Jared Diamond contrasts our modern methods of raising children with those used in more traditional societies, such as the villagers of New Guinea.
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.
But that's just the beginning. Children in traditional societies have more freedom to roam, multiple caregivers, and access to adult experiences that we consider not quite safe. Of course, not all those practices are transferable to a more modern society -after all, we have automobiles, which is the most dangerous thing for a child. But a generous excerpt from Diamond's book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? is very much worth a read. Link
(Image credit: Flickr user Focx Photography)