New studies from the University of Notre Dame argue that our early hunter-gatherer ancestors raised happier, more compassionate kids. According to psychology professor Darcia Narvaez, who authored the studies, modern parenting--Bugaboo strollers and all--deprives kids of basic needs necessary for wellbeing and a moral sense. She sites a shocking statistic that college students are 40% less empathetic today than they were 30 years ago, with the number getting worse all the time. Pebbles and Bam Bam, or any other babies born into a Paleolithic hunter-gatherer upbringing, she says, would grow up to be more compassionate and less violent than kids today.
Narvaez mentions six ancient parenting practices that modern moms and dads could adapt to reap the benefits of a Paleolithic upbringing:
- Natural birth. According to some research, medical intervention can interfere with mother-baby bonding.
- Breastfeeding. Research suggests that breast milk helps strengthen a baby's immune system. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends that babies nurse for at least two years.
- Cuddling, yes. Spanking, no. Narvaez advocates near-constant holding and cuddling (and co-sleeping) and is anti-spanking.
- Responsiveness. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors responded to baby's needs before he had the chance to get upset.
- Many adult caregivers. According to Narvaez, it really does take a village.
- Letting kids play with pals of varying ages. Early toddler ancestors weren't separated into age-specific play circles, so they were exposed to kids at different stages of development, which, according to Narvaez, enhanced their growth.
It's hard for me to believe that our ancestors did a better job raising their kids. Wasn't human sacrifice and cannibalism prevalent? (Also -- those eyebrows were out. of. control.) But do Narvaez's stats and methods make sense to you?