Modern parents face tons of advice – a lot of it conflicting. New research seems to come out daily, and new experts are always spouting new ideas.
The Amish, on the other hand, hold onto old ways, with limited technology and a simple life. But Amish families are also marked by strong bonds, as novelist Serena B. Miller recognized as she did research for her historical novels about the Amish community. And she found Amish children to be “obedient and
content… and remarkably happy.”
Here are five secrets parents can learn from the Amish, as offered up in Miller’s new book: More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting.
- Extended Family. One big hallmark of Amish culture: children grow up not just with their immediate family, but in a broad network of people who know and care about them. And that network doesn’t have to be perfect to work. “Family,” Miller writes, “even flawed families with eccentric relatives—is important to a child’s wellbeing.”
- Imperfect Hospitality. The Amish nurture community by welcoming a steady stream of guests into the home. But they don’t try to have everything perfect before guests arrive. And they don’t apologize if things aren’t just right. They know that “most people care a whole lot more about being welcome than the condition of your home,” as Miller writes. And it’s an attitude that teaches kids to live without shame.
- Hands-On Skills. Amish make sure their kids have hands-on skills, even if they also have a higher education. And, those hands-on skills can build perseverance, attention to detail, and confidence that can help kids succeed in any other part of life.
- Practical Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a crucial aspect of Amish homes, where it is practiced daily, and seen as a way to show respect to loved ones. It also, Miller observes, provides Amish children with “a sense of security,” because in a climate of forgiveness, they know that “making a mistake is not the end of the world.”
- Creative Boredom. You might think that because the Amish world isn’t filled with technological devices, Amish kids would be more likely to get bored. In fact, the opposite is true. Because Amish kids don’t have a TV show or game to turn to if they feel a twinge of boredom, they have more opportunities to “use their own creativity to amuse themselves,” Miller says.
Ultimately, all Amish parenting is rooted in the faith at the heart of Amish practice. The Amish aren’t known for trying to convert people, but for the integrity of their lives. And as one old Amish man who Miller interviewed observed, “From what I’ve seen over the years, that is also the most effective kind of parenting.”
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