Raise your kids without anger– Inuit style

One of the most interesting things about being a parent is how you realize that your kids can make you angrier than anybody’s ever made you in your life.  Somehow few things in life are ever as infuriating as your own kids.  But, your the parent and you’ve got to control it.  Amazingly, the Inuit have a whole culture of parenting and raising children that largely avoids anger.  It’s pretty damn fascinating.  Really great NPR story on it:

Briggs quickly realized something remarkable was going on in these families: The adults had an extraordinary ability to control their anger.

“They never acted in anger toward me, although they were angry with me an awful lot,” Briggs told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview…

For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. “Too bad,” the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot.

In another instance, a fishing line — which had taken days to braid — immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. “Sew it together,” someone said quietly…

Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.

Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top.(They even have a special kiss for babies, where you put your nose against the cheek and sniff the skin.)

The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Even if the child hits you or bites you, there’s no raising your voice?

“No,” Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. “With little kids, you often think they’re pushing your buttons, but that’s not what’s going on. They’re upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is.”…

Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child, Briggs documented.

Elders I spoke with say intense colonization over the past century is damaging these traditions. And, so, the community is working hard to keep the parenting approach intact…

Now at some level, all moms and dads know they shouldn’t yell at kids. But if you don’t scold or talk in an angry tone, how do you discipline? How do you keep your 3-year-old from running into the road? Or punching her big brother?

For thousands of years, the Inuit have relied on an ancient tool with an ingenious twist: “We use storytelling to discipline,” Jaw says.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to Raise your kids without anger– Inuit style

  1. Mika says:

    This! ““When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.””

    Yes! And if you start shouting to your kid you’ll have to gradually shout louder and louder and finally you can’t shout as loud as would be needed for it to have some kind of effect and at some point you’ll also lose your voice if you don’t have a perfect shouting technique.

    Me and my spouse we decided that we don’t shout to our kid when she was born unless there is some sort of a emergency that we must warn her about. It has worked out pretty well. Sometimes we both have shouted at her but that’s extremely unusual. She doesn’t shout a lot to us either.

    Btw. I came to search your blog if there was something about research that supports the idea that children’s political activism have affect on their parents’ political attitudes and behavior. I have a faint recollection that I’ve come across something like that but I’m not sure. Parkland kids and more generally youth against guns movement?

    • Steve Greene says:

      I’ve gotten a lot better about not raising my voice, but, I could have definitely been a better parent in this regard.

      I don’t actually recall coming across any research on that– though that certainly is an interesting idea.

      • Mika says:

        A friend mine with his wife and three kids (15,13, 9) visited us last summer, stayed for a couple of nights. One evening we decided to go to movies. After fifteen minutes of back and forth what movie everyone wants to see I found myself shouting. I’m glad we only have one kid.

        You don’t recall any such research? Oh. Global climate strike? Found your article “The politics of parenthood in 2008” but that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Although it might have been just that article that I had in my mind 🙂

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