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the hunter - gather way

What is trustful parenting?

Image by Annie Spratt

I love the term trustful parenting, - yet it has lost its way into mainstream parenting.

Trustful parenting  is widely still used throughout tribal band hunter - gatherer communities through out the world

and it was the way our primal ancestries parented Trustful parents do not measure or try to over reach their childs  development, because they trust that they will guide their own development.- They show support, rather than try to

guide. Ethnologists who lived amongst these communities to observe their way of life,

noted :the children will do chores or tasks happily and  without being told ,they are free to explore and test their

learning limits similar to the free range parenting method of parenting we hear about , these parents respond with a gentle intune approach similar to the attachment parenting  style of parenting  

Both adults and children are treated as equals, -  yet they are all happy and willing to pitch in when needed.-

because to them it is the whole tribes responsibility , no one is to blame for the mess,no one is bossed or bribed into having to do it.

They found that even though these children of tribes had no real toys , or technology they were not needed as the children were free to explore, - and were very happy doing so.

The children had most of the day to have unstructured free play, to test there limits, to learn

essentially life skills from playing with peers - , to swim ,to climb and  to find  creative ways to

mimic  adult duties "role play " - using natural objects they collected.They spent most if not all of their time outside amongst nature through out  the day were they would roam

and explore.

hunter-gatherer adults refrain from destroying the sense of play in their children and in themselves. - hence why they do not give orders or boss each other nor children around.Play requires a sense of equality, and hunter-gatherers are remarkably able to retain that sense even in their interactions with young children. Young children are clearly not as strong, skilled, or knowledgeable about the world as are older children or adults;

but their needs and desires are equally legitimate, and nobody knows what a child needs or desires better than

the child themselves . Hunter-gatherers seem to understand these truths better than do most people in

our society today.


The observation of children learning mainly from each other – is how 

 many hunter-gatherer communities " school" - 

They  have found that when children learn from other children in two sub-Saharan African forager societies,

it fosters independence and collaborative problem solving. Such learning systems help children to be flexible in

their behaviour. —while also promoting cooperation, such as the sharing of knowledge and resources.

Both boys and girls spend together in multi-aged  groups away from adults. Even when adults are close by, they

rarely guide children’s activities. Instead, children learn through child-to-child

teaching and by imitating adult activities in their play. For example, children regularly make small camps beside adult camps. They cut leaves and vines, bending them to make little huts using tools 

When children are cutting down a tree, another child might say, “No, hold the knife like this”.

Or they might say: “Let me show you.” They'd discuss whether it’s the right kind of vine to use 

The boys will frequently go hunting, sometimes bringing back butterflies and bugs that they hand over to the girls,

who then pretend to cook them over the fire. This play-food is then shared, following the

same conventions as adults’ meat sharing. In the process, children develop cooking and hunting skills while

also learning about cultural tradition  surrounding food sharing. Children’s play will often seamlessly transition into foraging work. Hadza  and BaYaka children also participate in food collecting children are active foragers,they often use small bows and digging sticks, made for them

by parents or older siblings,to collect food close to the camp. BaYaka parents sometimes make small versions of tools to encourage children’s participation in subsistence activities, with some young adolescent boys maintaining their own trap lines. Children will invite each other to participate in tasks: “Let’s go and collect tubers,” they might say, or “Let’s fetch water”. There might be commands like: “Add water to the cooking pot.” In all of these activities,

children are teaching each other through questions, instructions and demonstration.

All this play is creating future generations of hunter gathers , play is the most important and crucial step for tribal children , yet western children have barely any free time to play at all, they are to busy so called  "learning"

If the Hunter - gather children learn naturally of how to become " adults" and learn the skills needed for

their way of life and essential skills, by the resources and curiosity they have 











Another striking feature of childhood in hunter-gatherer societies is that parents value children’s autonomy.

For example, BaYaka parents explained that they see children as being in charge of their own

education: they believe that telling children what to do might prevent children learning other equally meaningful

skills. Because BaYaka parents view children as developing autonomously, they frown on pushing children to hit a milestone for which they might not be developmentally ready. Parents also know that when children are acting autonomously, they will often do something helpful, like cooking and  They don’t want to get in the way of that.

For hunter-gatherers,autonomous work, play, and children learning from each other foster the skills necessary

to thrive in shifting environments. By adopting aspects of hunter-gatherer learning systems to  modern parenting methods ,we may well give all children the skills necessary for solving tomorrow’s problems.

   • "Hunter-gatherers do not give orders to their children; for example, no adult announces bedtime. At night,

children remain around adults until they feel tired and fall asleep. ...

  • Parakana adults do not interfere with their children's lives. They never use aggression with them,

physically or verbally, nor do they offer praise or keep track of their development."

  • The idea that this is ‘my child' or ‘your child' does not exist, they help each other out [among the Yequana, of

South America].

  • Deciding what another person should do, no matter what his age, is outside the Yequana vocabulary of behaviours. There is great interest in what everyone does, but no impulse to influence--let alone coerce--anyone.

The child's will is his motive force."

   • "Aborigine children are indulged to an extreme degree, and sometimes continue to suckle until they are four or five years old. Physical punishment for a child is almost unheard of."

   • "Infants and young children [among Inuit hunter-gatherers of the Hudson Bay area] are allowed to explore their environments to the limits of their physical capabilities and with minimal interference from adults. Thus if a child

picks up a hazardous object, parents generally leave it to explore the dangers on its own.

The child is presumed to know what it is doing."

• "Ju/'hoansi children [of Africa] very rarely cried, probably because they had little to cry about.

No child was ever yelled at or slapped or physically punished, and few were even scolded. Most never heard a discouraging word until they were approaching adolescence, and even then the reprimand,

if it really was a reprimand, was delivered in a soft voice."

  • Concerning education, hunter-gatherers trust that children and adolescents will figure out what they need to

learn and will learn it through their own drives to observe, explore, and play with all relevant aspects of their

environment  They trust, further, that when young people are ready to start contributing in meaningful ways to the

band's economy, they will do so gladly, without any need for coercion or coaxing.





Image by Annie Spratt
Children playing
Image by Annie Spratt
Image by Zach Vessels
Image by 2Photo Pots