“The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings,” by David F. Lancy, is an academic title — but it’s possibly the only book that new parents will ever need. ...Anthropologist Jared Diamond also praises primitive tribal child-rearing in his recent book, The World Until Yesterday.
Yet through factoids and analysis, he demonstrates something that American parents desperately need to hear: Children are raised in all sorts of ways, and they all turn out just fine.
Children in Fiji, for example, are not allowed to address adults, or even make eye contact with them. In Gapun, an isolated village in Papua New Guinea, children are encouraged to hit dogs and chickens, and to raise knives at siblings. ...
In the “pick when ripe” culture, babies and toddlers are largely ignored by adults, and may not be named until they’re weaned. They undergo what he calls a “village curriculum”: running errands, delivering messages and doing small-scale versions of adult tasks. Only later are they “picked,” or fully recognized as individuals. In contrast, in “pick when green” cultures, including our own, it’s never too early to socialize babies or recognize their personhood.
Professor Lancy calls the American way of doing pick when green a “neontocracy,” in which adults provide services to relatively few children who are considered priceless, even though they’re useless. One senses him rolling his eyes at modern American parents, impelled to get down on the floor to play Legos with their kids.
I would not take this advice too seriously. Maybe those tribes live in such primitive conditions because they never teach their kids civilized behavior. But it does show that different child-rearing philosophies are possible.