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Inuit Parents Teach Control of Anger


  • The names “Eskimo/Eskimos” have grown in disfavor in recent years. The terms refer to people living in the Arctic coastal regions of North America, Greenland and northeast Siberia.

  • Terms, Inuk (singular) and Inuit (plural) have replaced the words “Eskimo/Eskimos) for people living in Canada.

Inuit parents have practiced traditional parenting skill for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Their golden rule? Never yell at a child. If asked about the rule, Inuit parents may shrug and ask, “Why yell? You only make the child more upset.”

Parents claim that when a child exhibits a tantrum, the child has a reason. They believe that nothing can be gained by trying to teach while the child remains upset. On the other hand, if you wait until your child feels calm, you will be able to share teaching ideas. Inuit parents suggest the following.

  • Never yell.

  • Do not take a child’s tantrum personally.

  • Stop talking to the child

  • Wait for the child’s anger to end.

Inuit parents frequently use storytelling and drama to emphasize teaching concepts. Parents also use humor to ease an angry or stressful story. I must admit that the stories seem frightening to me. For example, when teaching a young child about the dangers of falling in the ocean, parents may claim that a monster lives in the ocean. If the child gets too close to the water, the monster will pull the child down into the depth of the water. Yikes!

Other monsters may include a yelling monster or a sharing monster. Parents in the United States who have used the Inuit’s concept of monsters insist that the stories work. I suspect that since children enjoy good stories, especially those with a hint of danger and a dash of humor, children can put stories to good use. Certainly, I agree that simple stories often provide powerful lessons.

Inuit parents shape children’s behaviors by telling oral stories passed from one generation to the next. “Oral storytelling is known as a human universal. – a way to teach children about values and safety.”

Jean Briggs, a Harvard graduate who studied the nature of anger, was 34 years old when she moved above the Arctic Circle to live for 17 months. During this time, Briggs lived without roads, heat, or grocery stores. She endured temperatures that dropped to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, an Inuit family adopted her. During the winter, Briggs and the family lived in igloos. Summers found them in tents.

Briggs soon realized that the Inuit people had mastered control of anger. The people even considered mild irritation as an example of weakness. If someone felt offended, the one doing the damage often said, “Too bad.”

She asked, “How do you teach your children?” Briggs watched a two-year-old boy hit his mom. The mom, following Inuit ways, responded, “Oooowww. That hurts.” No scolding. When Briggs questioned the woman, the mom replied, “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice. It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

A mom might say, “Hit me.” The child wonders, “What should I do?” If the child hits, mom does not scold or yell but dramatizes being hurt. The mother playfully asks, “Don’t you like me? Are you a baby? Dramas using stuffed animals, dolls or puppets can also act out situations.

Author, Michaeleen Doucleff, claims that in order to teach children to be strong emotionally, and to avoid “taking everything so seriously, “parents must repeat the drama from time to time. Dramas give the child a chance to practice being in control. While feeling angry, this can be hard to do, but practice will help develop calmness. Inuit tradition assures parents that practice rewires the brain. Children lack a developed prefrontal cortex – so parents help shape the brains.


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