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Does it take a village to raise a child or is each man an island?

(44 Posts)
Solopower Sat 13-Aug-11 11:19:38

Should people who blame parents for not controlling their children, try to help them instead?

I was wondering what other Mumsnetters would do if they saw a child who was going off the rails.

And how would you react if a neighbour or family member tried to give you some well-meant advice?

Solopower Sat 13-Aug-11 11:27:17

I've been thinking about this because I saw a single parent on a TV interview who managed to prevent her 14-year-old from joining his friends on the rampage. She said her family had been ringing her, urging her to keep him in, and his father had come round and talked to him. The next day, when he saw all the people being punished, the boy himself was very glad he had not gone out that night.

Maybe she wouldn't have been strong enough on her own to prevent him from joining in? As a single parent it is sometimes very hard to have the confidence that what you are doing is the best thing for your children, and it helps enormously if just one other person can reassure you.

Mellowfruitfulness Sat 13-Aug-11 11:52:28

There are lots of problems when it comes to intervening in other peoples' parenting. First of all, you have to be sure you have assessed the situation correctly - and that involves knowing the people very well. Then you have to know how to approach the parents sensitively - and that also involves knowing them well.

Interfering in other people's lives is a can of worms!

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 13-Aug-11 11:54:06

You can answer this question by reading the number of tortured threads where MN-ers are either furious that someone has told their child off, or are on pins wondering whether to discipline someone else's child or insist on good manners when they visit. We may say that it takes a village to raise a child but there seems a lot of confusion about what that looks like.

I would personally never hesitate to insist someone else's child displayed the same good behaviour that I expect of my own. I would support anyone asking for help. And I think we should start early.... have a word with the toddlers going around biting other kids, for example, not wait until they're massive teenagers who won't listen to anyone.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 13-Aug-11 12:00:29

"intervening in other peoples' parenting"

That phrase I think, is where a lot of it goes wrong. Teachers trying to keep discipline get accused of it, for example. So it stops being a case of a child being punished for misbehaving and it becomes an conflict where a teacher is 'getting at' a parent. Quite the wrong emphasis and a certain kind of child will be quick to exploit the difference.

Solopower Sat 13-Aug-11 12:07:15

You've put your finger on it, Cogito.

How do you stop toddlers biting - without biting them back?? When they are a bit older, you can prompt them to imagine what it feels like, and get their feelings of empathy going. But when they're little, you have to discourage it by distracting them and/or (depending on your views) punishing them.

I think these are exactly the options that are open to us when trying to deal with local miscreants, of whatever age. But you need a lot of skill to know which method is best in each situation.

We can't bite other people's children back or punish them ourselves (except by disapproving looks) so how do we distract them and/or tap into their finer feelings?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 13-Aug-11 12:31:09

I think there is an awful lot of confusion surrounding how grown-ups should treat children. So much conflicting advice about 'parenting'. And no-one sets out to be a bad parent so all it does is chip away at commonsense and self-confidence. Kids are very clever, see the flaw in the argument, and what starts out as a disobedient toddler can easily end up as a big teen with serious problem with authority.

I don't get any problems with children that I'm in contact with because, for some reason, I have a rep as being the mum/auntie/friend you don't mess with.... or maybe it's just that I don't read parenting manuals smile

BertieBotts Sat 13-Aug-11 12:36:46

You can show them an alternative -for a biter I'd offer a teething toy and say ' this is for biting'

Mellowfruitfulness Sat 13-Aug-11 12:54:59

If you really want to support parents and families in your community, you should think about sending your own children to the nearest schools and getting involved in the PTA; setting up a youth club and applying to the council for funds (or raising the money yourselves); doing your shopping in the high street, using the local library, post office, park and swimming pool, travelling by bus or bike, going to church/temple/mosque/synagogue and walking round your 'hood, including your local council house estate, from time to time.

In that way you will get to know who is causing trouble and who isn't. You will also see that the vast majority of people are peaceful, law-abiding citizens.

However, if you live in a dangerous area, you could badger the council for a local community police officer to be attached to a school; you you could patrol in posses of grannies and grandads, you could ring the police when burglar alarms go off, you could report the fights you see and/or hear, you could hang around outside rowdy pubs at closing time and follow, at a distance, any drunken louts and report them to police.

To do all that though, you might need to work shorter hours and work closer to home. There is definitely a role for older, retired people here!

And this is just too important, imo, to leave to the politicians, who don't know anything about the local communities, and who while spouting about the 'Big Society' are doing the very things that undermine the efforts of local people to keep their communities together.

Mellowfruitfulness Sat 13-Aug-11 13:22:09

And by paying our taxes to protect our hospitals and schools and local charities.

This is a good article: 'In this crisis, our cities need local leaders with real power' by Simon Jenkins.

Solopower Sat 13-Aug-11 13:25:10

Agree, Bertie, some young people also need alternatives - as do the people who can't find jobs or go to FE or HE.

Solopower Sat 13-Aug-11 13:34:39

It's an interesting article. Jenkins says: 'The right will deplore the "sheer criminality" of it all, and the left will explain it as the misguided manifestation of social grievance'.

I think we need both 'right' and 'left' to deal with this crisis. Socialism to look after the weaker elements in society, and conservatism to conserve what is precious - eg our more helpful traditions and conventions, our beautiful buildings. What I can't really see a role for is the free-market liberalism - which I equate with the dog eat dog mentality - which seems to underpin our consumer society and makes us all miserable!

BertieBotts Sun 14-Aug-11 11:48:30

Yes, I think it's really important to show young people there are more options than perhaps they have been presented with.

Pippaandpolly Sun 14-Aug-11 12:03:32

Whenever I'm in public and see teenagers 'misbehaving' I always intervene-my DH says it's interfering and I'll end up getting punched, but I find it very hard to see someone being picked on/vandalism/etc without offering a friendly 'are you all alright? What are you up to?' I think it's because I'm a teacher (secondary) so I'm used to challenging bad's probably stupid (I don't want to be rude OR get punched!) but I do find being polite and friendly and engaging someone doing something wrong in conversation tends to embarrass them into stopping it. (Asking how their mothers are really helps as well-small community so although it's unlikely I know their mothers, they don't know that!)

That said I'd not do the same if they had a parent with them as I'd feel it's there business. I don't know whether that's wrong or right-sometimes I feel like a coward and sometimes I think the poor parents must already be embarrassed enough. Tricky.

Pippaandpolly Sun 14-Aug-11 12:04:13

THEIR business. Sorry.

Ormirian Sun 14-Aug-11 12:05:30

No, each man is a village, it takes a crane to raise a child, a stitch in nine saves time and there's no use crying over spilt gin.


niceguy2 Sun 14-Aug-11 13:10:14

I think we need both 'right' and 'left' to deal with this crisis

I agree. And that's why I have been saying that I want the politician's to work together rather than mud sling to solve this.

Punishment is part of the solution but it can't/won't work in isolation. We also need to look at why.

And in my opinion, I believe part of the problem is that nowadays we are not allowed to intervene when we see something. Either out of fear of reprisals or being told it's none of our business.

As Cogito rightly pointed out, how many threads do we see here where a teacher has dared to tell little cherub off and the responses are "Go in and complain." If we see a gang of youths causing havoc on the streets, do we say "Oi, pack it in!" or do we carry on as if nothing happened?

The result is a gradual breakdown of respect for adults and society. Kids being raised in a bubble where their shit doesn't stink and they demand "respect" despite probably not being able to spell the word.

niceguy2 Sun 14-Aug-11 13:21:41

In fact, I had a situation earlier this week which was minor in the grand scale of things but I think illustrates the dilemma we're all in nowadays. I'm sure we've all experienced similar.

I'd taken my kids to the local KFC for a snack and whilst we were eating, there was a gang of lads outside on their bikes. About 5-6 of them, ages ranging from about 12-14. They'd found some balloons from somewhere and what they were doing was blowing them up then trapping them in the door and bursting them to make a loud bang to scare all the customers inside.

OK, so this is minor but clearly anti-social behaviour. What options are available?

Well firstly I could challenge them. I'm a reasonably fit bloke and not afraid of a bunch of kids but nowadays they'd probably just tell me to piss off and what could I do? Call the police? I suspect they've got more important things to do. The kids would have gone way before the police arrived and they're not even scared of the police in the first place!

I guess if they'd have given me cheek, I could have given them a quick clip round the ear? In days gone by this probably would have been done. And if they'd have told the police, they'd have laughed it off and sent the kids on their way or worst still told their parents!. However, in this day & age what's more likely to happen is that the police would arrest me and they'd be the 'victims'.

Or thirdly and what every other diner did was simply to do our best to ignore it until they ran out of balloons and rode off thinking they were king cock and untouchable.

As a society is that what we've come down to? We're scared of telling off a bunch of kids in case the police come and arrest us and WE end up with a criminal record?

Until we sort that out and police are allowed to use their common sense & discretion more then I can't see how we can recover.

Solopower Sun 14-Aug-11 14:50:41

Very unpleasant for you and your kids, Niceguy.

Don't think I would have intervened either, in that situation. If I was on my own, I would, but not if I had my kids with me, as it could have repercussions for them.

Solopower Sun 14-Aug-11 14:56:20

Niceguy, I think it's sometimes more difficult for a man to intervene, tbh. If I went in to tackle a group of 12-year-olds, most of them would be taller than me ...

It's difficult to gauge the situation, isn't it? In some cases what is needed is a strong figure who can command their respect, but in others someone who is no physical threat could perhaps appeal to their better natures.

I was wondering if the KFC manager could have asked them to go away?

SuchProspects Mon 15-Aug-11 07:55:49

Niceguy2 You weren't scared of telling the kids off in case the police came and arrested you, you were scared of hitting them in case the police came and arrested you. You were scared of telling them off in case they laughed in your face and made you feel powerless, or at least in case it was pointless.

I don't tend to get involved when I have my kids with me, but before I had them I would generally confront kids doing something like that. I've very rarely had them ignore me and never had received physical violence. I've been called a lot of names, but mainly as they were heading off.

Ormirian Mon 15-Aug-11 08:37:13

Simple. In that situation it was up to the manager to sort them out. Whether he or she was capable of doing that is another matter. But that means it isn't up to members of the general public to play unappointed law-enforcer.

I sometimes feel there is an element on MN who want to see societal breakdown where there isn't any and hark back to a non-existent 'golden age' when random strangers could take a strap to any roaming kid who pissed them off hmm. And may I add, respect comes from more than being able to tell children off. There are naughty kids who are a total PITA but the problem is that the people who are supposed to deal with them won't - in this case the manager of the KFC. Why he wouldn't I don't know but perhaps speaking to him would have been a first step and if he did fuck all a letter to HO. If the people put in place to deal with this can't, they need moving on!

Incidents like this ARE NOT THE SAME AS THE RIOTS ! Please will everyone stop drawing hysterical conclusions between teenagers being a PITA (which they always were BTW) and people destroying property and committing acts of violence. Most teenagers in Britain are not violent, destructive theives and never will be - some are and they are the problem we need to address without getting into a tizzy over annoying teens.

SuchProspects Mon 15-Aug-11 08:49:54

I don't think anti-social behaviour is mainly the responsibility of paid employees, whether it's the police or the manager of a shop. That makes it more of a property issue than a breaking of the social contract. And takes the responsibility for our social contract away from us as peers, relying instead on authority and hierarchy.

purits Mon 15-Aug-11 08:55:15

"intervening in other peoples' parenting"

It's funny. MN go very self-righteous and claim that they are raising the next generation on behalf of society and therefore deserve child benefit etc as a grateful nation's thanks, but when the nation dares make mention of their parenting they suddenly start quoting 'my baby, my rules'. hmm

I have never understood the notion of "don't tell me how to raise my kid". When I was a new mum I was very aware that I didn't have all the answers. And some of the people who did claim to have all the answers were wierdos. I took the conscious decisions to expose my children to as many influences as possible in the hope that the wisdom of crowds would work. I think looking at the finished product (teenagers) and with smug fingers firmly crossed, it has worked.

purits Mon 15-Aug-11 09:00:16

In the KFC example, the whole shop should have challenged the hoodlums. If everyone sits there waiting for someone else to sort it then it will never get resolved. Again, the magic of numbers would have worked - a handful of pubescants wouldn't stand a chance against the ire of several adults.

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