It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
— African Proverb —
Blog by The Martial Mentor, Chris
Take a moment and think of 3 people that had a huge impact on your life.
Chances are, you didn’t think of your parents. Parents were a massive part of your childhood; you wouldn’t be here without them. For most, though, parents were a constant in their childhoods. Always there, always nudging the right direction or the hinting at a lesson.
Yet, when we think of the people that impacted us the most, we choose someone outside of our immediate family. Someone like a teacher, a coach, or a friend. These others are our “Village,” our “Tribe,” the people around us that influenced and inspired us, beyond our parents.
But just as those impactful moments you remembered could have been positive or negative, the Village around our own children could help push them in the right direction, or lead them down the wrong path.
So what makes a good Village for our kids?Having grown up in the Martial Arts, I personally found my village among the many people in my dojang, or Tae Kwon Do school. From instructors that inspired me, to friends that encouraged me, to other parents that lifted me up when I fell down, to the other students that I helped push through the ranks, my childhood revolved around the atmosphere of positivity that my sabumnim, or martial arts teacher, created.
Before that school, though, I had started in another dojang, and I definitely remember that one, too. Although, I remember that one for an entirely different reason.
This brings the first, and most important, aspect of choosing your child’s Village:
The Culture, or atmosphere, of the school, gym, team, or neighborhood your child grows up in will shape them more than anything else. In it’s simplest terms, Culture is the interactions between people in a certain community. Do they help each other, or poke fun of mistakes? Do they welcome newcomers, or seem too close-knit to care about outsiders? Do they enjoy being there, or is every action a competition?
How do they make you or your child feel?
The first dojang I trained in was run very militaristic. While many people enjoyed the discipline and atmosphere, that first school never quite felt right to me. It wasn’t a bad atmosphere, it just didn’t make me feel included.
Always look for an atmosphere where you feel like your family belongs. Different can be a good thing; if you don’t feel like you belong, though, it’s time to keep looking.
Start from the Top
The next step in finding the right Village is to look for the Chief, or at least the Village Elders.
These people should be warm and inviting to newcomers, and consistently checking on their Tribe. While you may not always get to meet the Chief, you should definitely be able to tell who the Elders are, and they should be quick to welcome you.
My first instructor rarely smiled at the students. He was quick to correct, and slow to encourage. Within a few minutes of entering the school of my second instructor, I was welcomed by name, brought on the floor, and given all of the attention for the first 10 minutes of the class. Even when I felt uncomfortable, that new instructor smiled and made me feel like a part of the class.
You can always tell how the Chief will act by watching how the Elders treat others, and vice versa. If the people at the top make you feel uncomfortable, it’s time to keep looking.
Speak to the Tribe
The next key to finding the right Village is to meet the rest of the tribe.
The other parents in a gym or school will tell you what they really think pretty quickly. I find that the best Villages are the ones where the only gossip is about how amazing the other students or Tribe members are doing. When a parent gushes about how far their own child has come, or how great the instructors are, or how they love watching so-and-so perform, I know I’m at the right place.
If you think, “these are my kind of people!”, you may have found the right place already. People who don’t feel like they belong will pretty quickly exit a Tribe, leaving only those that belong. This is called ‘like-minded.’
Once you’re in a place with like-minded people, you’re set. That only leaves one more element…
Know the Goal
This is the final but most commonly missed key to finding the right Village to raise your child. Is there a clear Goal that the Tribe is aiming for?
And does that Goal align with something you want for your child?
Some Tribes focus on winning. If the main focus of a team or school is to beat someone else, this may not align with the mentality you want for your child. In an atmosphere like that, what would losing mean?
This piece of the puzzle should be clarified before you ever step inside. What do I want my child to get out of this?
The ones that leave that question unanswered, are the ones that wander from Tribe to Tribe, never quite finding the right Village for their child.
The best Village is one where the Elders provide the right Culture of encouragement, that leads the rest of the Tribe to lift each other up on their way to achieving something bigger than just themselves.
Really, the right Village should feel like an extended Family.
When it comes down to it, this is why we call ourselves the Legacy Family. We understand that it takes a Village to raise a child, and we’re on a constant look-out for more people to join our tribe.
Are you a positive parent, looking for a place where your child can grow, physically and mentally, under inspiring coaches and other encouraging parents? Come join our Village.
The martial arts is a bonus.
So, where’d you find YOUR village? Leave me a comment and share your Tribe story!