The Tribe Is Dead


It takes a tribe to raise a child, they say. This is true, I suppose, for a few reasons. One is that kids learn more from more people. Another is that having other adults around is helpful for the adults – while one caretaker cares for a child, another can rest and recharge. Another reason – one I was thinking about today – is that the presence and support of other adults makes up for the shortcomings of the parent. This is important because we all lack some abilities – abilities which are necessary for creating a peaceful, healthy home.

Different Strengths and Weaknesses

For example, one adult isn’t a great problem solver. She struggles to figure out why her child cries, but this same adult is a marvelous story teller and can entertain the child for hours with her words. Another adult is loving and understanding but is hopeless at cooking and nutrition planning. This woman’s child has all his emotional needs met but suffers ill health, both mentally and physically, because of his bad diet. One adult is a great teacher but has very little interest in hugs and kisses. This child will be smart but needy as she grows up. Another parent is as playful as a child but cannot discipline to save his life.

I know all of these parents. Together we would make an incredible tribe. Alone, we make incredible mistakes with our children.

But such is the 21st century where we raise children alone and with little help but from facilities.

The fact is, old ways are not going to be revived – not as long as capitalism guides our ways and individualism eats away at our communities. Our economic and social structure isn’t likely to be uprooted. The giants keeping it in place are not likely to be usurped by some peace loving clan.

For years I have lamented this sad truth. I have revered ancient ways and have felt sorry for the children and parents of our modern times. This isn’t the way we are supposed to be. This isn’t the way nature intended things to work.

And then today it occurred to me: This is the way it is. The tribe is dead. One to two parent family units have replaced them. Single family homes cover the surface of the Western world. Families live in private behind walls.

We must adapt or we will fail.

What is the answer? In the absence of the tribe, what is the best way to raise our children?

Still we can learn from tradition, and still we can create grassroots movements to revive certain aspects of the past. In Latin America and other places, community remains strong but if they were more affluent, wouldn’t community be lost as it is here?

If this is the direction our world is heading – and it does seem to be – we must create a new paradigm. Like it or not, this will involve our lonely twilight homes at, day care facilities, and technology. Families are spread all over the country and mothers go to work all day. Some people will join communes and slip away to the “ideal” setting, but that is not for the billions. What is?

How is the average home to raise their children now that the tribe is dead?

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