Raising kids and teaching them to control their anger—without losing your own temper—is major challenge of parenting. The Inuit parenting style has resulted in raising kids who are largely anger-free for generations. Read on for their secret.

In the 1960s, Harvard graduate student of anthropology Jean Briggs journeyed past the Arctic Circle to live on a tundra among the Inuit for 17 months. During her time with them she discovered many interesting behaviors that she later documented in two books, not the least of which was the fact that Inuits never got angry and or raised their voices at their kids, despite the typical toddler tantrums.

photo: Ana Tablas via Unsplash

Yelling is seen as demeaning to kids in the Inuit culture; it’s as if a parent is throwing a tantrum of their own. Instead the Inuit remain calm to model the behavior they want their kids to learn. As clinical psychologist and author Laura Markham explained to NPR, “When we yell at a child—or even threaten with something like ‘I’m starting to get angry,’ we’re training the child to yell. We’re training them to yell when they get upset and that yelling solves problems.”

So what’s the Inuit’s big secret? Play! Instead of scolding, timeouts or any type of discipline for difficult behavior the Inuits use a powerful parenting tool to teach their kids to control their anger as they grow older. By role playing scenarios with toys, Inuit parents teach their kids how to handle situations when their emotions are out of control.

Storytelling is another important tool the Inuit use. Oral stories passed down through generations help spread the importance of specific values learned behaviors, like safety near the ocean.

You don’t have to be an Inuit to employ these successful methods to help kids develop anger control. Markham suggests that when your child misbehaves wait for everyone to calm down then go over the situation. You can tell them a story about what happened or use dolls to act it out. Markham also advises to keep it fun, explaining that fantasy play offers plenty of opportunities to teach kids proper behavior.

“Play is their work,” Markham says. “That’s how they learn about the world and about their experiences.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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