I will never forget the first time Uncle Andrew disciplined my daughter. Safari was the first child to be born among our friends and with that honor came much attention and grace. She could do no wrong and had everyone wrapped around her pinky. Then came Uncle Andrew (not her real uncle). I wish I could remember what it was she did. More than likely she was interrupting conversation. All I remember is Andrew saying something like, "What are you doing?" before telling her to stop. She looked at him as if to say, "Who do you think you are?" and then looked at me as if I were going to tell him what was up. To be honest I was a bit taken back myself because Andrew came with a bit of force, which was something I was not quite use to. But I stayed back and observed. They had their show down but eventually Andrew won out. In Friday's blog we talked about introducing your baby to community as soon as possible and as much as possible. Hanging out with friends and family will give you a break, help others learn to interact with children and enjoy their blessings, and stretch your children making them more flexible individuals. The benefit of community goes far beyond these three factors and today I want to focus on a few more that will help your child's development.
Social Behavior If we are honest, our kids pretty much rule the roost when it comes to being at home. They are the center of attention and deservedly so. If they are not, they should be. Robin and I try our best (Robin better than I) to be completely present when we are at home. This means no phones, computers, iPad's, Kindles, etc. Our kids get 100% of our attention and because of this, they know they are loved. This reality requires a community to do life with though.
When our kids get all our attention they begin to expect it and even demand it. This was probably the case with Safari and Andrew. Kids need to learn to be patient and wait their turn. Being in community gives them this chance. It is rude to interrupt conversation or constantly draw attention away from others. How can we expect them to know this if we do not expose them to larger settings? Having a community of people you do life with gives children an opportunity to learn proper behavior among people who love and care for them. So when you go for dinner out in public, you may be less embarrassed.
Sharing is Caring We constantly have people at our house. At least twice a week we have friends (who we call family) over for dinner and hang out. Safari and Sojo get excited whenever Robin or I begin cleaning the house because they know people are coming over. Safari starts going through her toys deciding which toys she is going to share with her friends. Last night we had seven kids running around our house and no arguments over toys! Safari LOVES to share and give, and Sojo is learning
When a child is rarely introduced to community and use to having everything to themselves, they become incredibly self-centered. We get embarrassed and irritated when they do not share or get along, but this is not their fault. They have no capacity for sharing because they have not had the opportunity to do so. Living in community helps children learn to share and get along with others. They develop a love and devotion for their friends just as you and I do for our friends. Safari and Sojo love their friends and are constantly thinking of them. They always want to pray for their friends when it comes to night time prayer. When we go to Target they do not say I want this or I want that. These words rarely come from their mouth. Instead they say, we should by this for so and so.
No more Mr. Mean Guy The greatest thing about involving kids in deep community is that you are no longer the mean mommy or daddy. Why? Because everyone is reinforcing each other. If I am the only one telling Safari not to interrupt people or telling Sojo not to play with his food, then I am ruining their fun. But if Uncle Andrew is telling Safari to chill out and wait her turn, then it becomes a way of life. Why? Because it is coming from more than one source. Living in a community of people who will reinforce proper social behavior shows your kids that you are not just a mean mommy. The community Robin and I live in teach our kids a lot about life. They help reinforce our way of living and interacting in social settings.
Conclusion We asked Safari what she wanted to do for her fourth birthday party last month. Guess what her response was? "Uhm...I'm going to have a slumber party at Uncle Andrew's house." Seriously. Safari not only submitted to Uncle Andrew's discipline, but he has become one of her favorites. When a friend disciplines your child (in a proper manner) it may feel odd at first, but it is essential. Doing life with family (friends or literal family) is one of the best things Robin and I have done for our children.
How has your community helped you raise your children?