I do honestly believe that it takes a village to raise a child, insofar as it benefits both individuals and society as a whole to have a wide variety of secondary adult influences in the lives of developing humans*. Those developing humans need parents but they also need teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, ministers, rabbis, coaches, trusted family friends, conscientious neighbours and various other people further along the developmental chain.
Here’s the thing, though. I firmly and righteously believe that unless you are the parent of the developing human in question, your amount of interaction and influence in their lives is YOUR choice. In other words, if you are an adult who has become the parent of a child I first congratulate you. Then I tell you that unless you and I are close friends or family and you have asked me to, it is not my responsibility to play a formative role in your developing human’s life.
This post and these thoughts come about because I have spent a great deal of time lately in places that are age-restricted. Yet there are many parents who think nothing of allowing their underage offspring free rein of those places. Those same parents then complain when their progeny is not treated with special allowances. Time and again the rules will be flouted or disregarded. Granted, since the parents have set the example by allowing the young people access in violation of the ground rules I shouldn’t expect that those young people would have a good understanding of what “rules” means. Nevertheless, it’s awfully rich for you to sneak your kid into an adults-only environment and then start bellyaching when the adults expect your kid to act like an adult or have conversations which aren’t necessarily age appropriate.
Let me use smaller words in case my point is getting lost in all the wordsmithery I’m tossing around here.
Facebook requires that you be at least 13 to participate. If you let your under-13 year old kid get on Facebook, don’t whinge and moan when she hears a swear word or gets yelled at for cheating in a game. Don’t start whining about how “poor little Cadence is just a child! How dare you treat her that way!!!” Poor little Cadence has no bloody business being on Facebook in the first frelling place.
Postscript: I’ve got a couple of good friends who do let their under-13 offspring play specific games that I play. They’ve spoken to me about it via chat or email. In those circumstances I have willlingly contracted to act as a friend and adult influence for those kids. I am happy to do it. I’m friends with their mothers, and I like the kids a lot too. They’re sweet and well-spoken and eager to do the right thing. If their parents feel they can handle Facebook in spite of their age, that’s between their parents and their parents’ consciences. I personally believe that rules are rules, but that’s just me. And since God never saw fit to trouble me with the thorny business of parenting humans in the first place I’ll just let that whole sticky wicket be their problem.
* I now use the word “child” sparingly. Because I firmly believe one of the biggest problems in our culture right now is the belief that a “child” is almost a different species from an adult. And before you tell me I don’t understand because I don’t have children, maybe you should stop and think that YOU don’t understand because you DO. In many many cases, People worship and revere children. They hold them exempt from rules and norms. I try to emphasise in my speech and writing that those we call “children” are really, well, people who are under construction.