TALK BACK: does it take a village?

We've all heard the old agage that it takes a village to raise a child. How does that play out in our modern society? I think kids benefit from guidance from their community at large. I generally don't go around scolding other kids, but if I see a child doing something egregious, I will tell the parent. If the parent is not around, I might even talk to the child directly. I would really hope that another parent would do the same for me if my kid did something I missed. It seems strange to me that an adult would observe a child behaving badly and then do nothing . . . but then again I've also seen parents really get frustrated when another person intervenes with their child.

Where do you land on this one? If you saw a neighbor or a kid at the park doing something offensive, would you alert the parent, or talk to the child if they weren't around? Or do you take the stance that it isn't your place to parent someone else's child?


  1. Recently at church, my mother witnessed a little girl (under 2) playing with an electrical socket. She walked up behind her and gently said, "No, no." Her mother, who my mom did not see, was very offended, swooped her daughter up and walked away. She was likely embarrassed that she wasn't paying attention to her child but I think my mom did the right thing. The little girl wasn't misbehaving but she could have been hurt.

    I definitely think it takes a village. I would want someone to correct my child if they saw them being mean or coming close to hurting themselves or another person. Beyond just behavior, I think we benefit from other people's knowledge. Sometimes we are too prideful to take it. As a foster parent, I am parenting two children outside of my race. When it comes to their culture and things like their hair and skin, I benefit from others who know more than I do and I reach out to them. I think it is great that my kids will have many positive adult influences in their lives.

  2. So, I was at bouce house warehouse place yesterday and noted a boy climbing on the outside of the blown up slide. I made a meantal note that I would correct my kids if they did that, but didn't interfere, you know, 'cause he was a boy and his maom was sitting feet from me and could also see. Well, he eventually fell and needed to go to the hospital. I felt guilty that I didn't say anything.

    After screaming boy and mom left a dad came in with his two boys. Dad sat down with a book and hunkered down at the opposite end of the building. His boys were doing the same thing and also climbing a cargo net that was the outside of a different jumper, and jumping onto a slide (that my kids were going down). It would have been very bad if they missed thier target. I did get up and talk to the children directly. The dad was not engaged and it didn't seem that talking to him would yield the result I was looking for. So I made it clear that they needed to use the equipment as it was made to be used or I would be informing their father and the front desk.

    I was not looking forward to confronting the father. FEAR. Luckily they did something else, my mom, who was in town visiting, didn't skip a beat. She used a harsh voice and made it very clear that their behavior would not be tolerated. It worked. I could not believe that the dad didn't even look up from his book!

    So yes, I am all for intervening, just a little scared of the drama it will cause with the parents.

  3. I guess it would totally depend on the context. If it was a stranger's kid, I wouldn't say anything unless it was dangerous or affected my own children. I do say things to the kids at church from time to time, but since I teach in our kids' program, most of them already see me as an authority figure so I can get away with it. :)

    I don't really think it takes a village so much as I think it takes a family.

  4. This is definitely a sensitive area. As togetherforgood said, I tend to not get involved unless it's dangerous or affects me. Years ago, when my children were young, there was an incident where someone was throwing rocks over a wall and my neighbor called, thinking it was my children. After talking to them both, I learned that it was our other neighbor's child. I agonized over whether or not to call but my husband said I should as it was a dangerous situation and someone could get seriously injured. When I called my neighbor, she immediately asked her child and his first response was "I don't remember." (To me, that is a guilty comment if I every heard one.) She said she'd call me back and when she did, she was very defensive and wondered why my children would point the finger at her innocent child. She said her other child backed up the story. However, talking to my daughter, she said the other child wasn't even there when his brother was throwing the rocks. This mother, who was so defensive about her own child, was always the first to chastise other children for their behavior. At that moment, I decided I would probably never again tell her when her children were acting up.

    I think many parents today take the attitude that it's never their angels who cause problems but it's other people's children. As a volunteer at a school, I saw this same attitude play out when a teacher reported incidents to parents. They were in complete denial. So, even though it may be the wrong reaction, unless it's dangerous, I tend to turn a blind eye to misbehavior in other people's children.

  5. It's even more difficult when the other child is a latch-key kid. Mom has NO IDEA what really goes on, but is so tired and frazzled at the end of the day, that she often doesn't want to know about or deal with her kids' behavior issues if you bring them to her attention. This is very difficult, as it can impact the whole neighborhood culture.

    I once felt I needed to talk to a mom because I discovered her child was getting involved with drugs, but after the mom talked to her child, she called me back to say I was wrong -- that her child told her he never used drugs -- "he-told-her-so-and-she-believed-him-because-he-never-lied".

    I know this is a scenario that is a few years beyond where your kids are, but it's the same problem, just in a different context. The boy I mentioned is now a 24 year old pot head. He dropped out of college and bags groceries for a living. At least I tried, and don't have to live with the guilt of thinking I may have contributed....

  6. I am completely of the "it takes a village" adage. However, I am very sensitive to the words chosen by strangers to help my children along. We don't go straight for the "no" in our house, rather we tend to point out the painful consequence and/or divert attention from something. I am sensitive to tone of voice, I try my best when I am "helping" other peoples children at a park or preschool to get down on their level and help them make better choices.
    I have found a few parents who are completely oblivious and to that I've asked the parent: "Hey, I'm having trouble. Maybe I'm not saying what you normally say. What do you suggest?" I used this last week at my older child's preschool when one of the girls was being verbally rude to him and she then stomped her feet and stuck out her tongue at me when I spoke to her about using "nice words". I asked her mom how she handles that situation because I felt maybe I didn't do as the girl was use to. Lucky for me the mom responded very positively and reaffirmed how she feels that it is my place to help in that situation no matter what.
    I also appreciate as many helping eyes/hands I can get as my boys are busy and seriously lack the ability to foresee danger (or maybe they like it) that parent who caught my son as he "flew" off of the swings saved my day and probably my son's arm. Also, I have a child with a medical condition that requires some additional attention and have found that the more people able to help care for his needs the better. I think of it as an enlarging circle of trust, always a good thing, right?

  7. My daughter was chest bumping her brother, right near their dad while I was doing something else in another part of our church. I guess one of the other Sunday School teachers corrected her, because my daughter was being quite rough, and my daughter had a melt down. My husband had not been watching so didn't know what had happened. Later the woman explained to me what had happened and said she felt bad that my daughter had cried. I told her how happy I was that she had intervened. That I always worry that my kids will misbehave and not be corrected, that they could get hurt, or hurt someone else. I thanked her and introduced her to my daughter as a nice lady (I told her her name) who cares a too much about her to let her misbehave or hurt her brother or even herself.

    I tend to speak to children if I see questionable behavior. I substitute teach, so I'm used to speaking with authority to kids who don't know me. I don't intervene if I think the parents are aware and unconcerned, unless it is dangerous or inconveniencing others of course. Sometimes my DH tells me to back up the teacher bus, but I truly try to be positive, friendly and polite but firm and confident in my actions and words. I have never had a bad response from a parent and usually the bad behavior stops immediately because the kids are so shocked that someone would actually speak up about it.


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