It Takes a Village to Raise Society
As well, it should.
There are dozen of hot topics flying over news stations and social media these days. So many, in fact, that it’s sometimes hard to keep up with all of them. As a single mother to four children I spend the vast majority of my time finding ways to keep the lights on, keep a roof over our heads, or cuddling and kissing away boo boos. This doesn’t leave me much time to immerse myself in current affairs, at least as the media portrays them.
I see the issues of today through my children and their interactions with the world around them. “ Boys will be boys”; A small part of what is seen as toxic masculinity and validating bad behavior. “Your daughter shouldn’t question the instructor in front of the class”; A jab at undermining female voices everywhere. “Buy this product or you wont be as cool/popular/desirable as those who do” The degradation of self image for men and women to buy into the next big thing. The list could go on and on.
One thing I have noticed are the overwhelming number of voices raised in support of change across a broad spectrum of topics, but lasting changes in society do not start on the streets in protest or in the board rooms of an office. Lasting change starts within close communities and in the home.
I can not change another person for the better. I can only change myself and I can have a profound impact on how my children are raised.
If I’d like to see an end to toxic masculinity, shouting my outrage through words and flashy signs on the street won’t suddenly create an ideal shift in all the grown men within earshot, but I can teach my son to how to act. I can show him how to treat women in a kind and respectful manner. I can normalize participation of all things having to do with household management like appointments, cooking, cleaning, and caring for his younger siblings. I can empower him to be the best he can be and show him that doing the same for his sisters is equally important. I can help him to grow strong and confident in these ideals so no shame is felt when he voices them amongst his male friends. I can raise him to be a better man for tomorrows world.
If I want to see the end of negative body image advertisements for women or men, I can boycott a certain company and enact change with the almighty dollar but does that really change the hearts of the corporations who make those products; No. It may cause them to reevaluate the sales tactics they use to get us to buy, but the overall thoughts and feelings of those in charge of the bottom line, know we will continue our consumerism in an effort to feel better about ourselves.
I will not focus all my praise and appreciation for my daughters, based on their looks. Of course I will tell them they are beautiful…because they are, but I will also tell them they are brave when they stand up for that they believe in. I will tell them they are resilient for pushing through something that was difficult for them and I will show them how pleased I am that they continue to try new things even when they fail.
This also holds true for my son; Although not seen as big of an issue as the body shaming towards women, commercials portraying teens and men surrounded by beautiful women as a reward for buying their product, is just as shameful.
Model the change in yourself!
I will show my children the importance of these concepts by modeling the behaviors myself. My mother always used to say parenting “Do as I say, not as I do” will backfire every single time. Words mean nothing without actions. I will stand up for what is right, regardless of who stands against me. I will not silence my voice when I am subjected to any form of sexism repression and I will not allow toxic male role models in my life or the lives of my children.
Overall I can teach my children that they are not alone. They can find camaraderie just about anywhere. They are in a world surrounded by people and although everyone is different and unique in their ideals and character, most everyone wants some of the same basic things. To be happy, healthy, and to feel safe where they live.
With those similarities they can band together to create the change they’d like to see in the world.
Ok, I get that statement seems a bit heavy to place on tiny children but those concepts aren’t hard to teach when you start with small things and go from there. I am just one woman with four beautiful children to influence. How much change can I possibly expect to have on tomorrows society?
Well…I cant. At least not alone. No one can do it alone and expect lasting change. Look at a few of the greatest leaders of change in history. Mahatma Gandhi learned his methods of influencing the masses from the example of self sacrifice, love and perseverance he was raised with, by his mother. His core beliefs were honed and refined by watching her example and they shaped him into a man who inspired great change by his own example.
Mother Teresa spent her entire life in the service of others. She came from a modest family and her father died when she was very young. “Her mother had always encouraged her kids into being part of the church because they would have spiritual and emotional support as well as a sense of their culture and religion.” She organized charities that have to date, helped millions and she inspired those in communities worldwide to join in her efforts.
Martin Luther King Jr. was raised with a strict father and a nurturing mother. They balanced each other out and raised a close knit family that was very involved within their community. His parents showed him that to get anything done he needed to step out of his comfort zone and go out into the world and make a difference. The change he inspired in society has resonating affects even today.
These three, and many others all have similar things in common. They were first influenced in the home and they took those core ideals and shared them with their community. They would embolden those around them through their examples. Yes, they started out as individuals full of passion in their beliefs but they didn’t sit on those beliefs. They lived them and shared them through their actions.
This idea of sharing positive ideas is rarely portrayed in the news. Unfortunately violence sells. You see more examples of individuals full of hate coming together in a mob mentality fashion. Riots, looting, group hate beatings; Mob mentality is a real thing and its been broken down and analyzed by psychologists for years. I recently wrote a story about using my anxiety as a tool to be a better me, and because of the complex issues I've had to deal with over the years I fully believe that for every negative thing the mind is able to produce, it is also capable of the opposite. Why not use the psychology behind mob mentality, universally seen as a horrible and negative phenomenon, to create something good?
When bullying is such a rampant issue in schools this would be a wonderful tool to implement among young children; teaching them the concept of positive group change, at a young age, can definitely institute long lasting changes within society. I would never advocate pressuring someone into doing something they don’t want to do, but peer pressure seems to be a sad fact of life and I’d much rather see it used to fellowship a lonely student instead of pressuring a fellow classmate into drugs or following in a bullying scheme.
One school in Greendale, Wisconsin has gone as far as having their students participate in a “district wide “ Choose Kind” initiative after having their students read the book “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio.” Their efforts have resulted in the children having a better understanding of the feelings and emotions of those around them. Even the language the students use when dealing with conflict has improved. The positive change has leaked into every aspect of their lives from their home to their communities.
I believe change begins in the home, however if it takes a village to raise a child, as the old adage states. Would it not be an accurate summation that those same children, diligently nurtured, cared for and raised by their respective parents, friends and family, and teachers, can then raise and shape the society around them by involving their own communities? I whole-heartedly believe this is the key to any positive and lasting change we hope to see in future generations.