I heard a report on NPR yesterday. Social scientists performed a study of European American kids versus Mayan kids. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/06/21/621752789/a-lost-secret-how-to-get-kids-to-pay-attention Suffice it to say at the end of the study they found Mayan kids far more attentive to a task than European American kids. Their findings suggested Mayan children are encouraged to observe elders and family members more, as they are expected to actively participate in family chores from a young age.
Researchers observed the youngest of Mayan children are given a high degree of autonomy. While Mom was feeding chickens the oldest child chased the baby chicks, the middle ran back and forth with a bunch of neighborhood friends and the four year old climbed ten feet up a nearby tree. They found the high degree of autonomy motivated children to work well. In one family the four year old goes to the town store on her own. “She knows the way,” said Dad.
Many of my son’s friends have apple watches and iPhones. “Don’t you ever get sick of having your parents able to reach you at any time, any place?” I asked. “When we were kids we were told what time to be home and that was it.”
Yesterday evening I was faced with my own disconnect from autonomy. With no set arrival time home at 9:00pm I texted our son, at the carnival with friends, and got no response. I called. No response. Called again. No response. So I asked my husband to go track them down. “But I wouldn’t expect them to be home yet.” He went anyway.
Afterwards when all was found to be well Peter said, “Weren’t you just telling me about autonomy for children?” That is a practice this European American is going to need to spend some time relearning.