**Redefining Parenting: The Case for Giving Kids More Freedom**

Everything in the life of NPR science correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff had been relatively straightforward until she became a parent to a two-year-old daughter.

Her daughter, Rosie, was described as exceptionally intelligent, ambitious, and driven, but at the age of two, she posed significant challenges.

During a work assignment in a secluded Mexican village, Doucleff did not anticipate finding a solution to her parenting struggles. However, she was astonished by the serene demeanor of the local parents and their remarkably polite and considerate children.

Inspired by this experience, Doucleff embarked on a journey to immerse herself, along with her toddler, in the lifestyles of three ancient cultures to gain firsthand insight into their parenting techniques.

Her book, “Hunt, Gather, Parent,” delves into the wisdom of ancient traditions and their potential to enrich modern parenting practices.

Parents in various cultures advised Doucleff against attributing malicious intent to her toddler’s actions, emphasizing that young children like Rosie act impulsively due to their limited understanding and inability to regulate their emotions effectively. They stressed the importance of responding to children in a manner that guides them towards appropriate behavior, rather than viewing their actions as intentional provocations.

Doucleff learned to detach herself from feeling personally attacked by her daughter’s behavior, realizing that children, by nature, are still learning to navigate their emotions and behaviors. This shift in perspective allowed her to maintain composure and respond more effectively to her daughter’s actions, fostering a harmonious parent-child dynamic.

She observed that the serene composure displayed by parents in these cultures stemmed from their ability to separate the child’s behavior from their own self-worth. Instead of viewing misbehavior as a reflection of their parenting skills, they approached it as a natural aspect of child development, requiring patient guidance rather than confrontation.

Doucleff highlighted the evolutionary concept that humans traditionally had multiple caregivers, emphasizing that the modern nuclear family structure places immense responsibility on parents to fulfill roles that were historically shared among a larger community. She underscored the significance of communal support in raising children and the benefits of collective caregiving practices observed in diverse societies.

In many parts of the world, collaborative child-rearing is a common practice, where individuals within the community actively contribute to the upbringing of children. Doucleff recounted instances where strangers offered assistance in caring for her toddler, reflecting a sense of shared responsibility and compassion prevalent in these societies.

She emphasized the importance of integrating children into the fabric of adult society from an early age, promoting cooperation and mutual engagement. This approach, unlike child-centric activities that prioritize entertainment, instills essential life skills and fosters a sense of belonging within the family unit.

Doucleff cautioned against artificial constructs in Western societies that prioritize children’s individuality over collective responsibility, citing examples like playdates that may inadvertently reinforce a sense of entitlement rather than instilling values of cooperation and contribution within the family dynamic.

In contrast to Western practices of dictating bedtime, Doucleff noted that in many non-Western cultures, children learn to recognize their own fatigue and independently decide when to rest. This autonomy in managing sleep schedules fosters self-regulation and reduces the tension associated with bedtime routines commonly observed in Western households.

Drawing parallels with hunter-gatherer communities, where communal living and mutual support are integral to child-rearing, Doucleff advocated for a return to collaborative parenting models that prioritize shared responsibilities and interdependence among families.

She shared her personal experience of raising children in a supportive network of like-minded families, underscoring the transformative impact of communal parenting on her family’s well-being and stress levels.

Doucleff reflected on the diminishing influence of ancestral wisdom in modern parenting, noting a shift away from intergenerational knowledge transfer that once guided child-rearing practices. She lamented the loss of ancient wisdom in favor of scientific approaches, suggesting that traditional insights into nurturing children may hold greater value than contemporary methodologies.

In her exploration of diverse cultural parenting practices, Doucleff discovered a profound appreciation for the collective wisdom passed down through generations, highlighting the enduring relevance of ancient traditions in shaping effective parenting strategies.