Western assumptions about the emotional capabilities of children might not do them credit, a new study with the indigenous Mapuche people of southern Chile suggests.
For the study, researchers conducted a survey of 271 parents and teachers in southern Chile. Out of the total number of participants, 106 were Mapuche, an indigenous people of the region. The remaining 165 were non-Mapuche.
Aiming to gain a better understanding of how two radically different cultures perceive children’s abilities to deal with emotions, the researchers developed survey questions based on interviews and focus groups.
One finding was that Mapuche parents and teachers were significantly more likely than non-Mapuche to expect their children to be able to control fear. This is because Mapuche kids are taught from an early age that learning not to be afraid is part of growing up.
Another interesting finding is that Mapuche also places great value on a child’s relationship with nature. Instead of fearing nature, kids are taught to respect it. And parents also believe that nature can play a key role in helping children deal with negative emotions, and generally become more mindful.