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Are you raising a kidult or a survivor? Read on to find out

In his new book, anthropologist David F Lancy asks whether the quest to protect children from all harm is undermining their natural inclination to develop survival skills.

books Updated: Nov 25, 2017 19:49 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times
Child,Adult,Parent
Raising Children: Surprising Insights from Other Cultures
  • David F Lancy
  • Cambridge Press
  • Cost: Rs 1,035 (e-edition)

Anxious parenting, argues David F Lancy, often produces ‘kidults’ who are not equipped to cope with the complexities of the adult world, leading to anxiety, stress and depression.

In his book, Raising Children: Surprising Insights from Other Cultures, Lancy hops across continents and cultures to bring together insightful anecdotes and observations on the many different methods of child-rearing.

In Connecticut, for instance, teachers are banned from marking work submitted by students with red ink because ‘it may damage the child’s self-esteem’. Among Thailand’s nomadic hunter-gatherers and certain South American tribes, meanwhile, children of the same age are encouraged to use tools, knives and machetes to hone their survival skills.

Kids as young as five routinely babysit younger siblings in Asia and Africa, while the parents are away at work, but in many developed countries, leaving young children at home without supervision would be labelled criminal neglect.

The book throws up little-known insights from India too, like the concept of delayed personhood. The Lepcha people from Sikkim, for example, consider a baby still in-utero for three days after birth and refer to it as a ‘rat-child’. The Punan Bah from Malaysia and Indonesia believe a child is little more than a body in its first days, as its soul is still gradually moving in and making it human.

Lancy, an anthropologist, rejects helicopter parenting and micro-management of children’s lives and encourages parents to be more relaxed and confident about their parenting skills. He challenges the high-maintenance regimes demanded by both the so-called progressive parenting movements and by prescriptive societies, including the concept of attachment parenting that prescribes a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver.

Modern practices associated with attachment parenting, such as on-demand feeding and giving in to children’s demands, he says, should either serve both the family and the child, or be abandoned.

As Lancy puts it: “We must not let the pendulum swing so far that other family members, or even the very fabric of family life, must suffer to stave off the dubious threat of reactive attachment disorder.”

First Published: Nov 25, 2017 19:49 IST