Westerners are often struck by the emotional security, self-confidence, curiosity, and autonomy of members of small-scale societies, Jared Diamond says, which lends him to suggest a list of best practices for raising kids from hunter-gatherers:
We see that people in small-scale societies spend far more time talking to each other than we do, and they spend no time at all on passive entertainment supplied by outsiders, such as television, videogames, and books. We are struck by the precocious development of social skills in their children. These are qualities that most of us admire, and would like to see in our own children, but we discourage development of those qualities by ranking and grading our children and constantly telling them what to do. The adolescent identity crises that plague American teenagers aren’t an issue for hunter-gatherer children. The Westerners who have lived with hunter-gatherers and other small-scale societies speculate that these admirable qualities develop because of the way in which their children are brought up: namely, with constant security and stimulation, as a result of the long nursing period, sleeping near parents for several years, far more social models available to children through allo-parenting, far more social stimulation through constant physical contact and proximity of caretakers, instant caretaker responses to a child’s crying, and the minimal amount of physical punishment.
I strongly suspect that young hunter-gatherers display such emotional security, self-confidence, curiosity, and autonomy because they’ve grown up in an environment that they’re well adapted to. Modern children can be left to their own devices in playgrounds and parks, too, but not in factories or office buildings.
Also, modern children can learn many “primitive” tasks by watching their parents — gardening, DIY repairs, etc. — but they can’t get much out of watching adults read reports, run numbers in Excel, email colleagues, etc.