domestic staff in check, because it was that at any time my gate is opened to anyone, I’m informed.
Quite understood that community parenting may have its downsides – could lead to lack of trust in your children and workers and all, but then it’s upsides outweigh the downsides.
Let us embrace Community Parenting without dropping off our roles as parents to the community!!!