The origin of this article comes from several conversations over the last month with friends and family over dinners and cocktails, and at work as we discussed what was wrong with the youth of today. Our consensus was the village is no longer raising our children. It’s sad that many parents will adamantly defend the foolishness of their kids, and will dare anyone to discipline them, even though they refuse to be parents and lay down the law by punishing them when they are wrong.
My village was anchored on Oak Street in west side Montgomery, Ala. It consisted of my mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, neighbors, parents of my friends, church members, candy lady down the street, and everyone else who cared about me growing into a contributing member of society. I can remember playing football with my friends in the street, which was forbidden by my grandparents, but of course when the cat was away the mice would play. I went long and caught a pass, and in the midst of my end zone celebration dance I heard a voice scream out, “Put the football down and come here.” It was my neighbor, the 80-year-old neighborhood watchdog. She said, “Didn’t your grandmamma tell you not to play football in the street.” I said, “Yes ma’am.” She instructed me to go over to the nearest tree and get a switch. As I walked to the tree with tears I knew what was to come. A spanking from my neighbor and the spanking I was going to get from my grandmamma when she got home. The village cared about me and only wanted the best for me. I was raised by a village.
The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is rooted in African origin. This Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria) proverb exists in different forms in many African languages. The basic meaning is that a child’s upbringing is a communal effort. The responsibility for raising a child is shared with the larger family (sometimes called the extended family). Everyone in the family participates, especially the older children, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even cousins. It was not unusual for African children to stay for long periods with their grandparents or aunts or uncles. Even the wider community gets involved, such as neighbors and friends. Children are considered a blessing from God for the whole community. This communal responsibility in raising children is also seen in the Sukuma (Tanzania) proverb – “One knee does not bring up a child” and in the Swahili (East and Central Africa) proverb – “One hand does not nurse a child.”
In general this Nigerian proverb conveys the African worldview that emphasizes the values of family relationships, parental care, self-sacrificing concern for others, sharing, and even hospitality. This is very close to the biblical worldview as seen in scripture texts related to unity and cooperation (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12) and a mother’s self-sacrificing love (Isaiah 49:15-16).
We must go back to the village concept of raising our children. Many of today’s youth need to go to a tree and get a switch to get themselves on the right track. I am not an advocate for physical abuse, but for some children a tender and firm engagement is the only language they may understand. I along with many of my friends were raised by the village with a little firm discipline every once in a while and I don’t think we did that bad.
(Mahari A. McTier is a Financial Advisor with Tier 1 Advisors, LLC and can be contacted at email@example.com.)