Conversations With A Three Year Old

Parents around the world want what they believe is best for their children. However, parents in different cultures have different ideas of what is best. For example, parents in a hunter–gatherer society or surviving through subsistence agriculture are likely to promote practical survival skills from a young age. Many such cultures begin teaching babies to use sharp tools, including knives, before their first birthdays.

This seen in communities where children have a considerate amount of autonomy at a younger age and are given the opportunity to become skilled in tasks that are sometimes classified as adult work by other cultures. In some Indigenous American communities, child work provides children the opportunity to learn cultural values of collaborative participation and prosocial behavior through observation and participation alongside adults. American parents strongly value intellectual ability, especially in a narrow “book learning” sense. Italian parents value social and emotional abilities and having an even temperament.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.— John F. Kennedy

Spanish parents want their children to be sociable. Swedish parents value security and happiness. Dutch parents value independence, long attention spans, and predictable schedules. The Kipsigis people of Kenya value children who are not only smart, but who employ that intelligence in a responsible and helpful way, which they call ng/om. Many Indigenous American communities value respect, participation in the community, and non-interference. The practice of non-interference is an important value in Cherokee culture. It requires that one respects the autonomy of others in the community by not interfering in their decision making by giving unsolicited advice.

Differences in values cause parents to interpret different actions in different ways. Asking questions is seen by many European American parents as a sign that the child is smart. Italian parents, who value social and emotional competence, believe that asking questions is a sign that the child has good interpersonal skills. Dutch parents, who value independence, view asking questions negatively, as a sign that the child is not independent. Indigenous American parents often try to encourage curiosity in their children. Many use a permissive parenting style that enables the child to explore and learn through observation of the world around it

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