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Parents don’t need to know how to play with kids. If we get kids involved in adult activities, that’s play for kids.” And then they associate chores with a fun, positive activity. They associate it with playing.Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About The Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans – Michaeleen Doucleff
Initial Thoughts: So, I am not a parent. But, I like to read books on parenting. Weird, I know. So, I am hardly the target audience. I cannot say, “oh, that’s exactly like my kid, they don’t want to go to bed when I tell them to.” Instead, I relate that experience to when I was a kid. “I remember giving my parents a hard time because I was never tired right before bedtime and seemed to function on little to no sleep.” I was every tired parent’s worst nightmare, a kid who wouldn’t sleep. Really, parenting books make me grateful and in awe of my parents for putting up with me. I hope one day to be as patient as they were. I also hope to raise my future children properly. And so, for now, I read books on parenting to give me suggestions for the future.
When Dr. Michaeleen Doucleff becomes a mother, she examines the studies behind modern parenting guidance and finds the evidence frustratingly limited and the conclusions often ineffective. Curious to learn about more effective parenting approaches, she visits a Maya village in the Yucatán Peninsula. There she encounters moms and dads who parent in a totally different way than we do—and raise extraordinarily kind, generous, and helpful children without yelling, nagging, or issuing timeouts. What else, Doucleff wonders, are Western parents missing out on?
In Hunt, Gather, Parent, Doucleff sets out with her three-year-old daughter in tow to learn and practice parenting strategies from families in three of the world’s most venerable communities: Maya families in Mexico, Inuit families above the Arctic Circle, and Hadzabe families in Tanzania. She sees that these cultures don’t have the same problems with children that Western parents do. Most strikingly, parents build a relationship with young children that is vastly different from the one many Western parents develop—it’s built on cooperation instead of control, trust instead of fear, and personalized needs instead of standardized development milestones.
Maya parents are masters at raising cooperative children. Without resorting to bribes, threats, or chore charts, Maya parents rear loyal helpers by including kids in household tasks from the time they can walk. Inuit parents have developed a remarkably effective approach for teaching children emotional intelligence. When kids cry, hit, or act out, Inuit parents respond with a calm, gentle demeanor that teaches children how to settle themselves down and think before acting. Hadzabe parents are world experts on raising confident, self-driven kids with a simple tool that protects children from stress and anxiety, so common now among American kids.
Not only does Doucleff live with families and observe their techniques firsthand, she also applies them with her own daughter, with striking results. She learns to discipline without yelling. She talks to psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and sociologists and explains how these strategies can impact children’s mental health and development. Filled with practical takeaways that parents can implement immediately, Hunt, Gather, Parent helps us rethink the ways we relate to our children, and reveals a universal parenting paradigm adapted for American families.
I have a bit of mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it was readable and had good useful tips. On the other hand, the book is a bit of a false advertisement. Michaeleen Doucleff has a Phd… in chemistry. She is not a child psychologist nor any sort of expert on parenting. She is a journalist, and she is a parent to a toddler. The title of the book is also a bit misleading. She does not explore how parenting was done in Ancient Cultures, but rather she visited three remote communities that have more traditional ways of doing things.Continue reading