Storytelling as behavior modification

On how the Inuit control anger starting with young children.

Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.

Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top.

The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child.

Where the article gets really interesting is the use of storytelling. They have oral stories passed down ever generations that are designed to shape behavior to prevent bad behavior. So, instead of raising your voice, you seed their imagination that they are going to suffer if they do the bad thing and softly remind them about this potentiality. Or perform satire of the bad behavior to make the perpetrator of it appear childish.

I also love how this ties into the traditions of storytelling. I view blogging as the modern equivalent: a medium of passing along information for the social group. Bloggers are modern griots. A tribe’s storyteller holds a prized position in the group, which is due, I think, to how our brains are wired to better understand information in the form of a story.

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