I have a sweet tooth and like to try my hand at different desserts. The Amish friendship cake was one of those that I had experimented with. It is made from a sourdough starter that is shared among friends in a manner similar to a chain letter. In sixteen years, I have made that cake just once. So it’s rather bizarre how the cake just came to my mind when I’m not in the process of making one now. Actually I have been reflecting on the Amish culture after an incident that happened a couple of weeks ago, and it perhaps triggered my memory because I had baked the delicious treat by that name, not knowing still if it is related to the community.
TGIF expands itself as “Thank God It’s Friday!” Somehow I’m always enchanted by this acronym which so appropriately encapsulates my emotions. After a hectic week, I eagerly look forward to the weekend and enjoy going out for dinner with my family. However, the last experience at the restaurant was not a pleasant one, and I would have any day preferred a quiet evening at home.
Across the table from ours, sat a family of 4 which included two children possibly in the age group of 3-7. Within a few minutes after we settled down, a sudden cacophony filled the air. The younger kid who had his eyes glued on Daddy’s iPhone, flung it to the ground with a loud scream because an incoming call interrupted the video he was viewing. The older sister, not an angel either, followed suit by throwing tantrums. It was because Mommy handed over the tablet on which she was playing games to her younger brother to pacify him. As much as I am very fond of kids, the behavior of the siblings was extremely annoying. They seemed very undisciplined. Both children were so addicted to the gadgets that they just couldn’t separate themselves from those “toys” for a single minute. It took the parents forever to appease the kids who cried out in chorus.
After having witnessed the live drama of those cute but cranky kids, I came back home and started thinking about an article in TIME magazine about why Amish kids are happier and more obedient than ours. Based on a book by Serena B. Miller on Amish parenting, the piece focused on the merits of Amish children. Despite the fact that Amish children are unplugged from technology and do not enjoy the modern day comforts of urbanization, they are serene, calm, and respectful. Contrary to the popular belief that little ones would get bored in the absence of technology, Amish kids instead have an edge over those who mechanically rely on it. Not being used to depending on television or video games to provide them entertainment, they use their creative faculties and discover ways to amuse themselves.
Amish parenting styles are rather impressive, and my sister-in-law and I were discussing if we could have used some of those tips for our breed! The children are taught to be helpful from a very young age. To begin with, two year olds are trained to hang up their coats, and as a positive reinforcement, treats are hidden in the pocket of the coat that is hung. The thought that runs behind this practice is that children, by helping out, start feeling that they are an integral part of the family.
What is particularly appealing to me is the concept of “Uffgevva” that is taught to Amish children from a very young age. It revolves around the idea that our needs and wants are important but not more important than the needs of others. This is indeed a noble philosophy which trains children to be altruistic. From a tender age, they learn the values of selfless behavior by seeing parents going out of their way to care for neighbors and friends!
Parenting is one of the hardest and most challenging jobs on earth. For our children to cultivate good habits and manners, we as parents are responsible for steering them along the right path. Understanding child psychology is a herculean task. At times, even the sweetest angel may momentarily turn into the scariest monster. I can’t help agreeing with a quote: “You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” Every parent raises a child, nourishing in mind the image of a cherub and not a brat. There are scores of advice for bringing up children: some sensible and others not. There is no tailor-made recipe for caregiving that guarantees perfect kids, but I feel that some of the Amish parenting strategies are at least worth exploring.