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Less Control, More Shared Caretaking

What is done in love is well done.
Vincent Van Gogh

Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans is a popular new book by Michaeleen Doucleff that urges today’s adults to learn from ancient cultures about calm childrearing. Francis Wardle, author of Oh Boy!sent us this message about the book: “The author studied the Maya in a village in the Yucatan, Inuit people in Northern Canada, and a Hadzabe tribe in Africa…The main message of the book is that we in the West try to control the development and outcomes of our children far too much, while not trusting them to solve their own problems and learn important information.”

From Doucleff’s research for the book, she learned that involving children in caretaking activities can have a profound impact on their well-being, as they experience themselves as helpful, valued members of the family (or, in group settings, the classroom community). She explains:
“Let them practice. Practice cleaning. Practice cooking. Practice washing. Let them grab the spoon from your hand and stir the pot. Let them grab the vacuum and start cleaning the rug. Let them make a bit of a mess when they are little, slightly less of a mess as they grow, and by the time they’re preteens, they will be helping to clean up your messes without you having to ask them—or even running your entire household.”

In her important new book, Illuminating Care: The Pedagogy and Practice of Care in Early Childhood CommunitiesCarol Garboden Murray urges practitioners to think deeply about the importance of caretaking experiences. She explains what motivated her to write the book: “Care was the thing that fascinated me most in my study of human development. I wasn’t willing to rank care, hide care, or disguise care. I wanted to name care and show that the rituals of caring require dignity, respect, presence, dialogue and intelligence.”

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