Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Parenting in the 21st Century: A Return to Community

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Parenting in the 21st Century: A Return to Community

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT.

Parents are potentially the most influential individuals in children's lives. The 21st Century parent has to compete, however, with multiple sources of information, both human and nonhuman, (e.g., children's peers, non-familial adults, TV, technology gadgets, Internet) in shaping the minds, values, and beliefs of children. In the absence of a shared purpose, these sources may offer opinions, images, and activities incongruent with the philosophy espoused by the custodial parent(s). In this paper, the author encourages 21st Century parents to create and maintain parenting communities - community networks of individuals, not necessarily confined to relatives - to support the parenting process.

[Parenting involves] raising children to be healthy and competent adults who are capable of functioning independently in the world - A.J. Thomas (2000).

The task of parenting can be overwhelming (Reddy, 1997, p. 321). Current family life differs from life in the 1950s in the areas of time, income and cost of living, demography, and employment of women (Duquaine, 1997). Changing attitudes, economics, and social norms have transformed how children are cared for (Farkas, Duffet & Johnson, 2000). The 21st Century parent has to contend with multiple new entities (e.g., TV, computers, Internet, Nintendo) that compete for the attention of children and contribute to a loss of family connectedness and community. Parenting, as discussed in this paper, refers to a group of people, led by the custodial parent(s), who share a common interest in contributing to the positive development of a child. A community may be defined as "a group of people who interact as a social unit and have interests, work, etc. in common". It is in that context that the terminology parenting community is used.

McCaslin and Infanti (1998) suggest that parenting is a societal construction, and that construction includes multiple messages from policymakers, popular media, researchers, and educators. McCaslin and Infanti further assert that too many parents are either incompetent or unwilling to parent effectively. In previous generations when parents had a parenting question or concern, they might ask an experienced relative or respected neighbor. However, the transient nature of our society, the changing roles of men and women, and the growing base of knowledge about child development have led many parents to look for additional types of resources and support systems (Banks & Roberts, 1998), including the Internet, which allow parents of children to electronically share and discuss child-rearing experiences and advice (Littlefield, 1996).

The extended family concept is not new, and is personified in the old adage "It takes a village to raise a child". Historically, parents have used the extended family and related community to assist in the rearing of children (see Forehand & Kotchick, 1996; Garcia-Coll, Meyer & Brillon, 1995; both cited in Thomas, 2000). Billingsley (1968) described four types of the extended family: (a) subfamilies - a couple or parent/child dyad, living with family members; (b) families with secondary members-families who take in other family members; (c) augmented families - unrelated persons who live in households as a family unit; and (d) "no blood relatives" - persons who are accepted as family members. These latter family members were identified by Stack (1974) as "fictive kin".

The field of education is beginning to use a community paradigm to accomplish better parent-school communication and neighboring support to serve its students (Villa, 2003). School principals could benefit from developing advisory groups to share their visions and ideas for improving educational outcomes. Parents would benefit from doing the same.

In his book Raising good kids in tough times: 7 crucial habits for parent success, McIntire (1999) noted that parenting today is challenging because of the dangerous examples and attitudes to which children are exposed. …

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