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How Inuit parents teach kids to control their anger (npr.org)
611 points by n_t 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 251 comments



I believe telling small children scary stories so they would refrain from doing something particular damaging is quite common among many cultures. Vietnamese in the old days for example were doing exactly the same. The problem is however that people can easily abuse this technique to manipulate children to get whatever they want. And when children once grow older or are particularly smart, they would mistrust it and everything adults had told them, clearly more damaging than beneficial. Ghosts story in one’s childhood was very common in Vietnam and no doubt they have contributed much to the widespread superstition and belief in supernatural things in Vietnam. Which is supposedly no problem for the Inuits but undeniably very problematic for any modern economy.

Using story telling and personification to teach children empathy is another common technique. In general I find them quite effective and would recommend them unconditionally if there is no problem with the time constraint modern life must be facing. In a culture where a time span of days have not much meaning, I guest all people can sit down, wait for the child to calm itself and then talk and tell stories to teach them. However it is sometimes almost impossible or at least very very hard to wait for a naughty, tantrum throwing child to calm itself down in a modern society. I think of the situation in a supermarket where a mother has to obey certain rules and at the same time has to finish the shopping to make supper on time or in a packed classroom where teachers has only 45 minutes to achieve something or on an airport/airplane.

Certainly, yelling at small children or even spanking them is not optimal and often not very helpful but anger is not the evil per se either. The key is to choose wisely how to act on this particular feeling. Suppressing or even disguising it under a friendly facade is not helpful, often even damaging for one’s mental health and relationships.


Tangentially related here, but I think it's another interesting dichotomy of children across cultures (and how parents deal with them).

I can't remember where from, but I heard a fascinating take on how countries in Europe, with predatory animals and other dangers outside the village, would cultivate myths of things like werewolves, vampires, and other beasts that would kill/maul/bite you. This prevented children from wandering too far.

Meanwhile, in Japan (where there's very few predators to be afraid of), the myths are much more wholesome [1]. There's spirits that wash beans, lick oil, follow you around, and so forth, but few/no myths of the dangerous creatures you'd find documented in Europe.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_legendary_creatures_fr...


Another counter-example to the claim that "there are few/no myths of dangerous (Japanese) creatures:

"Kappa have been used to warn children of the dangers lurking in rivers and lakes, as kappa have been often said to try to lure people to water and pull them in. Even today, signs warning about kappa appear by bodies of water in some Japanese towns and villages."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kappa_(folklore)


That still fits with the general theme though: myths are designed to warn children about danger - in this case, drowning.


In Japan you have Namahage in the north. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namahage And you have "oni" (demons) everywhere else in the folkore too (see Momotarou's story for example).

There are plenty of dangerous mythical characters too in Japan, ghosts, spirits and non-humans creatures, I am not sure where you got the idea that there's less than anywhere else in the world.


My favorite is the "akaname", a youkai that licks the filth of uncleaned bathrooms leaving the place clean. However its saliva is poisonous and so if you don't clean your bathroom properly, you can succumb to sickness.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akaname


Pagan Europe used to be more diverse before Christianity came over.

Just let's take Slavic folklore of Central/Eastern Europe with creatures like Baba Yaga (forest), Poludnitsa (summer fields, noon time heatstrokes), Rusalka (water), Vodnik (water) lot of fire and swamp daemons - everything which was considered harmful for kids.

These remains are still part of children education mostly with literature, rituals from pagan times and of course grand parents passing these stories.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_folklore


I wish American “scientists” stop misleading people. The amount of “scientific” nonsense I heard is stunning. Growing up in the culture, I do not recall a single story where Rusalka was threatening to humans. Rusalkas are beautiful young women with fishtails living in seas, lakes, etc. Vodyanoi, -not Vodnik -, a male creature living in swamps, may be. Though in a famous animated cartoon, Vodyanoi was a very kind creature dreaming about flying https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f3VxRhYbqiM. Baba Yaga, an old cranky woman, who lived in a forest in a house which stood on chicken feet, certainly. But in the same cartoon Baba Yaga was quite attractive too. In Russian mythology/ fairytales there have been a plenty of creatures to scary kids.


India has plenty of things roaming around that can kill you, but I don’t remember hearing an abundance of stories about vague spirits that can kill me. Tigers and leopards and snakes are scary enough on their own.


I remember a number of stories involving vague spirits. This was a long time ago, and I have forgotten quite a bit as I immigrated to the west when I was very young.. but at least one of them sticks with me:

It was a story about a demon that would hang in trees late at night, and if you were to walk under the tree the demon would drop down and latch onto your shoulders, and then eat you.

There was a mechanic in the mythology that involved telling stories with cliffhanger endings, or guessing the ending - the details are lost to me now.

All I know is that as a young child walking around at night, my pace would quicken when going under large trees. Those solemn rural nights, under the large jackfruit trees in the moonlight, the wind a steady whisper - you could almost get a glimpse of the demon's gleaming teeth in your mind's eye - inspiring a foreboding sort of solitude, a primal fear.

I do miss it at times.


See my dad just told me snakes and scorpions would fall out of the trees, and that they were particularly attracted to kids who were being naughty. . .


Have you seen the Japanese hell? http://matthewmeyer.net/blog/2014/03/02/jigoku-japanese-hell...

The Japanese have like a pantheon of oni, ayakashi, etc. A lot of old Japanese art is honestly pretty freaky - almost completely opposite to the cute style that permeates Japan's pop culture today.


Interesting idea, not sure whether there's any similar anthropology theory.


> Ghosts story in one’s childhood was very common in Vietnam and no doubt they have contributed much to the widespread superstition and belief in supernatural things in Vietnam.

It's not limited to Vietnam: 58% of Americans believe in Hell[1]. I'd call that widespread superstition.

[1] http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/belief-in-...


Hey, we're talking superstitions, not 100% true facts like the existence of Hell.

That said, I'm inclined to distrust Pew's evaluations on this matter, since so many of their surveys are done by phone, and the methodology seem almost certain to cause a disproportionate focus on those people who have a landline and are either without caller id or who just go ahead and answer calls from unknown callers. This was true just a year or two ago, and I'm not really inclined to re-evaluate their methodology. Actual numbers of church attendance don't seem to reflect the trends that Pew finds, and tend to point to even more dramatic declines in observance. Obviously this is biased towards larger cities, but so is the population density so it isn't a total illusion.


>It's not limited to Vietnam: 58% of Americans believe in Hell[1]. I'd call that widespread superstition.

The belief that shitty people will get what's coming to them through some external mechanism serves the useful function of allowing people to rationalize not engaging in settling scores and vigilante justice. I expect belief in the existence of hell to persist much longer than other "religious superstitions" (or whatever you want to call them).


> The belief that shitty people will get what's coming to them through some external mechanism serves the useful function of allowing people to rationalize not engaging in settling scores and vigilante justice.

I'd say it's a wash. Plenty of people who believe in hell do monstrous things, and plenty of people without this delusion behave as model citizens. Religious people constantly plead that without their belief system everyone would engage in wanton immorality, but this is just the self-reinforcing aspect of the meme.


> telling small children scary stories so they would refrain from doing something particular damaging is quite common among many cultures.

I mean https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damnation right?


I believe telling small children scary stories so they would refrain from doing something particular damaging is quite common among many cultures.

In Grant Morrison's seminal "Doom Patrol" run, he talks about fairy tales as a means of traumatizing children to prepare them for life.

And when children once grow older or are particularly smart, they would mistrust it and everything adults had told them, clearly more damaging than beneficial.

A lot of this has been lost in modern sanitized re-tellings, but lots of traditional culture is rife with double meanings and subtexts. (I was in a trad fusion band, and I remember the moment when our lead singer started to realize this. Much good-natured ribbing was to be had that day and days after.) My take is that the smart ones are meant to realize that these things aren't to be taken literally. Rather, they are meant as cautionary tales and as a sort of map to the maze of inner feelings and impulses within all human beings. [1]

There is a scene in Larry Niven's The Magic Goes Away where one wizard (Clubfoot) is talking about being one of many young apprentices taken up to a mountaintop by his master. The master wizard enchanted a cloud and let them play bouncing around on it, no warnings, no explanation given. Clubfoot speculated that it might be a sort of implicit test. Any apprentices stupid enough to go back up the mountain and try to jump on an unenchanted cloud would effectively take themselves out of the apprenticeship and the gene pool. This has a lot to do with how I think of traditional stories and myths.

Certainly, yelling at small children or even spanking them is not optimal and often not very helpful but anger is not the evil per se either. The key is to choose wisely how to act on this particular feeling. Suppressing or even disguising it under a friendly facade is not helpful, often even damaging for one’s mental health and relationships.

A lot of this has to do with the cultural environment. If a child is surrounded by people who implicitly enforce certain values and have a certain demeanor, the child will tend to pick that up. Inuit children are the way they are because they are in that particular culture. What US culture apparently does to children strikes me as horrifying. One thing I love my wife for, is that I can see that she's wonderfully nurturing, while I also very much see the "Tiger Mom" within her.

([1] Jordan Peterson's work in this regard is very interesting. Look up his take on Pinnochio.)


I think people forget that the human mind is not magic. It does not (easily) create information, and thus you cannot expect that to happen. But we do.

Why these stories (and the pebble technique from the article) work is that they enable kids to predict what the consequences of their actions will be. They can't do that without at least being told what they would be, and when they're violent, angry and panicking (ie. during violence) is not the best time to learn.

Violence is mostly the result of losing control. And most parenting strategies boil down to immediately using more and stronger violence to stop whatever behavior parents don't like. This, of course, prevents the kid from exploring that behavior, and of course teaches that an immediate escalation of the violence is the way to go (which is how you very often see kids behave to eachother). You should always let kids fight until one actually gets some small amount of actual physical damage (enough to, say, make them scream, at least), before interfering. If you have to interfere before this point (e.g. involving the eyes), you have to tell them not just not to do it, but what would have happened, and then answer their questions on it. These questions will be very cold and direct ("Why can't I poke out her eyes ? She stole my doll !") and that does NOT mean your kid is evil.

You might say "parents don't use violence". No ? Dragging kids physically away from whatever they're doing. Limiting them to their room. Going to bed without dinner. I'm not saying these are always bad things to do, far from it. In fact after doing what I suggest you do, I think dragging kids away is not necessary, but some measure of punishment should probably still be demanded, AFTER explaining the situation AND answering questions about it.

The problem with the western way of protecting kids before they get into trouble is that this escalation by parental violence (physically preventing the child from doing anything wrong and/or "evil") is that it doesn't work. Sometimes YOU are wrong. Believe it or not, it happens. Sometimes the teacher IS WRONG. Sometimes the police is outright evil (or at least morally questionable). Sometimes multiple parties may be wrong at which point "who's at fault" is probably a stupid question.

(e.g. kid lends toy to kid2, kid2 insults kid, kid demands toy back, a fight ensues, parent intervenes, kid still fights to get toy back, parent's hand hits the table, plates break and chair falls on kid2. Who's at fault ? Technically the insult, then not giving lended toy back, then trying to physically get the toy back and presumably the parent could have been more careful too. All participants are "at fault", BUT I guarantee you not all will be punished)

What you have taught the child is, in that case, to immediately escalate the violence. Guess what ? You're not going to like the result. And of course, this cannot be understood, and what do we do ? Escalate AGAIN.

If your kids fights you, fight back (MEASURED of course, I'm not saying knock them out). If you do this when they're 5 you can keep the fight perfectly under control and they will get the point: they shouldn't fight their parents because it's not an effective strategy to get what they want. Again, questions will probably follow, and they'll really learn something.

A kid should NEVER be taught to react violently to enforce some standard of "justice", but that's exactly what we do. And now you might argue, but justice exists, doesn't it ? One, there's the philosophical point that no, it doesn't. Two, you don't have the information to make correct judgements about what is just or not. And three, just or not, it is more important that the situation remains livable for everyone.


At what point do we say that modern society is the problem, and not the children's behavior?

Do we really want to teach people that their innate nature is wrong, and that exposing it will be met with anger and wrath, because it is more important to... keep on going in a rat race to pay rent to landlords and capital owners?


Yes, absolutely. Do you have kids? Their innate nature is not all cute. All (normal developing) kids at one time or another will hit and bite and lie. Kids are selfish. They have to be taught how to behave in any society, let alone modern society.

But even if it's true that modern society is at fault, you can't change that alone. Kids still have to be raised in a world that is not fair, it's judgemental and full of selfishness. Your kid still has to navigate that world and understand its rules, even if we might disagree with them.

I agree though that we should be a lot more tolerant of things like kids throwing tantrums in a grocery store. I've been through that, it's not fun. Thankfully, people understood what I was doing when I refused to react to my son's behavior. I got understanding nods instead of anger while he melted down on the floor.


I think people without kids romanticize children as these pristine entities, but the truth is they are ruled by fear and greed just like anybody else. The difference is they are generally ignorant of social norms, expectations of performance, and their own biases. It is exhausting raising kids, explaining every detail in a way that they will understand over and over again until they finally get it, sometimes taking years; teaching people how to actually fit into the norms our society sets takes a lot of work. Teachers deserve higher esteem as they do take a lot of this on... kids having peers helps.


Don’t disagree but would appreciate taking meltdowns outside.


Because I didn't react it lasted maybe 30 seconds, much quicker than dragging him out of the store screaming. Next time you see a meltdown, maybe understand that parent is not having a good time either.

But stopping that behavior quickly is why I have a very well behaved child in the grocery store now.


Why is one's innate nature right?


An excellent read, but my only doubt is whether this is effective because all your peers have been raised this way.

Ie - If someone raises his/her child like this in our western society it might be conflicting for the child to learn how to behave like this at home, and then spend the majority of their time at school where other children behave completely differently.

I certainly recall being raised to never answer back to your adults. And then I saw other kids answering back to their parents (and getting away with it) and then all that upbringing went out the window.


In my experience, you acquire (i.a.) your behaviors, your values, and in particular your coping mechanism to most degree from your parents (or whoever raised you).

Your peers never have enough lever on you. The way kids look up to and depend on the love of their main care-giver(s) is irreplaceable.

I'm not talking about superficial things, like swearing, walking, etc.

It is sometimes frightening to realize how much of you is "just acquired". The way you treat people, the way you react to situations, the way you talk to your loved ones when you're angry. Once you realize there would be other ways: shocking.


I once told my daughter that intelligent decisions in life are made by being dispassionate and using logic to reason the optimal course of action.

My wife then snorted and said "says who?". Parenting fail :(


I'm probably projecting my own experiences onto your wife, but I always get annoyed with people who hear something like "be dispassionate and try to be as logical as possible" and immediately discount it- primarily because I notice they've never tried it.

I used to make a lot of emotional decisions based on my gut feelings and intuition, and it took me a great deal of work to get over that and to start thinking about the "optimal course of action" whenever I had important decisions to make. My life has drastically improved, and all of my relationships are more stable and my goals have proved to be more attainable.

But when I try to preach this to people, a lot of them give the same reaction your wife did- and I get annoyed, because I observe them constantly having their feelings hurt, getting frustrated, missing their goals, and feeling stressed out, because they're operating off of anything but "optimal course of action reasoning".


I think the reason why this type of attitude gets mocked is that it seems robotic and condescending to emotion, as if emotion is not a real, legitimate source of information. It shouldn't be the only source of information (and maybe that's what you're getting at). But the idea that once emotion enters the picture, the discussion is no longer "rational" is stupid to me. Maybe that is a straw man.


Well, I think that emotion isn't really a legitimate source of information, primarily because it's so subjective. How many relationships dissolve because one party is connecting their experience of an emotion to the actions of the other party, but it's all a complete misunderstanding?

Emotion serves as an indicator, but not as justifiable evidence or information. I still get angry, fearful, heartbroken, elated, etc. but I now spend a great deal of energy trying to make sure that I don't attach my experience of an emotion to a belief that the emotion gives me real, trustworthy information about the true state of the world.

I thought a great deal about this while I was reading "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, which I highly recommend.


I don't see why we should go from "emotion shouldn't be considered an infallible source of info about the world outside our consciousness", to "emotion isn't a legitimate source of information." There are many situations in life that aren't accessible by pure reason, such as basically all aspects of social life.


Yeah. It's just another tool. Emotion works quickly over large and/or vague sources of information using heuristics. Sometimes this is useful, and sometimes it isn't.


Some emotion is a tool for sensing the world, but other emotion is the process of our actual being. It is truth in itself. If something makes me feel bad, that's a fact. Maybe it can change, maybe it can't. It's not a heuristic, it's not judging or discerning anything, it just is in itself the essence and existence of my being.


isn't emotion basically system1 in thinking fast and slow? optimized for making snap decisions yes but far from being an illegitimate source of information. there are a lot of examples where system1 gives you the wrong answer, but IIRC there are also plenty of examples where system1 is exactly right especially when there is time pressure. the book "Blink" is basically its antithesis offering examples where trusting system1 leads to better outcomes than overthinking it with system2.


Emotion is not a real legitimate source of information, it's an inspiration to tell the brain to pay more attention to something and then work it out logically (like when you have a bad feeling about something), but to make any non trivial decision entirely out of emotion is simply foolish.


Emotion is not a real legitimate source of information, it's an inspiration to tell the brain to pay more attention to something and then work it out logically

Technically that is information! Like, what if instead of feelings, there was this little light and slot on your chest, and at the appropriate time, the light would flash and a little slip of paper came out saying, "It's time to pay more attention to something and then work it out logically!" Wouldn't that be information?

About this I'm right. Technically right. The best kind of right! (Irony left to he reader. Please interpret in the cheeriest possible fashion.)


I specifically did not advocate making decisions entirely out of emotion


Very recognizable. Still, I think the annoyed reactions have more to do with people in general not liking being preached to. In my experience many people take offence with advice. They want to find out for themselves, even if that means getting hurt in the process.

Point in case, I have a floundering friend who won't take business advice from me or that of a mutual friend of ours, despite the fact that we both founded and operated successful businesses. Frustrating.


That's a good point. Considering I only really ever bring this topic up when there's something to get emotional about, it probably comes off as maddeningly condescending.


I once told my daughter that intelligent decisions in life are made by being dispassionate and using logic to reason the optimal course of action.

My wife then snorted and said "says who?". Parenting fail :(

Not necessarily. I think that little story is very instructive. A smart child could well synthesize it thus: There is value in intelligent decisions made by dispassionate logic. Not everyone is going to recognize it, though.

Reality is difficult and messy. If we smart people are truly the smart people, then it behooves us to deal with it gracefully and win. If we end up just railing against the unfairness of the universe and all of the idiots around us, what does that really say?

One of my friends once made this observation about Ward Cunningham. He was convinced Ward was one of the smartest men alive, because he came to realize that Ward always managed to learn something, no matter how smart or how stupid the people were he was interacting with.


"I once told my daughter that intelligent decisions in life are made by being dispassionate and using logic to reason the optimal course of action"

This is the 'most HN' comment of the day.

Maybe someone should start collecting these gems.

On a serious note - I think this is inherently about managing emotions, responses, triggers etc. 'in the moment'. It's ultimately a social issue, not one which can be driven with data as we would like.


On a serious note - I think this is inherently about managing emotions, responses, triggers etc. 'in the moment'. It's ultimately a social issue, not one which can be driven with data as we would like.

It's driven by data which was processed by our ancestors, even before they were fully sentient. There's no sense in not considering that "data as we would like." It's as much a part of us as anything else.


I once told my daughter that "everything bad that has happened to you in your life is your fault". She ran away crying.

I meant this in the context of things not being inherently good or bad, its all your perspective, which is under your control.

I was trying to distill everything I have learned from meditation, Buddhism, stoicism... but I'm not great at communicating, and even if I was she isn't ready for some of the concepts.


I once told my daughter that "everything bad that has happened to you in your life is your fault". She ran away crying.

On one hand, that's a general truism. On the other hand, if she's young enough, it's not that much her fault yet, and the injustice of it might be a little much so soon. On the gripping hand, it's good she ran away crying. It indicates she really understands the magnitude of the situation.

I was trying to distill everything I have learned from meditation, Buddhism, stoicism... but I'm not great at communicating, and even if I was she isn't ready for some of the concepts.

This was one of those times when you should show, not tell.


> by being dispassionate and using logic to reason the optimal course of action.

Even with all the logic in the world, it is very hard for most people to overcome their own biases (because they are not always obvious to oneself). So, not sure if it's a good rule to set.


Agreed. The most charitable view of the GP’s definition, is that few decisions are “intelligent”. In a less charitable view, it’s equating rationalizing with being rational.

His wife had a duty as a parent to call BS.


This is probably the entire crux of their parenting style. Kids take social cues from their peers, not their parents.


> Kids take social cues from their peers, not their parents

Which makes our current system of isolating children by age group and then leaving them virtually un-attended look somewhat insane.


I've been amazed at how well my kids' teachers establish social norms in their classrooms, early in the school year. A single adult can be very effective at establishing an environment that promotes positive social interaction and behavior.


It takes a heroic person to achieve that in such an unnatural environment as a single-age classroom.


I am not sure if this isolated anecdata or not, but I watched my daughter absolutely flourish when we put her in daycare. She barely could sit up on her own when we put her in. There were some "older kids" in the class that could stand and move around while holding on to the rail. By the next week or two, she was sitting up, and attempting to stand by pulling her self up. I am convinced it is because she watched the other little ones doing it constantly. If she stayed home all day with us, I am not sure where she would have learned this from.


My boy just started spending some time with the older group in the last two weeks so the actual group change in a week is not too brutal.

He went from being a bit lazy and not really trying to walk (he did stand up by holding on to things, and shuffled sideways) nor really say actual words, to trying to say a couple new words, standing up in place and trotting around the house all the time.

I did 2 years in elementary teaching back in uni, one thing that stuck to my mind is that imitation is one of the main learning strategies in childhood, up to high school age where discovering their own individuality takes over a bit.


I can assure you, should your baby daughter have stayed to grow at home, you'd have seen this same development. It comes from a natural drive to explore that all babies have. It's a constant adaptation to the environment, to parents, to new body, new everything.

As for the daycare factor, you could sure think of an equivalent 'beam' in your home. That could've been a chair, a something 'interesting' higher up, say, mommy's voice coming from above - anything!

Babies find the ways. Unless the home environment is devoid of attractions and baby is confined to safety of an infinite carpeted floor surrounded by soundproof glass. That's a sci-fi kind.


True, however it’s likely that exposure to older children helped accelerate things a bit, through imitation.


>Kids take social cues from their peers, not their parents

How do you figure? Maybe it depends on the person but every interaction I have and have had with people has been framed by the lens of my relationships with family, not my peers.


I don't have all the cites handy, but I highly recommend the book NurtureShock. It's evidence-based parenting. Twin studies and adoption studies show that children's personalities are about 50% genetic and 50% from peers. Adopted children reflect very little of their parents' personalities.


It's both, and more.


Kids do take social cues from their parents.


In my experience (anecdata abounds in this thread :P ), everyone here is right! Kids act like their friends in school, and then once in adulthood become more like their parents than they often would like to admit ... so the stuff you teach them as you raise them gets embedded deep, and resurfaces later on (arguably when it really matters ... school is so short in the grand timescale)


Also age is a big factor, grade 2 is a lot different than 4, when kids start to be focused on being cool. My kid complained about this specifically, because it was less fun.


It doesn't matter what they do. It matters what you do.


In order for them to appreciate what you do, you need to explain to them WHY you do what you do.


Why do you need them to appreciate what you do?


I've been to Sri Lanka recently where 70 % of the people are Buddhists. It's a beautiful island, the people are very calm and nice to each other and to Tourists, it was a pleasure to travel around. It's a very safe place, crime and stealing is almost nonexistent. Disagreements are solved in a quite calm way.

And then I got aware that it has one of the highest suicide rates worldwide. How comes? One issue might be that Sri Lankans do not talk about their feelings. The civil war ended 10 years ago, not talking about what happened very likely has bad effects on mental health. Another issue could be that hiding aggression might not be healthy either. Studies show that hiding aggression is one possible cause for depressions, which might depend on the society you are living in. (I didn't read those studies but heard them from multiple reliable sources) Being aggressive doesn't mean starting to hit somebody, it can be raising your voice and get your opinion across very clearly. I'm not sure whether a calm and self-controlled Inuit child would have an easy time in a western Kindergarten, school, or workplace.


Sri Lankan here. This is absolutely not true:

the people are very calm and nice to each other and to Tourists, it was a pleasure to travel around. It's a very safe place, crime and stealing is almost nonexistent. Disagreements are solved in a quite calm way.

You may have seen a tourist's version of the island, and have been fortunate enough to not encounter violence or theft. Both are very common. People are very quick to anger on the road. Theft and flouting rules are common. Don't get me wrong, we have many good qualities (for example, we're known for being helpful and hospitable), but calmness is not one of them!


I saw this TED talk by a Rwandan official. He was talking about the western counselors who came to help after the tragic events there. He said something along the lines of: These westerners came and made victims sit alone in cold rooms with them and talk about nothing but the bad things that happened to them -- instead of taking them into the sunlight, being among people, music and happiness. They were horrible, and he had to get rid of them.

I don't think anyone knows everything there is to know about being human. Who does? People often act as if they know everything or at least know better, even when they shouldn't.


Modern Western society, especially American society, seems to put all its attention on the subset of people who have difficulty coping with tragedy. It makes sense that that's where attention will shift as a society becomes prosperous and safe. You can finally begin to optimize on the 10% problems.

But most people have okay coping skills as tragedy was common place for hundreds of thousands of years. Using the same strategies can re-victimize them. Think of PTSD. The problem with PTSD is an inability of the mind to let go--a person is always reliving the moment in terms of stressfulness, if not literal imagery and thoughts. Forcing someone to sit in a room and discuss a tragic experience whose memory of the experience has already, naturally begun to fade into the background is its own tragedy.

That's my $0.02. Maybe I'm just naive.


Interesting, but aren’t these groups meant primarily for folks who haven’t moved on yet?


Maybe I'm just naive.

Welcome to the human condition!


That's interesting.

In the list of intentional homicides Sri Lanka indeed ranks higher than I expected, rank 132 of 230: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...

About being calm: I agree about the anger on roads. Except for that my impression was a calm and peaceful one -- maybe what you encounter as violent is still OK from my culturally distinct perspective? Do you think there are many 'fights'/arguments where people are shouting in the public, or would such a thing happen at home?

And what is your opinion about the high suicide rate?


You've been quite fortunate. Perhaps you picked the best places and the best times to travel. During rush hour, most people in Colombo are on a hair trigger -- all it takes is a small incident to start a shouting match. In contrast, I recently traveled to Texas, and found Texans to be incredibly chilled out and friendly by comparison. Perhaps it is a cultural perspective.

There are many fights and tense situations, but more in places like inner city Colombo than in Kandy or Galle.

RE: suicide: hard to say. Our alcohol consumption and suicide stats are both extremely high. But even after living here all my life, it's hard to pin down a theory about why this is. My personal belief is that the average Sri Lankan's belief in Karma and astrological fate results in a defeatist attitude. We often hear the phrase "I/he/she probably did something in a past life to deserve this" in reference to tragedy, hardship or misfortune.


Your premise is mistaken. Sri Lanka's murder rate is lower than that in the US, but that doesn't make it low by international standards. I doubt that Buddhism has much to do with it. For example, both Israel and Jordan have much lower murder rates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...


Parent post is talking about suicide rate, not murder rate. Unless the original post mixed it up and later corrected it.


The premise is that Sri Lanka has unusually low crime and unusually high suicide, and the following argument is trying to explain that. But judged by murder rate (the most consistent crime stat), Sri Lanka doesn't have unusually low crime.


I have several friends that work as psychologist, and the consensus seems to be that while it is unhealthy to not express anger in any way, it is neither a good thing to give in to anger. That is, if someones behaviour is provoking you, it would be good to air your troubles somehow. If you cant talk to the person in question, perhaps talk about it with your friends. But it would not be helpful to pick a fight or scream. Giving in to anger usually leads to more anger.


> ... consensus seems to be that while it is unhealthy to not express anger in any way, it is neither a good thing to give in to anger.

As far as I understand, the best way to deal with anger is never to act on it and distract yourself till it passes.

The thing people talk about as suppressing anger is not actually suppressing. It's more like polishing it, sharpening, watering like a plant, fanning like a flame so it's ready for the time you will act on it. And that's definitely not healthy.

Acting on anger to provide outlet is also bad because it increases probability of getting angry and acting angry in the future.

The best way is actually suppressing anger. Observing, I'm angry. Deciding I'm never gonna act on this anger. So there's no point of holding onto it. Let's do something else till it extinguishes.


Suppressing anger leads to mental health issues. What you're describing isn't suppression (lying to yourself that you're not angry, or ignoring your feelings) - it's a healthy way to deal with it. Suppression is bad for your mental health, but acting impulsively on anger is bad for your social and probably physical wellbeing. What you need to do is feel the anger, acknowledge it, maybe talk it through with the appropriate person. Distracting yourself from it is also known as "bottling up your feelings" and it's a well known cause of problems.


That's not bottling. You just don't pay attention to it and then you forget about what you were angry and forget you even were angry.

You need to acknowledge to yourself that you are angry but only for the purpose of making a decission not to act on it and possibly postpone actions that you being angry might influence adversely.

Talking it through will only increase likelyhood that the memory of being angry will stick with you.

Bottling up your feelings is the other thing I describe where you keep your anger instead of letting it dissolve.


I have found that understanding often diffuses anger.

For example, if you are dangerously cut off by someone on the highway and you speed ahead to yell at them, your blood is boiling with the expectation of a confrontation... until you stop at the next light and realize the person is having a seizure and actually needs help! In that moment your new understanding of the situation melts your anger away very very effectively.

In general, if you practice and train your mind to seek understanding of the circumstances surrounding the behavior that's making you angry, your anger will melt.


I occasionally get angry at people doing unpredictable or frightening things on the road but I'm rarely blessed with understanding.

What I do is I try to keep myself from building larger narrative around it with malicious reckless idiot drivers as the villains.

Then each instance of anger lingers usually for roughly a day and then gets forgotten.


Psychologist here. Anger and optimal responses to it is a complicated issue. There is research (involving randomized controlled designs) suggesting that approaches to anger where you "act it out" can actually fuel the fire, like you're suggesting.

However, it's complicated because these studies generally focus on length of emotional response rather than complex, downstream effects. That is, they assume that the goal is to stop anger state; by that assumption, it's better to adopt a sort of distress tolerance approach than to act on it. But what about long-term effects on relationships and communication? Where does one draw the line? Stonewalling and cutting off communication is a strong predictor of relationship dissolution for example, even relative to intense expressive patterns. So if your response is to always approach your anger robotically and to shut it down, does it then lead to passive aggressive responses, which can be even worse?

There's also an important distinction between anger and aggression, which are different and have different associations empirically, even though people tend to conflate the two. This isn't unreasonable, because I'm not sure at what point you draw the line.

As a parent of a toddler, this article had me thinking a lot, and I'm not sure what I think. Lying to your child, for example, is manipulative. Is it better to express your anger or to lie to them and tell them a monster will bite off their fingers? Of course a child who's cognitively not developed enough to understand will become terrified, because they believe it. But is living in real fear of a disfiguring monster over a minor transgression really less aggressive than simply visibly expressing anger? Or is it just a manipulative aggressive response on the part of the parent?

I really don't know the answers to these types of questions. I wish I did.


At least in the U.S. culturally I think we still have a long way to go when it comes to having what some have termed 'difficult conversations'[0]. In essence, confronting people with their behavior but in a way that's respectful and focused on the impact it has on the recipient (me) as opposed to the aggressor. Sure, it may not change their behavior, but processing the experience and the associated emotions - at least in my experience - is more effective than not dealing with them at all.

[0]There's a good book on this subject called "Difficult Conversations": https://www.amazon.com/Difficult-Conversations-Discuss-What-...


Anger is chemical and not psychological and will pass. See Sapolsky's discussion of the Limbic system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAOnSbDSaOw

When I am angry I am self aware enough to wait until the chemicals are gone in order to discuss things. I don't think this is unhealthy in any way. In fact, I usually don't like the feeling of anger and look forward with happiness to the calm that will follow. It is interesting that the original source of anger becomes resolved once the chemicals are gone. I found it interesting that the Inuits do the same thing.


I might not be able to explain properly but I think there is difference in suppressing anger and not getting angry at all. I agree with what you say about suppression but what if that emotion of anger didn't germinate at all? Latter is what this article is referring to. However, you do bring up nice point and it has expanded my understanding too.


Yeah, Sri Lanka for me personally is a sobering reminder that even culture/philosophy considered very peaceful can engage in worst atrocities when pushed enough. People are just people at their core, far from flawless we all crave to be.

You can't see it as a tourist there (at least I couldn't, but I didn't travel to north where most bad stuff happened). But generally this ancient mindset of 'not losing the face' can only lead to misery and desperation down the path, no matter the location. It seems its slowly dying which should be a net gain for societies still harboring it


"Yeah, Sri Lanka for me personally is a sobering reminder that even culture/philosophy considered very peaceful can engage in worst atrocities when pushed enough"

Same for Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge.


There is also a lot of poverty. And your experience as a tourist does not match mine - Sri Lanka is one of the few places to which I have vowed never to return, specifically because of the pointing, laughing, photo-taking, catcalling, touching etc. my blonde partner had to endure (and this whilst being respectfully dressed with her hair mostly covered), not to mention physical pushing and shoving from locals at tourist sites.


> Studies show that hiding aggression is one possible cause for depressions

Definetly the case for me. I was always proud of my kindness to others and almost complete inability to act in aggressive way — right until I finally went into therapy because of depression-like symptoms (I was never diagnosed with full-on clinical depression, so I abstain from using this term). Turns out, stopping your impulses because of your desire to be "nice" and please everyone around you is NOT the most emotionally healthy thing you could do! It's certainly good for others, but not for yourself.

So, now, in therapy, I re-learn exactly the things that these inuit children learn to avoid. At 30, I train to act out, to raise my voice, to listen to my emotions of anger and frustration and giving them a legitimate outlet, instead of pushing them down and letting them rot somewhere inside (often breaking out in awful passive-agressive ways that I don't even notice).


> So, now, in therapy, I re-learn exactly the things that these inuit children learn to avoid.

I don't think you're learning to express your anger the way a 2 year old impulsively would.


Highest suicide rate per "group" in my country is for "young females or a specific religious denomination". I wonder if the high suicide rate in Lanka can also be isolated to some sub group, that usually help in trying to figure out the cause.

In case of the afore mentioned group of girls: they have a lot of pressure on them from family (basically to be "perfect" for some often arranged'ish marriage).


I think it's worth stating that learning to control your emotions is not synonymous with learning to suppress your emotions. The first involves acknowledging the emotion and expressing/discussing it or it's cause if it is warranted the second approach simply ignores both symptom and cause regardless of validity.


Not to sound insensitive but this sounds like a good trade off. If for say in the US there were no crime, everyone got along, no major arguments... but in turn the suicide rate went up 50% (10 to 15 per 100,000) I wouldn't see this as a net negative.


The suicide rate of Sri Lanka is roughly the same as the one of United States. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide...


> It's a very safe place, crime and stealing is almost nonexistent.

It’s comparable to Russia in crime statistics. It’s not exactly great, but not bad either. I think almost the entire norther Europe are far superior to Sri Lanka. But I guess it is much better than most of India.


Buddhist believe in reincarnation. So they have already less death aversion than westerners. Maybe that accounts for part of the suicide rate.


Suicide is a big sin in Buddhism and will give you a bad rebirth. I wonder if it's the trauma from the civil war.


Trauma from the civil war sounds much more plausible than Buddhism or emotional restraint. Twenty-five years of war is bound to leave a generous portion of the population with PTSD and grief of loss. People suffering from PTSD or grief tend to have higher suicide rates in other countries.


We should also keep in mind that "Buddhist countries" probably are as Buddhist as "Christian countries" are Christian which is not much.


>bad rebirth

Carl Sagan Dragon fallacy (1) reincarnation may be as real as not existing. Buddhism was mainly a way to solve India caste problem.

(1) Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World


This is reductive and uninformed.


please link the sources you are talking about!


This kind of article is inspiring, but also makes me depressed at what a shit parent I must be and all the various ways I'm screwing up with my kids head, despite trying my best, out of my own imperfections and ignorance.

Scary.


The joy of parenting is that we get to learn from the mistakes our parents made with us, while dreaming up ingenious new ways to screw our own kids up.

The key is just to try and do the best you can. Try not to worry too much about what other people are doing.

Your parents were likely just as imperfect and ignorant as you are, albeit in their own ways. If they were able to get you to a point where you've got these kinds of concerns doing it yourself, you've probably turned out ok, and your kids will too.


As Larkin put it (although I disagree with his conclusion):

They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself.


I'm not sure he did either really


I have a 3yo myself and I think it's all a trade-off, there's no such thing as perfect parenting. Old cultures tend to land in a local optimum.

That being said I'd consciously not move to an average US town as I think there's too much fear spread, it doesn't fit my own culture of giving children space/responsibility as early as possible. Depending on community reaction that can be impossible - not just in many parts of the US but also in Southern Europe for example. There tends to be much more support from the wider family there however.

Another local optimum I've seen in Japan where almost everyone is incredibly well behaved but almost no-one learns to think outside the box. Eh. I say choose what you think works and try to choose a community supporting it, within the options you have.


Japan went from WWII decimation to an economic powerhouse, led the video game industry, invented the best cars in some major categories, all in a small island country. I'd say they do a decent job of "thinking outside the box".

What's "locally" and not globally optimal about working together as a group vs everyone going their own way? The answer isn't obvious, and ultimately it's probably impossible to compare; we can't run A/B tests on planets.


I think the key might be two things

1. almost everyone doesn't think outside the box -> if just a couple of people do it, there can be big breakthroughs once the group has been convinced, because then suddenly everyone pulls on the same string.

2. post WW2 Japan was a different beast from what it is now. I generally find there's quite a generational difference between people growing up after the war and 20-somethings now. not unlike the US, but for different reasons and more intense, they had to rebuild a whole country.


Can you elaborate on the US fear spreading and not giving children space?


I think (s)/he's talking about the severe restrictions on movement that US kids are subjected to nowadays, stirred by unsupported fears of pedophiles, child-killers, and in general, the idea that there is a malevolent man with an axe hiding behind every tree in the forest.

Contrast my experience nearly 60 years ago in a small US town of ~35,000:

Once I had a bicycle I had almost complete freedom of movement. My buddy and I would cycle everywhere we could within about a 20-mile radius, out into the countryside, to the rivers and into the downtown urban area on our own. We also had large forests nearby and would wander afoot into those forests and stay out for half a day with no worry by us or our parents. To get to certain woods, we might have to cross private property and go through wooden fences that some owners had erected, but there was almost always a loose piece of fence "left unrepaired" to pass through (if not, then we climbed over the top). We were good Boy Scouts and always left things as good or better than we found them, and no one ever stopped us or threatened us.

Except other kids! In forests other groups of children sometimes might view us as hostile, perhaps to protect a "fort" (essentially a foxhole and a dirt pile) they had built out in the woods or who felt this was "their territory", and who might rain down clods of dirt upon us with little warning. We would parlay around it and if that didn't work, we were both pretty accurate with dirt clods ourselves and learned to keep moving so as to be difficult targets.

Today I get the impression most US-raised children are restricted to the house, the back yard (even the front yard is too dangerous) and adult-accompanied trips. So sad.


Well, there's the fact that laws like this actually have to be created:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/well/family/utah-passes-f...


That's exactly it. Other examples are parents depending on state get fined/threatened to loose their children when doing things like letting them walk across a park accompanied by a 10yo sibling.

Just to give an idea where I'm from:

* in my home country (one of the highest GDP/capita, so we're not talking poor&rural), children are walking alone or in unaccompanied groups to kindergarden at age 5-6. if parents try and drive them they're often scolded by school authorities, they're supposed to handle it by themselves.

* in Japan (just another example that I know well), children walk to school at age 5-6, accompanied by a 1-3 year older sempai that explicitely takes over the responsibility for younger colleagues. There's also people taking the responsibility for a given street corner at a defined time in the morning, watching out for the youngins a bit (but it's not necessarily their own). Again, people who drive their own are typically scolded by society.

* after school, children in both countries typically go do other activities on their own, like go to football club or in case of Japan do some school club activity. Curfew time is typically before dark or around 5-6pm.

* from time to time there tends to be an accident or case of violence/murder against children that might have been avoided without this culture of letting them run. people are outraged against the person who did it, but culture of self responsibility is not questioned and life goes on. risk is typically 1/1 million or lower (relatively safe drivers, low levels of violence).


It sounds like it’s more about urban vs suburban and rurual areas. I walked to school for 3 years because the school was close. I’m certain other kids in the suburbs don’t have a bus as an option if they live in a certain range. The school closest to my house is over 3 miles away and some parts do not have a sidewalk. When I lived near public transport I saw plenty of kids riding to private schools. Now that I’m in the suburbs it’s not possible.

No one is scared to let their children out because of violence or murder. That’s silly news media fear mongering unless you live in a bad area.

How close is the kindergarten to your house?


when I was a kid, around 30min for children's feet, besides a more or less residential road. where we live now, it's right beside our apartment building, no road crossings necessary. but even in more rural places in my country, children generally walk (or take the bycicle around age 9).


I suspect it's the fact that "free-range parenting" is "a thing" rather than the default.


While there's some psychology (parental fear of abduction by strangers), there are also significant environmental problems at play in the US that don't exist elsewhere:

1. Kids are more spread out. A suburban neighborhood is huge and fewer people are having kids. The people that have kids will have fewer of them. For kids to coagulate together for playtime, you need higher density.

2. American roads are fucking deadly. Bigger cars at faster speeds with ever less attentive drivers. Cars are by far the number one killer of children and American voters do fuck all to fix it. If we banned all cars, I'd probably let my 2 year old mostly wander around by himself until dinner.

3. Dual working parents plus shitty workplace policies mean there are just fewer eyes out there. Even in the old days, "Free Range" didn't mean Lord of the Flies. It meant the kids roamed around but there was always an adult nearby, even if not in any official capacity.

A combination of 1, 2, and 3 makes for American parents structuring a kids' life around schleping them to various scheduled events and places. Even when a kid gets older, they've never developed the habits to do it for themselves.


Let me be clear - I'm not blaming American parents at all for this - as you point out it's a result of culture (although I'd say it worked 30y ago as well and you also had cars there). The thing is just if I can choose (and I can), I'd not move there with children.


A woman was arrested for letting her nine year old play in a public park alone.

Kids nowadays wait for the school bus with their parents, usually in their parents cars.


For me, screwing up, admitting it and saying sorry is one of the best things you can do for your kids. Teaches them they don’t have to be perfect.


I go out of my way to tell my child when I don't know something or was wrong. Then I go out of my way to show them how I learn that fact or right the wrong, if I can. They learn very quickly and deeply by following your example.


This lead to a whole year of every car ride starting with, "Daddy, are you sure you know where you're going?". Kids also have a way of reminding you of every failure you ever made and never letting you live it down.


If you have a sense of humor, that's fine. They aren't trying to hurt you; they are trying to understand the world and contribute to it and be important. These are all good things. And kids get obsessive about their fad hobbies, but it passes. If they are spending too much of their energy on easy problems, give them harder problems. Like another commenter said, give them the map and ask them to tell you where to go.


My youngest of 3 is now 32 years old. I've recently been thinking about the oft heard "I'm always amazed by the things my grown children remember and the things they don't". I've been trying to discover why they remember things I've forgotten, why that moment was so important to their young lives. We've started to talk about it, trying to find the base so they can use the lesson in their own child rearing.


My response to this question or to "Are we there yet?" has always been, "Yep, we've arrived! Hop out!"

Best delivered while the car is still at speed for maximum frustration. (Also best when the mood is already light.)


"here's the map, check for yourself"


I totally agree, it's hard to do in the moment but really allows you to connect with your child once you have time to reflect. For anyone looking for parenting inspiration and wisdom I really enjoyed watching this (long) interview with author and therapist Philippa Perry (starts about 8 minutes in) : https://youtu.be/UuQsIxS6UiI


I still remember, my mom hit me exactly once, and then apologized. That was very powerful.


There are lots of good child psychology books out there. Pick one up. "Non-violent Communication" helped me a lot. It will simplify the issues. It's not about blaming the kid or blaming yourself, but learning ways to shift focus away from blame/judgement to needs.

Small changes in the way you use language help make such mental shifts possible. The positive outcomes make you want to do them more and more. I wish I had learnt this stuff at a younger age though.

My wife constantly reminds me that what I learnt from how to deal with my kid, has made me deal with adults way better. So there is that advantage too :)


Parenting is also dependent on the environment and your culture (you as both parents). Western city culture tend to breed impatience, which helps a lot with being punctual, but screw up a lot with how we interact with people (including our kids).

I tend to think that as long as I can say to my kid that I am honestly proud of them, I know me and my partner haven't screwed up.


The bit about punctuality is really important. My eldest is 4.5yo, he only has a rough idea of time, and is only just understanding the idea of needing to be somewhere at a set time. So me getting frustrated with him because he's dawdling, isn't helping anyone and just brews up a conflict that he doesn't really understand. You literally end up arguing with someone who doens't understand why you are annoyed.


How do you even have the energy and patience to do these things. After a day's work, if my kids hit each other I just couldn't act all calm and put on these kinds of little plays described in the article. Before learning to raise kids I'd have to learn to control myself much better first.


So I've come to realised a few of things that have made things easier for me.

First up, just accepting that I'm not not going to be perfect and there are going to be times when I take the easy way out (like this morning when I just stuck the TV on for them while I got things done). No one is perfect and most kids do fine. Expecting to be perfect is like people who crash out of a diet after one day where they fail to stick to it. Be kind to yourself. Do what you can when you can. Sometimes I will have the time and energy to go all deep and meaningful with my kids, and sometimes it's just a quick "stop hitting your sister or I'm selling your trainset".

Secondly, when I do make the most of the good times, it tends to pay off later. It's like taking the hit when we did sleep training with my youngest. It was hard work for a couple of days, but the end result was totally worth it. Same goes for stuff like this, sometimes you just get a breakthrough when the kid "gets it" and from then on they are just a little easier.

Finally, sometimes I'm going to be grumpy, stressed or tired (probably at the same time), and I'm going to snap, or lose my temper a bit from time to time, like most normal people. But I then make a point of saying "I'm sorry I didn't mean to snap at you, I'm just very tired/stressed". I've found my 4yo is pretty receptive to that, he gets it. It's good for kids to see you owning up to your own mistakes and understanding why. Recognising you've done something wrong, owning it, and apologising is a really important skill for kids. So much of the crap in the world is caused by people just not being prepared to accept when they are wrong and owning their mistakes and failures, but doubling down and digging in.

In short, don't take all these "perfect partent" stories too much to heart, most of them make them seem more straight-forward and perfect than they really are (and there is a smell of "look at the mystical native" about a lot of them that I think clouds the narative). But there are often good things to learn from them. Every kid is different so having a wider set of ideas to try is always great.


I agree completely. For me part of the issue is that getting angry (or pretending to) does work at certain ages! Right now my 6 and 3 year old sleep in a bunk bed. The 3 year old lately has been prodding the 6 year old when they are supposed to be falling asleep. I could come in and act out a play or be nice for an hour until he falls asleep out of exhaustion or I could come in with a stern voice and a touch of a yell and he gets upset for a few seconds but then goes to sleep.

Parenting is always a series of trade offs. On one hand maybe I am not teaching him how to self regulate and go to sleep. On the other he gets an extra hour of sleep. The reality is there is probably a better solution that I haven’t thought of but there is only so much time to research and explore each little issue that comes along!


Hah, yeah, we get the same sort of thing occasionally. Our 4.5 and (almost) 2yo are in a bunk bed. Sometimes my son (4) will just repeatedly come up with dumb reasons why he shouldn't be in bed. You can handle each on of these, but at some point a straight up and and firm "No. It's bed time." in my "I'm getting annoyed" voice is what works. Sometimes that means I have to stand outside their door for half an hour and keep putting them back to bed until they get the hint, but if you generally only have to do it a couple of times before they get the hint.

I only recently figured out how to phrase it, you can be "firm" without being "strict". You don't have to be a shouty monster to have limits, boundaries or firm ideas over what is acceptable behaviour. Kids seem to like consistency, they like knowing what's what, that doesn't mean you have to be horrible about it.

We're all making this stuff up as we go along, and every child and situation is different though, so you've got to go with what works for your kids.


>After a day's work, if my kids hit each other I just couldn't act all calm and put on these kinds of little plays described in the article.

My practice is to reflect on when things like this happen. We have one 3yo son but issues do arise where we get upset, and reflecting on them and preparing myself for the next time helps me address what he needs to not do whatever it is that upset me, and for me to not get upset which makes him upset.

I guess it's not so strange now but when I started parenting I figured my parents' approach would be best, like expecting kids to do their work because it's basically their job.

What I didn't expect is how powerful the word "please" is.

Seriously, I'd been trying to get him to do small tasks when he was about two and understanding us, but wouldn't ever, EVER do it. I'd talked with a teacher who mentioned her class listens to her because she asks them politely and other teachers who don't have unruly classes. And so I finally caved and said "...can you please put your dishes in the sink?"

The difference was night and day. Immediately, he picked up his dishes and put them in the sink. Since then, I think we've done an OK job of inviting him to be involved in chores and tasks because anytime he realizes we're working on something the first thing he says is "can I help you?"

Anyway, point is you can learn so much just by paying attention, mindful reflection, careful preparation, and some study mixed in there. And as someone else said, having the humility to acknowledge to your kids' face that you were wrong goes a long way.


If it actually bothers you, all the ways you're programming your child without knowing it, check out a book called "I Don't Want To Talk About It: Overcoming The Legacy of Male Depression" by Terry Real.


Edit: please don't upvote this, it detracts from the discussion of the article itself.

Side note: I don't mind that my earlier submission[0] didn't get traction, just happy that the article gets the attention it deserves.

However, I'm curious, because the URLs are completely identical, and I thought HN then treats a submission soon after as an upvote to the earlier submission. Has this changed, or was this new post just out of the time range?

Also, when I submitted it, I was surprised that the title got automatically edited, chopping off the "How". (I submitted it as "How Inuit parents teach kids to control their anger", exactly as this posting, and also the title of the article.) Yet this posting has the original title. Can anyone explain that?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19387122


Your submission was 1 day ago, so that explains why it's not treated as a duplicate. Whether the title is shortened or not depends on how you submit it, I think. Did you use the bookmarklet?


No, I didn't. I copy-paste the title myself. Maybe I didn't spot a copy-paste error; I didn't consciously change the title.


I did a search on "How Inuit parents teach kids to control their anger" and didn't find anything, hence, I submitted the link. Otherwise I wouldn't have.


It's generally fine to submit anyway, I think.


Also interesting - your submission link has a rel="nofollow", this one doesn't?


I think the timeout is 8 or 12 hours.


Okay, thanks. I seem to remember this happening in the past for posts that were a few days old. I may misremember, or it could have been changed.


No, I think you're right. I recall in the earlier days of HN it would bring up items from days ago when I submitted them. I recall seeing a discussion about this where a mod suggested it's due to the increased volume on the site and how many good posts no longer reach front page.


I wonder if we can improve our own behavior by telling ourselves the right stories? And what would those stories be?

(One phrase that sometimes helps me avoid bad habits is telling myself: "You've been down this road. The consequences won't be good!")


I think there are 2 main techniques in the article.

The first one are stories to prevent something. These stories are completely made up, but put fear in the kids to they behave as they should.

The second one is looking from a distance (or a 3rd person) at yourself.

I wonder if religion falls into the first bucket. "Behave or you will go to eternal hell". Lots of people already figured out that it's all made up. What is not clear is that, although made up, it could still have a lot of benefits.

The second technique is probably what meditation and NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) do. Take a step back and look at yourself, your emotions, your behaviors, as an observer.


NLP is pseudoscience, unfortunately. Research has failed to turn up evidence that it works, and it’s generally incompatible with our modern understanding of how the brain works.


I'm not an expert on NLP, and I don't know the exact claims that NLP makes, but I'm sure some of the exercises work.

One for example, is conflict resolution from a past event. You had a conflict with someone, you feel treated unfairly etc.

This exercise lets you go back to that situation in memory, as yourself. Next step is to go back as an observer of yourself, looking at what you felt, etc. Then you are an observer of the whole thing. And finally, you go back as the other person, trying to understand why they acted like that, trying to understand how they felt.

After such a thing, a certain "wrong" situation can suddenly become way better, by understanding the other person and their drives. Understanding what other people feel, stepping in their shoes, can be very beneficial. Stepping "outside" of yourself and observing your feelings can also give a lot of insight.

So that was basically what I was referring to.


Although it's not completely pseudoscience, in a sense that microexpressions do exist. You can't detect most of them with your bare eyes, and those you can detect (pupil dilatation) are not significative and can be caused by external factors. I heard in a skeptic podcast that the "ripple under the eyes" in case of a true smile is not fake though, its one of the few thing they got right (not the first time a pseudoscience got some part right, but this time it not just lucky).


I think it might be opposite, and combined. They have a set of stories, called legends in other First Nations cultures (in English); every knows them. If each parent made up their own story to put fear into their child, the child just has to compare the story they hard with a different story their friend heard and voila, the kids realize it’s all made up. This way, the older kids can reaffirm the story to the younger ones because they heard it too (although are at a point where they understand the point). These stories/legends are often told in a third person perspective too.

Religion... if you believe the tenets of your religion it most likely isn’t understood to be _just_ a made-up story (even if others think it is). As an example, all the Christians I personally know didn’t simply believe a story about some guy named Jesus and thus started living in fear of his judgement. They believe the bible as a historical record, and live in a way that Jesus taught, and in a way that brings glory to Jesus. No fear. In fact, they might get even say the bible helps with something like nlp since it is God who has “stepped back” and looked at human emotions, behaviours, etc. I guess that comparison falls short of how to deal with trauma-induced behaviour.

I wish I could personally meet a cultural Christian (someone who is Christian only because everyone else is), the kind that atheists or anthropologists or secularists point to as their own example of someone following a made-up story, and ask them why they believe it/align their lives to _just_ a story.


> I wish I could personally meet a cultural Christian (someone who is Christian only because everyone else is)

Aren't most religious people like this? If you are born in Pakistan, chances are pretty high that you believe in Islam. Cambodia? Probably a Buddhist.

All Christians that I know, are born out of a Christian family. I see culture as the main driver of religion. Or do you expect if you take a Cambodian baby and place them in Pakistan, that they will grow up to be Buddhist?

I'm an atheist, and almost all people around me are atheists. What a coincidence! My wife is from a foreign country. All people around here are dedicated Christians. And guess what, she is also a Christian! What a double coincidence!


> I wish I could personally meet a cultural Christian (someone who is Christian only because everyone else is), the kind that atheists or anthropologists or secularists point to as their own example of someone following a made-up story, and ask them why they believe it/align their lives to _just_ a story.

If he is following the story closely he wouldn't admit that he thinks it's fake as that's against the rules


This is a nice extraction of the article's core points.

I agree with 1. Religion definitely seems to falls into the same bucket. If I were to use my culture's version of the "long john" story, it would feel totally religious to almost everyone else. I don't see this working out in urban society today. If we're in a public or friend's place with kids and we try this kind of stories there, the immediate reaction from everyone would be horror. "What kind of BS are you feeding your kids with! Don't bring any of that near my kids!"


The second is also very similar to stoicism, which is making a big comeback recently.


One thing that I learned somehow down the road is apart from not getting angry at other people is to not get angry at yourself. That mirrors, of course we all know that everybody needs to be treated different, but when we just respond out of reflex, this is somehow the "default response".

I assume though that this is indeed only a thing that can be solved in interaction, possibly by talking more also. Maybe reading stories helps though. :) I heard in a Podcast that when you read/watch/hear stories till the end - and not stop when it gets emotionally uncomfortable - you won't miss out on the solution of the story.


In my circles it's common knowledge that what you observe in the behavior of children is an unfiltered reflection of their home environment. When kids are violent, loud, abusive, it's very likely that's what their home looks like.

It's surprising to me that this is being portrayed as some kind of discovery/revelation.

My father would get very frustrated and violently angry when things didn't go according to plan, particularly in the garage when repairing something under time pressure. It took me over a decade living away from that environment to completely shed some of the same behaviors I had picked up just being around it.

Nowadays there's an Isaac Asimov quote I tell myself whenever such situations emerge:

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" - and I'll add "are you incompetent?"


> It's surprising to me that this is being portrayed as some kind of discovery/revelation.

The way I read it, discovery is not "behavior is reflection of environment" but how to create a good environment.


I was only reading Foundation an hour ago, at the part where the meaning of the quote in the book comes to a crescendo! What an excellent read.


What is the evidence that this works? Do inuit communities have lower rates of domestic violence, violent crime etc? Are their other ways of measuring or defining "success"?

I'm reminded of the research for " Becoming a Man" (BAM) small groups of adolescents males get together and share stories about times they were angry. There have been several randomized controlled trials that show this reduces juvenile crime rates. And it's a cheap intervention to run. Seems like it shares characteristics around story telling, self reflection and acting like a grown up.

https://urbanlabs.uchicago.edu/projects/becoming-a-man


With regard to the story-telling approach to discipline...My mother told me that if I didn't brush my teeth that small birds and lizards would come in the night and eat the sugar off my teeth, but also accidentally eat some of the enamel and eventually I would be left with blackened triangular stumps.

That worked pretty well and retained surprising effectiveness even after I was absolutely clear that no such thing would happen.


It doesn't happen because you brush your teeth well. Keep it up and you'll be fine.


I saw this article pop up elsewhere on the web and am a bit surprised all the reactions here seem to take the article at face value because of its holistic content.

And as some other people on the Internet have pointed out [0]: spanking and physical punishments seem to be a big part of Inuit child rearing [1]. In fact, modern studies about child and adult abuse show concerning figures [2]

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/b0so4h/how_...

[1] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/inuit-traditional-knowl...

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708004/


This is the best and simplest description I have seen of parenting. Do no get emotional. Describe, explain, reason, rationalise. Beautiful. Such timeless advice.


Bingo. The best proven way to control anger is to train your mind to seek understanding of what's going on in those tense situations.

Like anything, you need to practice training yourself at handling anger.

When my kids get angry, I teach them to ask questions. "Why?!!" "Why didn't they let me play with them?" "Why does my sister always get to use my toys?!" "Why does it make me feel this way?!" "What can I do to prevent this in the future?!"

The most understanding you can gain during a confrontation, the better you train your mind to react in that way rather than in our following our instincts. We are, by default, animals, and anger is part of our fight-flight response - but it's something we can reprogram with practice. ...especially if you start with a young malleable mind.


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

Interesting to note, this is the exact same conclusion Louis Rossman had come to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRwuu0u3UFA


> The mom picked up a pebble and said, "'Hit me! Go on. Hit me harder,'" Briggs remembered. The boy threw the rock at his mother, and she exclaimed, "Ooooww. That hurts!"

My son had a tremendously difficult time in preschool with his behavior. One of the ways we were taught by the teachers to mitigate this is that we use a method similar to this. When he would bite, kick, or hit, we would greatly overreact in pain or sadness to discourage him from doing it--to teach him that those things hurt people.

That helped. But his behavior continued to be a significant problem despite various professionals' best methods until the pediatrician began treating him for ADHD. Then we had a complete and total 180.

I wonder how these people would deal with a situation like that? Would we have gotten a better outcome and not had to go a medical route?


Dog trainers recommend doing the same thing with puppies to train them not to bite you.


Same with kittens. Cats have full control of their claws, a properly socialized cat will rarely accidentally scratch you (although if they get too excited playing or don't recognize it's you - feet under covers - or are kneeding they might, but not on purpose). They usually learn this from interacting with other kittens in the litter, but the same concept applies to help train them.


I was actually very interested on the approach, until I realized that it consisted on fabricating awfully violent stories to scare little children as young as 3 years old into behaving properly through fear.

I am pretty sure this approach would be seen by our society as quite damaging to the children mental development.


Did you ever read any fairy tales?

Hansel & Gretel is about parents deliberately leaving their kids in the woods, and then a witch imprisons them, which is eventually resolved by throwing her into the fire.

Little Red Riding Hood is about a wolf that eats a little girl's grandmother.

Snow White only gets to meet the seven dwarfs because her mother-in-law has decided to have her killed.

There are many more examples, which is to say - "our" "own" culture's children stories are not necessarily less violent.


It's not much different from the Bible, the stories are there to push your fear buttons in order to get you to comply. For children: if you don't behave your parents will abandon you in the woods to deal with the wild animals, for adults: if you don't behave you will burn forever in hell.


While I grew up on and love Grimm's fairytales, I am not sure if they are a good example of "our" culture. They have been edited ever since they were trusted to paper to reflect their editors' views on what "our" culture should be. The stern lutheran Grimm brothers themselves actually tuned up the violence in subsequent editions and stripped out the sex and incest (e.g. the devil in the Girl With No Hands was originally her father: try reading that version to your five year old daughter). And later Disney further defanged the stories by removing most of the violence as well.


The difference is - the fairy tales are presented as fiction. The stories adults tell you to make you behave are presented as reality.

It's the difference between reading your kids Smurfs and Bible (if you're Christian). I remember understanding the difference pretty early (and wondering why Bible seems like Smurfs but is treated differently).


I live in Poland (so, the culture is mostly western european with some eastern influences), I was a child in 80s/90s, and my grandma would tell us pretty awful stories to make us behave (looking at them back now they were awful for many reasons :)). Like "don't go near the street or the gypsies will kidnap you".

When you're 6 it might work, but when you're 10 you just learn to ignore whatever she says cause she's clearly telling you bullshit.

I especially remember grandma telling us not to play on a heap of wood planks (probably because you could fall into a hole and break a leg or sth). Her reason was - a "kuna" (weasel-like animal, pretty harmless for people) lives there and will bite us.

There was no internet yet, and we had no books on kuna, so we imagined it like a huge monster:) Later I learnt what's a kuna and laughed it off, but my younger sister refused to go to my grandma house (like 100m from our house) alone because of the wood planks heap and kuna nearby. For like 4 years :) Despite my parents telling her what's kuna and showing her photos and everything :) My parents were pretty angry with grandma because of that :)

I admit I was a dick about that and told my sister additional stories about kuna as well.


To be fair, kids like to be scared - and the technique seems to have produced its desired result: adults who are incredibly level headed. I wouldn't try this on my kid, just because I feel that occasionally, anger is appropriate. On the other hand, I don't expect my kid to live in the arctic, where small mistakes or momentary irrationalities can cost lives.


> The parent always had a playful, fun tone.

I wonder how much of it is done in a playful tone and how that translates to a lesson rather than raw fear. Or at least fear may not be the primary element at play here.

When a parent says, "If a you walk too close to the water, the monster will put you in his pouch, drag you down to the ocean and adopt you out to another family," the child may partially worry that it is true but suspects that the story is too far out to be believed, especially if the parent tells it in a playful tone. There's an element of fear preventing the child from going too near the ocean, but that element is couched in playfulness.

Fear is not an unhealthy emotion for children. There should be SOME fear that if he runs in the road, he'll get hurt. Or if he climbs somewhere high he may fall. The trick is to not overwhelm the child.


Exactly! When used in moderation, even 'fear' works in your favor. When overused, it can incapacitate individual.


I thought the same when I got to this point but I wondered if and how much real damage this does. Fearing things on its own shouldn't be a bad thing. The repelling part is probably that you're lying about what children should fear. Regarding the ocean monster, would it really be less scary for a child to describe in detail the act of drowning, how you last moments have to feel (let's just assume for a moment we can get a 3yo to fully grasp it)?

I think everyone is told a bunch of (in the West, admittedly less dramatic) lies during their childhood to prevent you from doing stupid things. But does that really mess you up in a bad way, or is the average child able to handle this and gradually find out the truth while growing up?


Fairy tales in central Europe are equally violent. My mom refused to read or tell me those fairy tales because of that.


> "Don't go near the water! It's the sea monster," Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids. "If a child walks too close to the water, the monster will put you in his pouch, drag you down to the ocean and adopt you out to another family," "Then we don't need to yell at a child," Jaw says, "because she is already getting the message."

Quite friendly for me. The message is clear - you will never see us again.

I had a similar story for my year and a half boy: "Don't go on car pavement alone. It is dangerous!" "Cars move fast, hit hard, they may not notice children. If that happened you'll never see us again."

He wants an explanation. It helps to make his own judgment... sometimes unexpected like "Why such dangerous things allowed here?"

I hope someday it would remain only in fairy tales.


My take away is not that people should blindly copy the technique, but draw inspiration on why they work. Yelling is just an other fear method, either by threatening the child by violence (I am loud so I represent danger to you), or threatening by abandonment (I am angry at you and socially might not like you any more if you continue to misbehave). Both can be very damaging to the children mental development.

Which method that is best to get a child not to run over the road without looking is debatable.


Our society sees little problem with religion being taught to children (I myself would prefer a stronger word—indoctrination). For me this is not that different.


It's a long article but I found it to be very enlightening. It not just teaches how to control anger and parenting but also the importance of story telling.


Read this as "Intuit" parents... and was very confused.


It's almost tax time... my angriest time of the year.


How can I not be angry as a teen? (depending on circumstances and truama as a child and childhood).

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

I am mad jealous of children whose parents made them do outdoor activies. Heck I wish I wasn't even born (can't suffer again neck fracture, unless a gun does the job I live on). I am mad jealous at other rich spoiled kids. Heck I am mad at useless bullshit jobs. Heck I am mad at meaningless cosmological nihilism that we all try to avoid. Heck I am mad for being a nobody without any social life, hobbies and even failing at exams.

I do not know if anger helps you fight your circhmstanced or is just detrimental?


I realized that I'm going to live, it isn't hard, I keep waking up day after day. When I focussed on the short term, life was hard, super hard. But then I realized If I focus on the long term, things got easier. It may sound strange, but I plan on living until 140. May be unrealistic, maybe not, but I can plan better for that, because the day to day is hectic. It helped me process past all the shit and problems today are limited by their time, and the more time passes, the more I can let them go. I don't care about problems from 10 years ago, and in 10 years, problems now won't matter. Just have to keep setting my self up to move forward, even if it is only a little bit. And every two steps back don't matter in the long term. This is all about how you let things affect you, all you can do is try to not let them hit you too hard today.


I do not know if anger helps you fight your circhmstanced or is just detrimental?

I think that depends on how you react to that anger. Generally there is a core need that is underlying that anger. Once that core need is identified, it may be that the anger turns into a different emotion, and will also start to provide avenues for dealing with that need.

Eg. if the anger is related to failing at exams, on reflection it may be that you determine that this is affecting you because it may affect your future career prospects, ie your need is to secure your financial future. Or perhaps it is due to another need. The underlying emotion would then be perhaps fear or anxiousness (or it may be something else). Anger is the unrealized version of this emotion. Once you have identified the underlying needs and emotions, that will start you on the path to fulfilling those needs.


One thing that I know many parents realize is that our kids are incredible “sponges”, they really do look to you as to handle situations.

It follows then teaching/modeling how to calm is so important.

This also however reminds me how it is also the reason why it isn’t bad to “disagree” in front of the kids (Assuming you and your significant other can do so constructively) [1]. It is the idea of showing them how you work through conflict, and resolve it in a meaningful way.

If you don’t show them how the conflicts get resolved, how will they ever learn? More importantly how will they handle their own conflicts in productive way?

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parents-hap...


So the moral is, instead of acting out at children in the moment, instead just stay calm and instil them with a mortal fear of the mundane.

I’m not sure how much I like that last part, and whether I feel little kids should be fearing they’ll get decapitated if they forget to wear their hats. That might make them less prone to emotional outbursts as adults, but then again so does a lobotomy and electrotheorepy, that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea.

I do however love the way this article frames parenting and culture and ties inputs to outputs in parenting. I wonder how well it holds up in practice, if you can say measssure the emotional responses of a hundred adults and use that to accurately estimate if they where scolded as children?


It's a nice story but I've seen this parenting technique applied in our western society:

- "Don't do this or the police will arrest you".

- "eat you yogurt or that kid over there is going to eat it".

Isn't this fearmongering?


I'll ask, "Can I have your yogurt?" Loss aversion kicks in pretty quickly. I don't think it's "fear" exactly because they can say no.


I think the police example is bad. We're based in the UK and we tell our children that the police are there to help. I don't want my children to grow up scared of the police.


I do, because I don’t want them to get shot (US obviously).


I was on board with the article until they mentioned checking for ear wax to see if a child is listening, and telling stories of special child eating monsters.

In a society that relies on the group for survival, one can imagine that a child learns pretty quickly that they have to get along or they will perish.

What the story does not tell us is what happens to children with behavioural or psychological issues.


I wonder how much the success of a parenting style has to do with the genetic predisposition within the children to receive the intended messages. What works for one culture that may be more genetically isolated seems potentially unpredictable when introduced into a group of differing genetic heritage.


That is not how genetics work.


> With little kids, you often think they're pushing your buttons, but that's not what's going on.

Maybe it's true for Inuit children, but my own kids are certainly not like that. They know all about my buttons and how to push them from early infancy.


> They know all about my buttons

The point the article makes is that your response is what teaches them

How do you respond when a kid pushes your button? It's only a button to push if there is a reaction


I teach my children boxing. Get a pair of gloves and pads from Amazon. I think it has many benefits: improving confidence, controlling anger. It does take patience. Not every kid is physically made to fight. Also, parents need to learn about safety.


> "no timeouts"

Interesting that the presumption of the author is that the timeout is a punishment rather than a way to get the child to "reset" whatever overstimulation is causing a problem.


The article goes into great detail about the social aspect and culture but I wonder if there is an environmental aspect too. In such a hostile environment anger and violence would be a threat to the Inuit tribes


That's an interesting read. It's nice to see broader perspectives on some of these topics.


It must be also nice to not exert much energy on yelling and being mad in such a cold environment.


https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/b0so4h/comm...

The article praises the Inuit for a "no scolding, no timeouts" form of child-rearing, talks about how "the culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate...even if the child hits you or bites you, there's no raising your voice" and quotes Inuit elders as saying that "they're upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is". It says that this is why adult Inuit have "an extraordinary ability to control their anger".

I Googled some studies about Inuit to see if I could find anything that didn't fit with this narrative, and came across this article on how Inuit leaders are protesting Canada's anti-child-abuse policy, because they say it is too harsh on traditional Inuit child-rearing practices like spanking. They complain that child protective services are unfairly removing children from Inuit homes, because they don't understand that Inuit tradition permits forms of physical discipline that might not be acceptable in broader Canadian society.

I also found this collection of interviews with Inuit elders where they describe how things were in the traditional old days. When asked about discipline, Elder Tipuula:

"If it was a boy, it was his father’s responsibility to discipline him. If he only wanted to spank him once, then he would only spank him once. He would behave for a while, and if he started to misbehave again, the father could spank him a second time.We women took care of our daughters. Some children reached adulthood without ever needing a spanking. Some of them needed to be spanked, and would thank us when they were older for correcting them. Parents would spank children to make them aware of things they had not been paying attention to. Some children were spanked when they did not deserve it and this was bad for a child’s development. When they realized they did not deserve a spanking, they became angry. Children who deserved to be spanked grew up being thankful for the discipline they received. Children who did not deserve to be spanked grew up to become angry people."

Elder Ilisapi adds:

"Some of us tended to take out our frustration on our children when it was our husband who we were angry at. Even if the child had done nothing wrong, if he made one small mistake, we took out our frustration on him. If children were treated like that,they could be damaged. It was their spouse they were angry at in the first place but they took their frustration out on their child. That is not the way to treat a child. It is not good."

Modern-day studies are downright appalling. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708004/ is studying Inuit suicides, but finds that 27.5% of the non-suicidal placebo group stated they were abused as children. goo.gl/gX4hFi says that 86% of Canadian Inuit women experience verbal abuse, and 48% experience physical abuse in the first postpartum year. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3402/ijch.v61i2.17443 finds that 48% of Inuit in Greenland report having been abused, about three times the Western population they compare this with.

(some of these are adult abuse statistics rather than child abuse statistics, but if adult Inuit never get angry or act impulsively, why are they doing all this abusing?)

To be fair, the Inuit are a very diverse population, and maybe some bands are unusually lenient parents and others are unusually strict (but the anthropologist in the article studied in northern Canada, the same region as many of the studies I'm citing). Also, the Inuit have changed a lot recently as they get influenced by European culture (but NPR did their interview with Inuit this year, who talk as if they're describing the present).

I don't want to contradict an anthropologist, but I hope people keep their skepticism glasses on for articles like this one.


Sounds like there's a liberal sprinkling of 'noble savage' being applied in the article.

The "teaching through storytelling" thing rubs me up the wrong way, too. We yell at our kids if they deserve it, but we do our best never to lie to them.

And of course, any time someone expounds on "the" way to raise or discipline children, you know they're talking through their hat, because children vary wildly in terms of how they behave and what will work with them, even within the same family. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.


>we do our best never to lie to them.

"Santa sees all, so behave"

"If you misbehave you go to hell"

"Don't sit too close to the TV or you'll go cross-eyed"

"Masturbating makes you go blind"

"Respect your elders because they are more mature/knowledgeable"

Basically we constantly lie to our children.


"We" as a culture, sure, but we don't use any of those.


Interesting. I'm debating whether I'll tell my child that Santa doesn't exist from the beginning. Kind of because I don't want to lie for the sake of tradition.

How'd your child deal with their friends believing in Santa and them knowing it's a hoax at that early age?


- Daddy, is Santa real?

- What do you think, dear?

Followed by discussion of the evidence... if all goes well they learn to use their own judgement and cope with coming independently to their own conclusion in opposition to 99% of their peers...


"Santa Claus is a great game we (our culture) plays. Every year we pretend (x) (y) and (z) about someone called Santa Claus, and pretend he's real! Do you want to play this game too, or would you rather not?"

and

"A lot of other kids really enjoy the Santa game. So don't spoil it for them. Like when you're playing being a pirate captain you don't like it if another kid says you're too young to be captain or your cardboard pegleg is fake..."

Kids more easily accept games and makebelieve, and happily hop into different games.

(2 kids, 4 3/4 and 2)


I told my kids that the santa is real, but I have never threaten them with how santa is spying on kids to see if they behave and not giving presents to bad children. The funny thing is, my oldest daughter, to old to believe in santa and know very well he isnt real, "wants" to belive in him. She is prefectly rasional about it. It is the stories and the good feelings of exitement, fairytails, mysteries that she cheriesh.


As far as how we handle Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. - we decided to be up front that they aren't real, but treat it as a game that parents play with their children.

So we still do presents from Santa at Christmas, Easter Bunny baskets, and Tooth Fairy money, but they know it's us doing it. So far it still seems to have enough magic of anticipation that they enjoy it.


We kind of skirt the edges of that one with "some people say that..." We don't just flat-out tell them that Santa was made up to sell more toys at Christmas, but we also don't present him as an actual real entity.

And let's face it, Santa works pretty well as a cryptid alongside the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny... :)


The problem with Santa is other parents. If you have that one child that doesn't believe in santa, and they gleefully inform all the other children at the daycare/school that santa is a lie, then you can imagine the blowback from parents of other children.


Additionally, there is a long period of time when the kid has suicidal tendencies and doesn't comprehend any language, and telling stories won't do anything to save his life.

Fear, induced by having made that mistake and paying the price, or induced by elevating your voice, does seem to work, albeit imperfectly.


I had a friend who was cohabiting with a single mom of a 4 year old. He was always quite harsh on the kid I thought, very strict, he didn't hurt him but the kid was sort of scared of him (Because my friend was like 6'6, and looked like a mountain wizard)

So one time I was at the house alone with the kid. I turned my back on him for a couple minutes, he came walking into the living room from the kitchen carrying a butcher knife almost as long as his leg. I yelled at him got that knife away from him. When the mom got home I told her the story and she laughed and said 'oh Damien!' (kid's name was Damien)

When I told my friend later he sort of buried his head in his hands and said something about how hard it was and he was always mean to the kid and having to yell at him because basically he was the only adult in his life that kept him in check. Probably my friend should have found a better way of handling Damien, but on the other hand some situations are more difficult than others.


So basically, boy acted like normal 4 years old and took an interesting thing into hand? And that is somehow proof that the kid is exceptionally difficult? Four years old holding knife right now is a reason to tell him to put it down or introduce consistent safety rules, but really really it is neither proof of unusual out of control behavior or something that requires instant yelling.

Four years old can be taught to cut soft vegetables under close supervision. However, if you constantly yell at four years old, four years old will learn to ignore everything except yelling.

Not that occasional yelling harms that kid or something. But, yelling often is more of adult emotional reaction, not a rational reaction to real acute danger.


> So basically, boy acted like normal 4 years old and took an interesting thing into hand?

A 4-year-old is old enough to know what they are and aren't allowed to grab, in terms of common household items.

> However, if you constantly yell at four years old, four years old will learn to ignore everything except yelling.

If you consistently show a four-year-old that only yelling will be followed by physical intervention, then they will learn to ignore everything except yelling. If you consistently show a four-year-old that a quiet "I'm going to count to three... one... TWO..." will be followed by physical intervention, then they will learn to pay attention to that.

The default attitude of most four-year-olds is "make me" and if you let them know what will result in you making them do the thing, they will pay attention.


Did I say he was exceptionally difficult? I wouldn't know, since I didn't parent him.


That referred more to your friend. The "having to yell at him because basically he was the only adult in his life that kept him in check". It sounds honestly like an excuse making and rationalization.

Not that I never yelled at kids. I did. But this reaction on that situation sound like that.


Probably, but I wasn't in his shoes. I mean the guy was not the father, came in after the kid had grown some, was with a mother who did not say Damien don't take knives out of the drawer without asking but just laughed about it, and I expect was also from a somewhat disciplinarian background himself.

So, he was probably wrong in how he handled it, but it was quite heartfelt what he said, he was handling it as well as he could, and perhaps that was badly. It was hard for me to second guess him under the circumstance.


The mom was not there at the moment?


the mom was not there when the son came in with the knife. when told about it she laughed, that lovable little scamp. She was not there when my friend unburdened himself about what he considered his obligations to the kid, and what he thought was the difficulties. At any rate, it's a long time ago now. I was just sharing it in that people for various reasons may end up shouting while trying to do their best, then again people may also end up shouting because they are too stressed by situations which is also a problem, but they should be helped then.


Even if some Intuits do opposite of what the article says, how does that refute what article is trying to convey - good parenting, controlling anger, and importance of story telling? I think you are focusing on "Inuit" part of story while the article is focusing on "parenting".


I don't follow. If "Inuit" is not a key detail of the piece, than why is it in the title?

The implication is strongly that a group of people, identified by name, has what is generally regarded as a successful way of teaching kids to control their anger. Again, based on the title.

The narrative of the piece builds this up with pieces of evidence all cherry picked to support how successful they are. This post, on the other hand, asks about contradicting evidence.

So, agreed that you can't just assume this parenting style is bad from the contradicting evidence. I question if you can truly assume it is good from the positive evidence. Random walks and all.


Canadian Inuit collectively suffer from PTSD inflicted upon them in the residential schools. They were abused as children so they abuse their children now. It's hard to see where is the aboriginal culture and where is the pain brought on them by white men.


I think you're right to be sceptical, but I also think that contemporary inuit society is probably a poor example of inuit childcare traditions - since it's basically a community in its third generation of societal collapse. Child abuse is unsurprising in that context.


Every problem you cite is caused by forced westernization and urbanization.

Alcoholism is not an Inuit cultural problem because Inuit culture predates the introduction of alcohol by thousands of years.

Unemployment is not cultural because people living off the land are not unemployed.

And hitting kids is something picked up from forcible re-education in Indian Schools where every aspect of the original culture was forbidden by generous use of beatings.

There is a tendency to quickly believe anything that treats our culture as innocent by blaming the victim, to easily believe anything contrary to what "rubs us the wrong way". I believe this is a dangerous fallacy we should resist.


I thought the same thing, especially since alcoholism is a problem with many Inuit communities [1] and alcoholism and domestic violence often go hand in hand.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696457/


And what you just cited should be taken in context, and that context is that native people in Canada have been subjected till very recently to a program of forced assimilation.[1]

Some people call it cultural genocide.

Basically we tried as hard as we could to "take the indian out of the indian."

They would come into villages, as late as the sixties and take all the children away from their parents and put them in "residential schools" where they were beaten for speaking their language.

Thousands died in these institutions.

So perhaps another way to read it, is from the positive side. That is to say that some native people of Canada can remember their traditions and are attempting to practise them despite a hundred and fifty years of persecution.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Indian_residential_sc...


Totally with them up to the lying thing.


Read this as Intuit, the tax software company, scratched my head till I clicked the article. Good laugh!


The fact that it's around the time of the year to file taxes, and anger is sometimes a part of that experience, pulls the "mental autocorrect" in that direction.


glad I'm not the only one


lol... me too, but just because I visited their office in San Diego a couple of years ago for a meetup.


[flagged]


This is one of the most ridiculous comments I've ever seen at the top of a HN thread. Are you seriously equating high Inuit suicide rate with the how men are raised in these communities? As if a 6-11 fold increase in suicide could possibly be explained away by "well, yeah, they aren't allowed to express their agression"

This is ridiculous, bordering on racist. Have you ever visited an Inuit community? The economic and social isolation, combined with extreme poverty, would be enough to drive many people to suicide. But. I'm not going to rebut your claims because they're just fallacious in their own right and this thread doesn't need to derail into an analysis of subjugated populations.


"The economic and social isolation, combined with extreme poverty, would be enough to drive many people to suicide"

Don't you think that, for young males, packing their things and moving to say Canada to fight for a better and less isolating life is a better handling of aggression that staying there until they suicide?

Why the passive route?

BTW, you labeled my post as racist and ridiculous (the last one twice). "This is one of the most ridiculous comments I've ever seen at the top of a HN thread" Those are the 2 most stronger arguments of your response. Why this unnecessary agression on your part?


You're conflating "the male experience" with " overt aggression", which I don't believe is true. Stoicism is incredibly "manly" (look at a caricature like Ron Swanson), but is the opposite of acting aggressively.

Most native american populations are experiencing similar high suicide rates, and they don't all share this non-aggression ethos.


Disagree with you. Parent seems to be conflating the modern male experience with anti-sensitivity. Expression of all emotions by males should be encouraged. I think the idolization of stoicism is detrimental to men's health. Men should be able to cry, be angry, express emotions within reasonable bounds. Bottling them up often leads to mental health problems later.


> Aggression should always be acted upon, just not in a retarded way.

I think you're being optimistic. Parent doesn't mention any emotion besides aggression. No line was drawn between men shooting up schools and men not being able to cry, it was totally focused on aggression.

They point out that male-emasculation is leading to shootings, not repression of all emotions - I mean, isn't the expression of crying "emasculating"? I don't see anything but aggression in the parent comment.


Are men not being able to cry nowadays.Isn't the last generation "generation snowflake"?


Typically if one refers to emasculation of someone through actions, they ascribe to a certain unique quality to "maleness", seems to reject the emotions typically seen as feminine.


Isn't the article just about anger? I was talking about anger


I was talking about anger, zebrafish was giving you the benefit of the doubt and implying the full gamut of emotion.



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