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Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

My favorite parenting books lately are ones that show us how parenting is done elsewhere. I am particularly fascinated by parenting philosophies that indigenous cultures have in common around the world. It suggests that these ways of raising children might be how children were raised throughout the evolution of human brains --in other words, how we are all genetically predisposed to be raised. When I suggest these universals to parents, there is a recognition of a deep-seated truth that makes visceral sense to them. When they try it on their kids, their children relax and begin to cooperate.

According to the research cited in these books, those in W.E.I.R.D. cultures (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic), and those who have been most affected by W.E.I.R.D. cultures, seem to struggle the most with raising children. Cultures that have been able to maintain the ways of life they have led for centuries seem to struggle less.

Generational trauma from historical and present-day subjugation takes its toll on most aspects of our lives, and of course, that includes child-rearing. Industrialized civilizations require efficiency, and that has historically meant forcing people to do things they would not otherwise bother to do without the promise of survival or being spared from torture.

There are a variety of reasons we struggle more than hunter-gatherer cultures that are closer to their primal roots. Michaeleen Doucleff lists many of these in her book, Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans. One of them is believing that autonomy is a basic human right for everyone, including children. "In general, hunter-gatherer communities greatly value a person's right to make their own decisions," Doucleff writes. "They believe it's harmful to control another person. This idea forms a cornerstone of their belief system, including their parenting."

Parents in indigenous cultures have all kinds of ways they teach children to do the things that need to be done so that commands are unnecessary. One is doing things alongside their children from a young age, another is storytelling and values sharing, and a third is through silent attention. That third one is the hardest for us talky Americans to do, but it's my favorite. I'll be discussing it further in our one-hour online presentation next Monday, "Having and Handling Big Emotions." To join me for this almost-free event (it costs $1), register here.


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