Virgin Islanders like and welcome children. Very few households do not know the presence of at least one child, grandchild, niece, or nephew. Traditionally children were raised by the whole community—neighbors freely disciplined other people’s children, and children knew they could get food, shelter, or help from any adult if they needed it. There is still a good deal of communal child-rearing, although in many cases the community circle has shrunk to one’s immediate and extended family and friends. “The family circle” is a phrase in common parlance.
Corporal punishment at home is common, although it is practiced in moderation and probably much less than it once was. Often the threat of the belt is enough to get misbehaving children to do as they are told. In Virgin Islands culture, children are supposed to obey their parents at all times. Asking questions, talking back, or sharing their own opinion is considered undesirable, cheeky behavior. Children who are coaxed into conversations about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings are being spoiled.
Virgin Islanders are particularly aware of their children’s behavior in public or with company and cannot understand why American and European parents are so unconcerned about their own rambunctious little ones.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition