March 18, 2019

"Even just showing a smidgen of frustration or irritation was considered weak and childlike...."

"For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. 'Too bad,' the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot. In another instance, a fishing line — which had taken days to braid — immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. 'Sew it together,' someone said quietly.... Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender.... The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate... It's as if the adult is having a tantrum; it's basically stooping to the level of the child.... Inuit parents have an array of stories to help children learn respectful behavior, too.... [P]arents tell their kids: If you don't ask before taking food, long fingers could reach out and grab you.... Inuit parents tell their children to beware of the northern lights. If you don't wear your hat in the winter, they'll say, the lights will come, take your head and use it as a soccer ball!"

From "How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger" (NPR).

54 comments:

FWBuff said...

I've heard that the Inuit have 50 different words for "No"...

0_0 said...

Sounds a bit repressive to me, as in repressing one's emotions.

john said...

Methinks, somehow, the soccer ball story is not one steeped in Inuit lore.

That's a problem in a society that only has ice to write their history on.

SDaly said...

Where day-to-day life is a struggle, and survival depends on being able to plan for the future and stick to that plan, self-control is paramount.

TerriW said...

We always get articles telling us the wonderful things parents in other cultures are doing that we should emulate. I wonder if other countries ever write about a wonderful thing American parents are doing that they should try.

Nonapod said...

When you live in such an extreme environment I imagine there tends to be a minimizing of unnecessary actions and wasting of energy. what is the utility in anger? Demonstrating anger or frustration is only useful if it discourages bad behavoir in others. Beyond that, it only hinders productivity. A person who dwells in anger could slow critical work down.

I suspect in northern cultures that people with short fuses are a liability to the community. I bet they were often probably exiled, set adrift on a chunk of ice.

Lucid-Ideas said...

"The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate... It's as if the adult is having a tantrum; it's basically stooping to the level of the child.... Inuit parents have an array of stories to help children learn respectful behavior, too...."

Absolutely, where emotional displays are inappropriate, there's old fashioned lying to children. Then again, I've seen personally how these 'boogie man' stories can actually work quite well on very young children, although I doubt if Inuit have 'boogie-man' stories to rival the grotesqueries of Western lore.

Eat your peas darling or say greetings to the Krampus!

The Last Dragon Slayer said...

If I thought getting angry at a dragon would help me to defeat it, I would not hesitate to make use of it as part of my arsenal. For novices that I train, I have learned that the appropriate sign of disapproval is necessary for them to learn proper safety. It would not do for them to be gobbled up by a nasty little brown just because I did not properly instill in them the fear of death. If I had an Inuit novice, I am sure anger would not be required to punctuate my lesson. However, those from other cultures might mistake my soft answer as a sign that my lesson was not serious and thus they might lose their head, so to speak on our next assignment. Anger is a tool, and it is best to use the tool properly

Treeamigo said...

Some further reading

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Greenlands-homicide-rate-so-high

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/ppvx8g/a-closer-look-at-nunavuts-notoriously-high-murder-rate-324

Maybe the parents should try yelling?

Sometimes deliberate restraint is a sign one is operating in a hair trigger environment and trying to avoid escalation, which could come at the drop of a hat. We all know children and co-workers and people down the pub who are best coddled or patronized.

Then again, the Inuit probably aren't very much worse (in terms of violence) than other tribal cultures, and they have the disadvantage of living in a forbidding environment.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I heard that story when they aired it and the "storytelling" part is what stood out.
They gave several examples--I think one was if you don't wear a hat outside you'll get grabbed by a demon spirit or something, another was that if you walk too close to the edge of the water a fantastical animal will pull you under--and had to wonder if the hostess or audience would give that kind of a pass to "myths" or "stories" using fear to control the behavior of young children if there wasn't that gloss of other-culture-ism.

I have to imagine that the same crowd cheering creating stories to scare children into compliance (another example the narrator/reporter gave was something about a monster eating her toddler's feet if she didn't put her shoes on quickly enough) is made up of a large number of people who scoff at Christian/religious "myths" and "stories" and say "telling children that if they sin (or act on lust, or whatever) their eternal souls are in peril is cruel and backwards."

Scary stories designed to keep people safe = cool when Inuit do it.
Scary stores designed to keep people safe (from disease, social unrest, etc) = stupid when the Bible and/or other religious texts do it.
I guarantee that sentiment exists among NPR's core audience!

mockturtle said...

For great reading, find the Helmericks' books [1940s or so], Our Summer with the Eskimos, Our Alaskan Winter, We Live in the Artic and others. Sometimes hard to find but well worth it. I happen to have the whole collection. The Inuit are one of the most interesting peoples on the planet.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Yeah, it starts with not being able to verbally abuse your children.

Pretty soon, you're not even allowed to abuse other commenters in the blog comments.

Socialism ruins everything.

Robert Cook said...

"Sounds a bit repressive to me, as in repressing one's emotions."

How about: learning to manage one's emotions, a necessity in harsh environment, and, at the very least, desirable in any adult.

bagoh20 said...

I'd like to know what powerful myth convinced them that it was a bad idea to just WALK SOUTH TOWARD THE SUN!

I've heard that Wisconsin children are taught at an early age that beer is not available below southern Wisconsin, so I understand you people have an issue with the same advice.

Meade said...

"Sounds a bit repressive to me, as in repressing one's emotions."

It isn't repression, it's suppression. And suppression is a healthy psychological defense mechanism. The idea that all emotions must always be expressed in order to be emotionally healthy is some kind of new age postmodern mumbo jumbo. It is very damaging to a child, age birth to around 3, to experience any kind of trauma, including witnessing an adult lose emotional control.

Meade said...

"Pretty soon, you're not even allowed to abuse other commenters in the blog comments."

Haha. And humor is said to be the highest psychological defense mechanism of all. Well done!

mockturtle said...

It isn't repression, it's suppression. And suppression is a healthy psychological defense mechanism.

Thank you, Meade. I, for one, am a little weary of people believing they are entitled to act upon every emotion.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Meade said...

And humor is said to be the highest psychological defense mechanism of all.

The best psychological defense is to be psychologically offensive.

Expat(ish) said...

We recently had a guest comment that our book of Australian landscapes "didn't contain any native photographers." I pointed out that the book was SPECIFICALLY made with pictures taken by Australians in Australia.

She said that she "meant indigenous people."

My comment was that Australians (generally) had a worship thing going on with indigenous (and convict) culture so if there were any pic available, they certainly would have been included. Turns out our other guest was from Oz and she was quite startled by my characterization.

She agreed with it, but said nobody would ever express it that way down under there.

So, I draw certain conclusions from NPR stories like these.

-XC

JaimeRoberto said...

The Inuit are one of the most interesting peoples on the planet.

Then why don't we see them in Dos Equis commercials, huh?

Tomcc said...

I didn't look at the source information, but something tells me there was no mention of how the community comes together to hunt whales...

Mary said...

It’s refreshing to hear about this mature response to the type of small problem that might make some people lose their cool. On the one hand it makes me cringe to hear a parent yell at their child, on the other hand being around a completely undisciplined child can be a nightmare too. It seems the family works as a team and they don’t sweat the small stuff. Sounds good to me.

Maillard Reactionary said...

"If you don't wear your hat in the winter, they'll say, the lights will come, take your head and use it as a soccer ball!"

Now we know what happened to AOC. After all, what do Puerto Ricans know about the Aurora Borealis?

Nonapod said...

Treeamigo said... Maybe the parents should try yelling?

I'm skeptical that parents yelling at kids more would necessarily decrease the suicide or homicide rate in traditional cultures. As your links pointed out it's kind of more of a statitics being misleading sort of situation.

And at any rate, the people of many aboriginal cultures have all sorts of problems in our modern times. They're plauged with alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and petty crime. This is primarily due to a lack of purpose because of a loss of a traditional way of life leading to a general loss of hope.

Unknown said...

There's a sort of corollary here to the "If you do scientific research into the differences between men and women, you must portray whatever you find to be true of women as superior."

It is "If you do research into the differences between US culture and other cultures, you must portray whatever you find to be true of the other culture as superior." This goes double true if it conforms to your own personal beliefs.

And let's also add that while the Inuit may have been living happy lives in the frozen north, their culture didn't explore the world or go to space. Or really accomplish anything of significance other than surviving in some form to the present day. Maybe some yelling would have helped.

Jenny said...

If the redneck in the trailer park kept her kids in order by scaring them with wild and outlandish terrors, you can bet American dollars NPR would be investigating the plague of emotionally abusive parenting that plagues the heartland.

jg said...

the inuit funny-story trick is a good one if the joke isn't on your kid. if they know you're being silly.

RNB said...

"...[T]the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone. / All centuries but this, and every country but his own."

Ken B said...

The English upper class Stiff Upper Lip evinces a similar attitude, but trying praising *that* on radio.
Better I say than the current fad of stoking, feeding, worshipping “rage”.

jimbino said...

Reminds me of Marilyn of Northern Exposure, who spoke so gently she seemed to be apologizing for every phrase.

MBunge said...

If I can be "get off my lawn guy" for just a second, we've had at least two generations of American children raised without spanking and with anti-bullying messages jammed down their throats with ever increasing frequency. Does anyone think it's improved things?

Mike

Thomas said...

Are these the same Inuit that practiced infanticide?

traditionalguy said...

That is one problem that all races have in common: parents training 2 year olds to act civil. It is also Rule 5 of Jordan Peterson's Twelve Rules For Life.

Michael McNeil said...

“We do not believe. We fear.”

Aua (a Central Eskimo shaman, when queried about Eskimo beliefs), from Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape by Barry Lopez (1986).

Note: Contrary to myth “Inuit” is not an inclusive term that includes all Eskimos. Pace that PC term used to the exclusion of “Eskimo” in Canada and Greenland, not only are all Eskimos in Alaska not Inuit, but indeed the majority are not, being Yupik in speech and ethnicity.

Rob said...

So Inuits don't yell at their young children when they do something wrong. Neither do most of the people I know. If a child spills his milk, you don't get angry, you acknowledge that it was an accident and clean it up. And even if the child misbehaves intentionally, you may impose a time out, but you don't get angry. It's merely a way of associating actions with consequences. This seems like Parenting 101 to most semi-enlightened people.

It's to be expected that Inuits wouldn't want their children crying unnecessarily. They have their fill of blubbering.

Lewis Wetzel said...

How is it possible that such wise people could be marginalized and live a precarious existence?
Isn't a form of cultural domination to view the child-rearing practices of the Other through the filter of what educated westerners currently believe?

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cassandra said...

I'll bet the Inuit don't write articles in the NY Times or other media outlets kvetching about how having children cramps their lifestyle (not to mention their Instagram presence), either :p

Amadeus 48 said...

If we could just find some society more natural and admirable than ours--whether it is coming of age in Samoa or child rearing practices north of Nunavit--then we could get back to the state of nature and realize the truth of the Rousseauian ideal of the noble savage and throw out civilization and its discontents.

The noblest condition of man may well be sitting on an ice floe chewing a piece of blubber. No fossil fuels. Wind and sun only! Those Inuits know how to live!

Amadeus 48 said...

"They have their fill of blubbering."

Yeah, but NPR never will. It is what they do.

robother said...

Those Inuit. Will they never tire of pulling cultural anthropologist's legs?

The Vault Dweller said...

I suspect that the Inuit parenting practice is aided by the relative harshness of the environment. If a child messes up and breaks the fishing line, and it will take a couple days to repair then the child gets to see the immediate effect in that the child and the family won't get any fish to eat for the next few days. An empty belly, or perhaps a belly that is filled with something a lot less appetizing than fish for a couple days is an immediate consequence for the action of breaking the fishing line.

I think it is hard for kids and people in general to understand the negative cost of certain bad actions until it negatively affects them in someway or they can experience it emotionally. Which I think is the reasoning behind parents who use physical punishment to discipline their children.

This article on Inuit parenting also called to mind, the phrase, "Spare the Rod, spoil the child." I thought it was in the Bible, but apparently not, it appeared in a 17th century Poem called, Hudibras. But there is a close analog in the Bible, in Proverbs 13:24;

“Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.”

I always associated this a discipline rod used for corporal punishment, but in the first website I saw referencing this passage, they instead likened it to a Shepherd's cane, and the crook of it specifically which is used to guide a sheep in the right direction. If that is the case, if this passage cautions against any one type of parenting it is probably the "Free-range" idea of parenting where parents let their kids do as much as possible on their own including making mistakes.

As someone without kids though, I feel like I don't have any particularly good take on the issue of proper parenting techniques. For what it is worth, I've always liked Jordan Peterson's description of good parenting where he basically said your job as a parent is to make sure that your kid by the time they are 5 or 6, is pleasant to be around or at least tolerable, so that your kid can socialize with other kids and adults and learn the larger, more complex, usually unstated, rules of society.

mockturtle said...

My kids always said of me, "She never raised her voice, only her eyebrow".

MacMacConnell said...

Intuits teaches their children to ask before taking because "Eskimos" are heavily armed.

wildswan said...

I can remember taking care of little kids and when they messed up nothing bad was said. But they knew it was because they were seen as babies and they wanted to be seen as adults or close to it so really it was a very punishing experience. What I wonder is when kids stopped wanting to be seen adults. I feel that half the Presidential candidates and the new people in Congress particularly Socialist types are presenting silly ideas because they presenting themselves as kids and adults are supposed to honor them for their fresh vision of life. The Green New Deal would never work. But AOC is a kid, we adults have to hold back criticism. And fake kids have signed on with her, "gold star for effort, little sweetie Bernie, and look, isn't Pocahontas sweet". Beto doesn't know what he thinks about immigration, but he's kid, let's honor him for wanting to work with people. Can't we require people in government to take responsibility for their own proposals, not their own intentions?

Unknown said...

When you live confined in an igloo for days or weeks you better not lose your temper.

heyboom said...

I think a fun social experiment would be to send some of those Intuit down here to SoCal to drive in traffic. Not just during rush hour, but any time of the day on any street, whether freeway or surface roads.

Let's see how long they can hold their emotions then.

Lucien said...

Not a lot of famous Inuit stand-up comedians are there, though.

FIDO said...

This isn't 'nurturing'. This is enormous self control and stoicism, which NPR, when not dressed in a fur lined parka, deplores.

FIDO said...

I get not blowing one's top at a child. But do they mention if they SPANK their children?

I have long held it that one should never spank a child emotionally distraught or angry. It teaches the child to fear you.

But bad behavior needs curtailing. As noted by others, some bad actions bring their own punishment. But others are not so immediately obvious.

Further, a frosty mien, coldly cutting the children with a lack of warmth and affection is, as noted by Dr. Hoffsteder, can be just as emotionally cruel and damaging.

Robert Cook said...

It’s refreshing to hear about this mature response to the type of small problem that might make some people lose their cool. On the one hand it makes me cringe to hear a parent yell at their child, on the other hand being around a completely undisciplined child can be a nightmare too. It seems the family works as a team and they don’t sweat the small stuff. Sounds good to me.

My brothers and I were very well behaved in public, and my parent were always asked how they did it. I can say they didn't spank us, except perhaps for one or two faux spankings to impress upon us we had misbehaved. They also didn't yell at us. However, they were firm when telling us we could not do something, and we believed them. They also insisted, when we reached a certain age, that we being addressing all adults with "ma'am" and "sir." They talked to us about what behavior was proper and what behavior wasn't. I was shocked when I was 11 or 12 and I discovered that parents of some of my classmates actually used swear words in front of their kids, (words beyond "damn" and "hell," which were the only expletives I ever heard from my parents. (Only after I was an adult and had moved out of the house did I ever hear my parents use the word "shit.")

Bob Boyd said...

I think kids, and maybe adults too, learn to express anger and frustration from watching a lot of drama on TV.
They're always inserting small, interpersonal conflicts into larger plot to create tension and drama. The characters are often raising their voices at each other and expressing righteous anger and frustration with each other over little things. Kids watch these characters and imitate them.

Paul said...

I understand that in Alaska they have a huge alcohol problem among the Eskimos. Massive amounts of family violence to.

Maybe suppressing frustration is not all that good and idea.

Bob Boyd said...

"Shhh! The polar bears will hear you, idiot! If you think you're unhappy now..." - Nanuck of the North