New studies suggest that modern parenting skills pale in comparison to those of our pre-historic ancestors. As it turns out, the ancient hunter-gatherers parented in a manner that produced well-adjusted and more empathetic children than our 21st century models. In otherwise, Fred and Wilma Flintstone were better parents than you are, and Pebbles was a smarter, nicer kid than yours is.
Hunter-Gatherers As Role Models
How can that be? It seems our image of the hunter-gatherer societies as being clannish, loutish and war-mongering is more Hollywood than fact.
The hunter-gatherers engaged in minimal violence. They lived cooperatively and shared resources generously. They figured out quickly that kindness and working together was the key to survival and their parenting reflected this.
By studying contemporary peoples who live much like the hunter-gatherers, anthropologists have come to the conclusion that our modern world has robbed us of important child-rearing tools — many of which have actually become controversial. However, these techniques are important if society wants to encourage empathy, compassion and cooperation in young people.
Kids Today Lack Empathy
With studies pointing to the fact that today’s youth is 40% less empathetic than generations past, and with bullying seemingly on the rise, raising kids with a conscience has never been more important.
Keys to Good Parenting
Six parenting techniques are highlighted for their ability to promote stability and positive emotional well being in children:
Natural Birth – avoiding as many medical interventions as possible during childbirth goes a long ways towards promoting the mother-baby bond right from the beginning.
Breast-feeding – Mothers should strive to breastfeed for as long as possible. Experts recommend two to five years because children’s immune systems are not fully developed until age six. The longer a child is breastfed, the more help their immunity systems derive. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breastfeeding until at least age two, but in the United States, nursing is generally frowned upon as babies grow to toddlers. Nursing pre-school or kindergartners is rare.
Quick Response Times – Primitive peoples didn’t adhere to the idea that too much cuddling could spoil babies. Leaving infants to cry or fuss is considered a good way to teach young children independence, which is silly when a person really thinks about it. How independent can a being that is totally dependent on adults for everything actually be? Studies show that leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep, for example, only teaches them distrust and to emotionally distance themselves from people. Responding quickly to a baby’s cries reinforces the parent-child bond and teaches the baby that he/she is safe and loved.
Affection Not Corporal Punishment – Touch is important. Cuddling builds and strengthens emotional bonds. Conversely, spanking weakens and breaks them.
Multitude of Caregivers – In primitive societies, extended families meant children came into contact with multiple adults who cared for them. This type of extending parenting helped parents avoid exhaustion and burnout. It provided children with diverse role models and people they could depend on.
Play-time/Multi-age Groupings – In the hunter-gatherer world, age groups didn’t segregate children. This exposure to other kids at varying stages of development was helpful to the individual’s growth. Free play allowed children to be inventive, and play in general has been shown to reduce the risk of developing ADHD that some children may have.
Your Thoughts and Stories
Though hardly new ideas, parenting strategies tend to be debated heatedly and many new parents are overwhelmed by the differing opinions on how best to raise a child. What do you think? Could the hunter-gatherer way be THE way? Share your thoughts and parenting styles with us. We’d love to hear your stories.