There isn’t a parent out there, who doesn’t sometimes get cross or angry at their kids. It’s not easy to be a parent, when your kids are pushing your buttons, screaming and being hyper all the time. ‘If only they listen to me then I wouldn’t have to yell’ – you might think to yourself. Children often push the limits and test us constantly, so you have to watch your emotions and make sure you’re not overreacting. Easier said than done? Well, check out the Inuit parenting style. This story might inspire you to look at the relationship with your child differently.
The story of Inuit parenting style
It all started in the 1960s with Harvard graduate Jean Briggs, who traveled to the Arctic Circle. She did her anthropology research there while living out in the wild for 17 months. The ‘wild’ meant no electricity, wi-fi, no heating, no shops. She lived with one
The entire story was described in detail by Michaeleen Doucleff from NPR in the article How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger
No yelling policy.
Scolding children or even rising the voice at them was seen as something weak and inappropriate for Inuit parenting style. In fact, it was seen as if there’s something wrong with the parent so that he cannot control his emotions, rather than with kid, who is just being a kid.
Whenever the child misbehaved, it was up to the parent to find out the reason. It was believed that a child’s behavior is a reflection of his needs, so the child is not misbehaving on purpose. It is just a cry for attention and help. Inuits are very gentle towards each other and towards their kids.
The power of storytelling.
Another important part of raising the child the Inuit way is the usage of storytelling. I don’t mean switching on the TV (which by the way might have an impact on how kids develop in general – see here). Inuit parents told all kinds of stories to their children, often with a hint of drama, which explains to the kids what would happen if they do something.
All kids like stories. There is something magical about them, as it allows children to experience what is not yet seen in real life. They can see in the imagination consequences of their decisions, without feeling it in real life. This powerful tool was used lots in the
The Inuit’s emotional lesson.
If Inuit parent wanted to teach kids how to manage emotions, they would incorporate drama into it. For example, if the child was hitting someone the mother might say ‘Why don’t you hit Mr. Bear?’. That’s the beginning of the drama class. The child starts hitting the toy, in turn, she replies in the bear’s voice ‘ouch! this hurts’. She is saying it with a calm voice though (no yelling!).
This teaches the child the consequences of his action. She might then say ‘Don’t you like me?’, to provoke rational thinking. Mother would initiate such role plays from time to time, when the child is not angry, just in the form of training. For children (and adults too) it’s much easier to think rationally when they not angry. Practice makes it perfect, so with every little playful drama, with every role play and game, children become resilient and are able to remain cool-headed with the times get tough.
It seems that Inuit parenting style has a different paradigm when it comes to raising children. They never think that the child is vicious, hyper, naughty or bad. Rather they take full responsibility of the child’s upbringing and acknowledge, that it’s up to the parents to teach their kids’ self-awareness and self-control. They know that in times of emotional outburst and crisis, the most important thing is to keep the child involved. They would ask lots of questions or use their favorite toy to speak and ask questions, integrating elements of fun into the learning.
Is your parenting style close to the Inuit one? Or perhaps you feel like you should get the golden raspberry for the worst parent ever? Either way, there are a
5 tips on how to parent like Inuit below:
- Stay calm at all times – nothing good comes from yelling. You are just making your heart rate raise. When your child sees your anger as the first reaction to what they did, they don’t learn to not do it again. They just learn, that what they did creates anger. Count to ten and calm yourself down first.
- Explain the consequences – once you are calm, you are ready to explain the consequences of their actions to your child. Observing you, they will now learn to remain calm and rationally analyze the situation.
- Speak in positive language – positive reinforcement, acknowledging the good, that child is doing can quickly rip many benefits. It’s simple – notice and tell them about all the good things you see and they are more likely to do more of those. If you notice and speak only about negative…well, guess what happens?
- Use storytelling – you know your kids get excited about the cinderella, Mickey Mouse or Thomas the Tank Engine. Why don’t you use your imagination and create stories of your own, that help to emphasize the point you are trying to teach. You are more likely to get them to listen to you, while you speak to them in their language.
- Try the role-plays – It’s easier to translate the message when it comes from something known and liked. Don’t be shy to play a little drama. Become the Simba from Lion King, or a Bob the Builder and talk to your children about emotions. Isn’t that what Sesame Street was based on? If the big yellow bird could teach children letters, for sure you can do it too…and much more.
It’s not easy being a parent and yes, kids drive us crazy sometimes. More often than not, in the busy world we live in, we put too much attention on the wrongdoings and too little on the good things. We tend to notice the bad, without appreciating the good.
What if we swap this way of thinking and adjust to an Inuit parenting style. We become calmer and gentler towards each other, just like they are. In the end, we only want good things for our children and hope for them to grow up to a decent adult human beings. If a few lessons from the Inuit world might help with that, then so be it. There’s no risk in trying.