What can the Amish teach us techy parents?
These US Anabaptists are known for their shunning of modern society, frontier-style bonnets, full-on beards and horse-drawn carts. But the Amish could have a point about switching off.
My job mostly consists of reviewing consumer technology and videogames. But limiting TV time has disciplined me into being a more attentive parent, and made sure my children are more interested in being outdoors or crafting things than in drooling to the gogglebox.
The Amish similarly ban most other technology alongside television because they believe it makes us less likely to rely on others around us and promotes vanity and individualism.
Live outdoors, live healthy
Cancer rates among Amish people are very low. Even skin cancer rates are low – despite the fact that most Amish spend their days outdoors (that’s probably due to their clothing). An active, outdoors life and simple diet makes sense physically and psychologically for children.
‘Demut’ and ‘Gelassenheit’
The former’s humility, the latter calmness. The Amish prize these qualities highly. And they seek to avoid ‘Hochmut’ (pride). That ties in well with research by Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck in the 1990s in the US school system that found esteem-boosting praise (‘you’re so clever’) actually reduced a child’s ability to solve problems, particularly in comparison to praise for the process (‘you’re finding really good ways to do this’).
At 16, young Amish people are allowed to go outside their normally closed communities and break key Amish rules. This idea invokes an ideal for parenting during teenage years – allowing children to experiment without excessive condemnation, to be able to fall, fail and learn what it means to pick themselves up again.
The idea we won’t copy
Most Amish do not believe in education past 13 or so. Unsurprisingly, that’s where I and the Amish part company…