In Western culture, parenting is often about control.
"We think of obedience from a control angle. Somebody is in charge and the other one is doing what they are told because they have to," says Barbara Rogoff, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has studied the Maya culture for 30 years.
And if you pay attention to the way parents interact with children in our society, the idea is blazingly obvious. We tend to boss them around. "Put your shoes on!" or "Eat your sandwich!"
"People think either the adult is in control or the child is in control," Rogoff says.
But what if there is another way to interact with kids that removes control from the equation, almost altogether?
That's exactly what the Maya — and several other indigenous cultures — do. Instead of trying to control children, Rogoff says, parents aim to collaborate with them.
"It's kids and adults together accomplishing a common goal," Rogoff says. "It's not letting the kids do whatever they want. It's a matter of children — and parents — being willing to be guided."
In the Maya culture, even the littlest of children are treated with this respect. "It's collaborative from the get-go."
The idea is so strong that some Mayan languages don't even have a word for "control" when talking about children, Rogoff says.
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