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Responsibility and Children  -  One  

A book review of several parenting books in a recent New Yorker magazine started off with an interesting story.  It talked about an anthropologist and two different studies she had been involved in.  One was with a “primitive” tribe in the Amazon basin with fewer than 20,000 members.  The other was with a representative sample of middle class families in Los Angeles.  The most interesting part to me was the difference in responsibility between children in those two cultures.

The anthropologist told of a trip she took with a couple of the Amazonian families to do some work for a few days.  A girl from an unrelated family volunteered to go with them and the scientist was struck by how the girl initiated actions to be helpful to the group and made herself an integral part without any adult direction.  Even more striking.  The girl was six years old.

Contrast that with stories from the Los Angeles study of parents who tried to get their children to do regular household chores and eventually gave up because it was so difficult to get their children to act responsibly.  One of the ideas thrown out in the review is that the more sophisticated a culture becomes the less responsibility is shown by the children in the culture.

I think we often cripple our children by not giving them enough responsibility and not holding them responsible for their own actions.  I will write more about that next month.