Have you heard the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”?
What happens when children are sent out of the home into the village when they are too young to defend themselves and don’t yet know how to properly relate to others? They learn a lot of bad things.
Barbie Poling says in her post, Taking and Using Addressed:
“Through interactions with peers, they often develop a false personality. They learn to use each other in a vain attempt to secure their own worth in their own eyes, each having a twisted notion of themselves and the other person.”
Marilyn Howshall says in her comment on Barbie’s post about False Personalities:
“We are already wired through our sinful nature toward the unique attitudes (thought processes), intentions (desired outcomes of behavior) and motivations (reasons for behavior) of our hearts. Our internal heart activity forms our relating habits and patterns and dictates our relational health. All of our pre-disposed responses to other people were formed in childhood when we weren’t with our parents and were left to find ways to build defenses against being hurt, rejected, misunderstood, and so on. Without a parent’s constant attention and instruction, no child will possess the inner strength and all the needed proper responses to outward stimuli. Thus, false personalities form and cover up the true self, turning character away from becoming Christlike.
The amazing truth is that children can grow up to become teenagers who are mature in their relating habits and practices, mature in their character, and able to make wise and healthy relational decisions—true to their real personality and true to Christlike qualities. My children did so and continue to do so, but many Christians still think that certain “stages” are common for all ages of children and to be expected. The only reason they are common is due to undiscipled hearts, which is an activity the church doesn’t concern itself with and parents apparently do not either.
Don’t believe the lie that lack of unity and harmony is acceptable in any relationship. Lack of understanding or willingness to come into understanding is the primary cause of broken relationships. Healing relationships in love always means talking about “sacred cows” and exposing ingrained thought-processes that formed existing wrong attitudes, intentions, and motivations.
Do the hard work of making your relationships healthy and holy! It can be an upsetting season, but Jesus makes it worth living a TRUE life!”
I want to spend some time talking about what happens when children spend large amounts of time in groups in institutional settings, being raised BY a village.
Children learn self-protection
When they get rejected and criticized and made fun of, they learn to protect themselves from further painful rejection. They put up walls around their hearts. They learn how to hide how they are really feeling. They learn to avoid ridicule by adapting their behavior to the way the rest of the group behaves. They protect themselves instead of being vulnerable, open and honest. They learn that it’s dangerous to be transparent.
They learn the art of taking and using
They learn to use others to get approval for themselves – Barbie Poling found that her children were using their peers to build habits of being approved by others in a vain attempt to view themselves as acceptable.
Children learn to use others to get acceptance for themselves when placed in a group of peers unsupervised.
When we spend our growing-up years in groups, we try to stand out and make a place for ourselves in that group. This requires a lot of self-focus. We try to prove that we deserve attention, admiration, approval and acceptance. Our focus is definitely not on how others are feeling or how we can show the love of God to others. We are too busy jockeying for position. Flesh is in charge of relational character formation.
In this post, Barbie Poling talks about the way her daughter relates to peers now that she is old enough to go out among others and has been discipled in the way that is right. She doesn’t get angry at them because they do things that hinder her agenda. She understands that they have other things going on in their lives that make it impossible for them to do what they originally told her they would do. She understands that their worlds don’t revolve around her.
“The way Rachel treats these college kids beginning in her heart (her attitudes, intentions and motivations) reveals her moral character. So many parents think that passing on good morals to their kids means their kids will dress modestly, work hard, and refrain from drugs and sexual immorality. This is an extremely short-sighted and inaccurate understanding of moral character because all these things can be done while still being full of self-seeking relational habits. Christians all over the place live up to a superficial set of generally moral practices thinking themselves to be righteous just like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ time, but Christlike moral character is relating rightly in love at the heart level. It is the “sum of our relational habits.” *
*“Moral character is the sum of our relational habits.” This statement comes from Challenging Idea number five, part of Marilyn Howshalls upcoming book, “Empowering the Transfer of Moral Values and Faith.” More on this challenging idea can be found in the Articles section on the AIP website.”
I like the way Barbie puts it in her post on Becoming Mature: “Only babies and spoiled children believe that life is all about them…..oh, and cats believe that too.”
Adopt bad behaviors based on what others are doing around them
When children spend a majority of their time in a group of same-aged peers, they are basically raised by other immature children who are not seeking the best for their peers but for themselves. We have already talked about selfishness and self-focus and children believing the world revolves around them. Besides the concern about children being cruel to each other in order to lift up themselves, there is the problem of children trying things that are childish and immature and sometimes harmful when they’re pushed by the group. The mob mentality that can cause even adults to do things they would never otherwise dream of doing can affect groups of children. It is very difficult for an individual to stand against a group at any time. For young children, it is even more difficult. If they see these behaviors day in and day out, they might even come to see them as correct or normal. I’m talking about fighting, making fun, bullying, peer pressure to conform, and other such behaviors.
Seek approval from other people instead of from God
By placing our children in groups of children, we are taking the chance that they will learn to seek approval from other people instead of from God. Teaching our children that God’s opinion of them is the only one that matters is an important responsibility of Christian parents. Many of us have yet to learn this truth ourselves, so it’s very difficult for us to instill it in our children. But it’s true. God’s opinion of us is the only one that matters. And we need to get this straight in our thinking. We need to believe this in the very core of our being. And we need to know that God is in love with us. If it weren’t true, He wouldn’t have sent His son to die for us. When we come to know this, it changes the way we think about everything.
False belief that they have to perform to win God’s approval
Our children need to know how much God loves them and cares about every little detail of their lives. When we allow them to be influenced by many outside factors that may convey a totally different view of their value as people, they are drawn away from God. They are given the impression that they need to perform to win approval and acceptance from others. And they may transfer that to their relationship with God, if they even care about that after so much exposure to the humanistic, material teaching of most institutions. Even church programs are often geared to the performance mentality where people are measured by what they do, both in the amount of tasks they do and by the talents they use in the church. Many Christians fall into the trap of performing in order to gain approval for themselves, and they believe that God is the same way. They believe that they have to perform in order to gain God’s approval.
So there are two dangers here: They could learn to seek approval of other people instead of God’s approval and they could learn the false belief that they have to perform in order to gain God’s approval.
So what is the alternative? How can we avoid these outcomes for our children?
We need to raise our own children
If you regularly send your children to institutions to be trained or guided, they will inevitably end up being peer-led and peer dependent. Because institutions do not have a parent to each child, and there is not an adult capable of overseeing every interaction among the children and knowing how to handle each of their individual needs.
Family should be first priority and community secondary when it comes to human relationships. We can see this by the fruit. Children that are raised in a godly manner with emphasis on the family are kinder, more generous members of society. Whereas those that are raised with a community emphasis are more self-centered and self-focused and more concerned about being perceived the way they want to be rather than the good of others. This fruit tells you something. Like Jesus said, “you’ll know them by their fruit”: Good fruit, good tree; bad fruit, bad tree. The foundational values are what produce these two kinds of individuals, so it’s the foundation that needs to be rethought and built based on biblical principles.
In our daily interaction with our children, we need to observe them and take the time and effort to correct sinful attitudes and behaviors.
We should address their:
attitudes (thought processes)
intentions (desired outcomes of behavior)
motivation (reasons for behavior)
Our children need guidance in developing good relational habits. Many times we need to help them develop different relational habits.
We need to lead them into confession of sin and help them to see their selfish behaviors as sin. We can help them to listen to their consciences and admit what their true attitudes, intentions and motivations are.
We need to teach them the practice of Truth-telling. The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. We need to help our children learn how to tell someone when they have hurt them. We can show them that it is:
“loving to bring exposure to people’s sin against us in love, with no self-centered emotion, at the Lord’s right timing.” This is what Barbie Poling has learned and is passing on to her children.
Where did the “it takes a village” philosophy come from?
Some sources say it comes from an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”. It sounds catchy, doesn’t it? There’s one problem. We don’t live in Africa. We don’t have the kind of villages they have in Africa. In African villages, people stay there for generations and the other members of the village are their families. Their values and attitudes and worldview are the same. Most of us Americans don’t live in villages, and our communities are so heterogeneous that the values of our family are completely divergent from the values of our neighbors, so we don’t want them telling our kids what to do.
Why would someone tell homeschoolers that it takes a village to raise a child?
Some do it out of selfish and greedy motives. They want to make money off of beginning or struggling homeschoolers who are unsure of their qualifications and abilities to teach their own children. The “village” philosophy taught according to a western view is that only the experts can teach children. They make these mothers feel like they can’t do it alone. They need help. So they offer to help them, for a fee. They offer advice, classes, testing, oversight of curriculum, or even tell them that they need to enroll their children in their school. All of this costs a lot of money. It would be all right to offer such things, but what I object to is when they say, “You can’t do it alone. You need help” insinuating that nobody is capable of raising and educating their children without help.
Some of us parents can do it without help – as long as we are depending on the Holy Spirit. Many of us have done it. We went into it knowing that it was our lifetime commitment until the children were raised to adulthood, and we never considered handing our responsibility over to someone else. If subjects were difficult for us to teach, we found other ways for our children to get the teaching they needed. There is so much online now that we really don’t need to leave home to get a great education.
Putting our children into an institutional or class setting was never an option for some of us. But we are doing an excellent job of educating them and doing the character-building that I mentioned above. The way the public schools and even private schools are set up as classes where the teacher lectures and students take notes then take tests is not the optimal way for people to learn. The factory model of education has not worked in public schools. Why should we start using it in our home education?
For us homeschoolers, learning is a natural process, just part of life. It’s a lifestyle for us. We do “school” a different way. And we are producing good results. When people come along and try to tell us that we need help and try to improve what we’re doing, we can point to statistics that show how well homeschool graduates have been doing in every area of life, always excelling and out-performing their public school counterparts.
Other people say “it takes a village”, and I guess they mean by that that we need to let our kids get lots of socialization and not be afraid that they will be influenced for evil by the world. Well, I talked at the beginning about the effects that too much socialization in groups has on young children, and I would rather let my kids have too little socialization than too much. There is something out there to protect our children from. We are not imagining something dark and evil out there waiting to devour our children. The devil really is out there with all of his human and demonic agents looking for a chance to hurt our children. It is our job as parents to shelter our children. We can’t trust anyone else to do that job for us.
The church, in many cases, is set up the same way and has the same mindset as the world. We need to be cautious about turning over our children to any other teacher. We need to be aware of what is being taught and what behavior and attitudes are being tolerated among the students.
We can’t be too careful with the character training or protection of our children. It is an awesome responsibility. No village can do the heart-training that is necessary.
God gave your children to you. He expects you to raise them for Him. He has not given that mandate to the church or to the village. He gave it to you, parents. He gives you specific wisdom for how to handle each child. He gave you a love for your child that no church worker or village instructor can match. It takes a loving, Spirit-led family to raise a child. In a home that is warm and safe and secure.
~My thanks to Barbie Poling and Marilyn Howshall for the insights they are sharing at Influential Parenting that helped me write this article. Also, thank you, Marilyn, for letting me use your phrase for the title of this post.~
This post was included in Women Living Well Wednesdays.
You present many good thoughts. I would also add, Penny, that the children’s own sinful nature is put in charge of their upbringing when they are left without heart-level training in how to love much and love well. Many homeschool parents keep their children home, away from peer involvement thinking that alone will safe-guard their children from adopting worldly ways.
Our children’s sinful nature will lead them toward self-seeking, unloving relational practices whether they are separated from peers or not. It is the lack of heart-level parental oversight when children are abandoned to frequent and regular relating with their peers or in institutions, or in the care of others that is the real source of the development of unloving, sinful relational practices. Parents can keep their kids home away from peers and still neglect heart-level relational parenting, and the fruit of broken relationships, and self-seeking attitudes, intentions and motivations will be the same. ~ Barbie Poling
Thank you, Barbie, for reading and commenting! Yes, I’m starting to see what you’re saying. I keep reading your blog, and it’s helping me identify these self-seeking, unloving relational practices in my life and the lives of my children. I’m slowly implementing the ways of communicating that you and Marilyn teach. Thank you so much for your input and for sharing your experiences with all of us.
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