Bringing up the Children
Ancient Work Schedule
Two to six hour day; two to four day workweek
Everyone participated in the arts…
… and learned about what naturally interested them from those they naturally admired.
No one was pressured into a lifetime spent at an occupation uncongenial to their nature on the strength of someone else’s expectations.
However, since all occupations were equally respected for their value to the whole, a youthful villager generally had little problem pitching in where he or she would accomplish maximum benefit for all.
The childhood years of our Kenyan authors mirrored the tranquil sense of appropriate order which ~ as we shall presently continue to see ~ was radiated by practically every adult they knew. Without our rampant examples of frustrated disharmony to imitate, actings out such as tantrums, bullying and fistfights surrounded by rings of cheering coevals were virtually unknown.
Children simply didn’t feel motivated to scream, hurl insults or objects, or break toys and possessions.
These thus stand revealed as unhealthy and, in their full historical context, rather unnatural behaviors learned from other children and from hurried, harried, hate-carrying role models ~ even though we’ve come to consider them (starting to sound familiar?) “normal” to the point of inevitability.
Losers, in the sense in which we western moderns perpetually create and experience them, simply didn’t exist.
In our own generation, a study involving groups of first-world and of third-world children in a noncompetitive game resulted almost without exception in scorn and derision from the first-world youngsters: There weren’t any losers ~ what was the point?
The “less civilized” third-world children settled happily down to a new kind of fun for that afternoon and many afternoons after.
Primitive notions of childhood discipline
Brutal, right? Read on.
In Canada at the time of the French and Indian War there existed a native culture in which relations between parent and child were so filled with heartfelt affection and respect that ~ like the Native American tribes which, upon our arrival, failed entirely to be able to comprehend what a lie could possibly be, and when they finally did come to a stunned comprehension of the concept (much the poorer for their lesson) could only explain our seemingly endless ability to produce them by assuming the addition of a second tongue for the purpose ~ this ancient civilization had not found it necessary to dream up any stricter form of punishment then a single, mildly spoken sentence:
“Child, you have shamed me today.”
A young person of that society upon whose horrified ears this sentence fell became, without exception, instantly and completely contrite, focused upon both outer atonement and inner development until the familiarity of complete harmony had been thoroughly restored, and absolute trust reestablished.
Yeah, poor kids…
Sure wish they were being brought up in a civilized environment, don’t you?
In the, again, infinitely fewer instances than our own (getting a better idea of what ‘normalcy’ really consists of in human beings?) in which behavioral modification became desirable in a young person, it took the still friendlier (and at least equally effective) form of a conversational stroll in the company of an especially loved and respected aunt or uncle.
It was generally felt in these Native American cultures that every child should have maintained in its own home a true, unalloyed and enduring haven from the conflicts and confusions of the world at large.
Pearl Buck, an early twentieth century daughter of missionaries to China, reports their family retainers ~ and the whole vast, teeming culture at large ~ to have a perfect horror of western-style childhood discipline (which in her own household they would hurry to undermine the moment her parents well-meaning and unsuspecting backs were turned).
Their own progeny were indulged in every way a family was able to provide ~ to the point, indeed, of spending their toddling years in split pants to eliminate the stresses of infantile training. No demands of any kind were placed upon them; no disapproval meted out for any action whatsoever.
Yet, she records, somewhere in his or her preteen years, each one suddenly seemed to make an inner decision to cast off this mode of living, and turned as if by magic from self-centered children into polite, considerate, helpful and contributive young adults.
Time for School
Don’t make me tell you again to get up!
At even very exiting moments, such as when a father consented to a storytelling session for the pleasure and instruction of his children ~ along with predictably numerous others, as happy tidings of it flew around the village ~ punctuating his fables, as was traditional, with questions designed to test his audience’s comprehension, exercise their deductive faculties, instill moral sensibility and in general prepare them for the perils and pitfalls of life ~ no child ever thought of jumping up, raising its voice, or overriding, interrupting, mocking or teasing another child.
It made instinctive sense to them to raise their hands and be called upon individually ~ nobody ever had even to remind them, much less to insist that they do so.
This was school for the children, toward which they all gleefully ran just as fast as they could, every time they heard it was in session.
What, don’t your kids do that?…
ET Weighs In
Maybe it should be to us too.