“The idea that this is ‘my child’ or ‘your child’ does not exist [among the Yequana, of South America]. Deciding what another person should do, no matter what his age, is outside the Yequana vocabulary of behaviors. There is great interest in what everyone does, but no impulse to influence–let alone coerce–anyone. The child’s will is his motive force.” (Jean Liedloff, The Continuum Concept, Revised Edition, 1977, p 90.)
Peter Gray, “How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways: Three Complementary Theories”, Films for Action websit
(Hunter-gatherers and their egalitarian ways part 3)
Trusting the child. Respecting the child. This powerful idea comes up again and again in the literature on hunter-gatherer peoples as observed during that sliver of history between their first exposure to the rapacious might of agri-industrial civilization and the final loss of their traditional ways of life.
Makes me think with a shudder of the times I’ve yelled at these here children, only for doing/not doing whatever some honest impulse in them said: do/don’t do — and the many more times I’ve pulled rank, laying down the law for whatever reason served my purpose at the time.
One researcher who suggested that the moral character of hunter-gatherers comes from their kindly child-raising methods is Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, who was among the first to study the Ju/’hoansi of Africa’s Kalahari Desert. Here is what she had to say about the parenting she observed:
“Ju/’hoan children very rarely cried, probably because they had little to cry about. No child was ever yelled at or slapped or physically punished, and few were even scolded. Most never heard a discouraging word until they were approaching adolescence, and even then the reprimand, if it really was a reprimand, was delivered in a soft voice. … We are sometimes told that children who are treated so kindly become spoiled, but this is because those who hold that opinion have no idea how successful such measures can be. Free from frustration or anxiety, sunny and cooperative, the children were every parent’s dream. No culture can ever have raised better, more intelligent, more likable, more confident children.”
But there is such a thing as progress, right? I mean, generation by prosperous, enlightened, liberated generation, we’ve been reclaiming some of that playful, childlike generosity of spirit that 10,000 years of this all but crushed from us.