Hunting, Gathering, Parents: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little People, by Michaeleen Doucleff Avid Reader Press Hide Caption
Avid Reader Press
Avid Reader Press
There are a lot of education books out there. But NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff says all the parenting books she read after becoming a mom left a lot out of it.
“I’m a trained scientist. I was a chemist for seven years and I really believed that the parenting advice we received today was backed up by really rigorous scientific research,” she says. “And when I started looking at studying as a scientist, I was really, really disappointed.”
She couldn’t find any answers to the problems she had with her little daughter Rosy.
“She actually started slapping my face regularly. And I was reading all this stuff and nothing seemed to work,” Doucleff says. “In fact, a lot of things made things worse for us. And then I started writing a story about parenting in Yucatan, and oh my god, it just changed my whole sense of what parenting could be and what mother was . “
So she decided to visit her again – this time with her daughter. They also traveled to the Arctic and Tanzania.
She writes in her upcoming book Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little People, What They Experienced, and How to Be a Better Parent
Highlights of the interview
On what she found watching mothers in the Yucatan
[I] watched them with their kids and they just had this incredibly calm, relaxed self-confidence about them that I had never seen in my life in San Francisco and growing up and there was no screaming or bickering or nagging and yet the kids were very much nice and respectful and super helpful. And I was just wondering what they would do with Rosy.
On her way down a street in an arctic village while Rosy was having a breakdown
Yeah, it was embarrassing to be completely honest. Because she really was the only child who acted like that. And then it was really obvious that I didn’t know what to do with her. In the end, one of the mothers actually said to me: “You know, I think you can deal with her better now.” And I said, “Yes, yes, you are absolutely right. I can deal with her better now. ‘And I’m so grateful to them for that.
What is different about parenting in this arctic village?
One of the most important differences is that parents never deal with the child on a heated level as they do on the child’s level. All parents have this incredible calm energy that they bring to any interaction with a child. No matter how hot the child is and how upset the child is, the parents remain in this incredibly calm, gentle way. … I’ve spent a total of about seven or eight weeks in these places. And I saw a mother lose control – and she was a very young mother too.
How they hold it together
I think a big part of it, and I talk about it a lot in the book, is that they have different perceptions of children and their behavior – so it’s not so much that they suppress anger towards children or suppress frustration. It is that they look at children in a way that they have less or no anger with children. For example, you often think that children push our buttons or test boundaries or manipulate us. But in fact, many parents don’t see children that way. They see them as really incompetent, illogical beings who of course misbehave because they haven’t learned yet.
About a family in Yucatan with children who helped without being asked
So we actually saw this on our first trip down there – the girls were on the spring break. The family has three girls and we were just getting ready to leave the house and the 12 year old woke up on her spring break and was just starting to do the dishes – no one asked her anything. And the mother wasn’t even surprised. She said she is 12 years old. So she knows what to do when she sees it. And I was just a little like ‘what?’ Indeed, you know, when you look around the world [you see] This is not uncommon – and in many ways it is rather the exception, like our children who don’t want to do anything or who we really have to force to do things. This book tells you everything parents can do to promote this quality in children and everything parents can do to undermine that quality.
To use the acronym TEAM as a framework
I made this up to remember it with my daughter. So T is togetherness, and this means doing tasks and activities together. Then E, which I think is by far the most difficult, is encouraging versus forcing. So A is autonomy. What it is – you have the right to self-manage and make your own decisions, but you are also constantly connected and accountable to the group. So you want to help, you have to be respectful and share with the group. And finally, M is a minimal perturbation. So the idea behind it kind of fits in with autonomy, but it’s like this isn’t free-range parenting because the parents are always there – or a caretaker, older sibling, neighbor, friend, or relative – but they bother them Do not explore the child. There is the idea that the child knows what they are doing, but I’m there in case they want to keep me busy or need help.
How her relationship with Rosy has changed
It almost sounds too good. It’s just incredibly transformed. Like I said, like at the beginning, I was really scared of my time with her. And it sounds like a horrible mom, but you know I was just so nervous and … I felt like I didn’t know what to do. And now I love being with her. I think so much of our relationship was built on tension and conflict before because I tried to control her and then she tried to control me back. At least that’s how I felt. This approach is really about minimizing conflict and tension and really maximizing collaboration.