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Give This a Try: The 20-20-20 Rule for Toddler Playtime

Modern, Western parents see their fair share of tantrums, whininess, fighting, and generally selfish behavior in their toddlers and young children. Michaeleena Doucleffa, an NPR science reporter, mother, and author, begins her recent book, Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy Helpful Little Humans, telling of her experiencing all of these with her 3-year-old daughter.

Now Rosy was three years old, and all the crying had morphed into tantrums and a torrent of parental abuse. When she had a meltdown and I picked her up, she had the habit of slapping me across the face. Some mornings, I left the house with a red handprint across my cheek.

But after traveling the world and observing how indigenous communities parent their children, Michaeleena stopped following the modern, Western model of parenting and found ways to incorporate their ancient wisdom into her family’s daily routines.

One of the many things she changed was cutting way back on all of the child-centered activities she coordinated for her daughter. Gone were the coordinated arts and crafts, visits to museums, zoos, and special playdates. And to take their place? Nothing.

Like the children in these indigenous communities, Rosy would be brought into the family routine of work and chores, taught how to behave in adult environments, and left to have her own autonomy during free time.

The result? Rosy became calmer, more helpful, and generally happier.

This was a big change, to be sure. But it was gradual. To help herself ease into this new routine with her daughter she made up a simple rule to stick to in the early days: for 20 minutes each day, she made sure she was at least 20 feet away from her daughter, and she was silent for those 20 minutes.

Give it a try!

20 minutes a day


20 feet away


Silence from the parent for those 20 minutes

Give This a Try: The 20-20-20 Rule for Toddler Playtime

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Give This a Try: The 20-20-20 Rule for Toddler Playtime

Learn about NPR science reporter, author, and mother, Michaeleena Doucleff's 20-20-20 rule and how that helps her child learn kindness, responsibility, and helpfulness.

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Key takeaways

1

NPR science reporter, author, and mother, Michaeleena Doucleff, traveled the world to learn how indigenous communities parent and raise kind, responsible, and helpful kids

2

One thing she saw was the lack of adult-coordinated, child-centered activities; kids were brought into the adult world to help or left to play on their own

3

Michaeleena brought home the 20-20-20 rule to help her ease into this new routine

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Modern, Western parents see their fair share of tantrums, whininess, fighting, and generally selfish behavior in their toddlers and young children. Michaeleena Doucleffa, an NPR science reporter, mother, and author, begins her recent book, Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy Helpful Little Humans, telling of her experiencing all of these with her 3-year-old daughter.

Now Rosy was three years old, and all the crying had morphed into tantrums and a torrent of parental abuse. When she had a meltdown and I picked her up, she had the habit of slapping me across the face. Some mornings, I left the house with a red handprint across my cheek.

But after traveling the world and observing how indigenous communities parent their children, Michaeleena stopped following the modern, Western model of parenting and found ways to incorporate their ancient wisdom into her family’s daily routines.

One of the many things she changed was cutting way back on all of the child-centered activities she coordinated for her daughter. Gone were the coordinated arts and crafts, visits to museums, zoos, and special playdates. And to take their place? Nothing.

Like the children in these indigenous communities, Rosy would be brought into the family routine of work and chores, taught how to behave in adult environments, and left to have her own autonomy during free time.

The result? Rosy became calmer, more helpful, and generally happier.

This was a big change, to be sure. But it was gradual. To help herself ease into this new routine with her daughter she made up a simple rule to stick to in the early days: for 20 minutes each day, she made sure she was at least 20 feet away from her daughter, and she was silent for those 20 minutes.

Give it a try!

20 minutes a day


20 feet away


Silence from the parent for those 20 minutes

Modern, Western parents see their fair share of tantrums, whininess, fighting, and generally selfish behavior in their toddlers and young children. Michaeleena Doucleffa, an NPR science reporter, mother, and author, begins her recent book, Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy Helpful Little Humans, telling of her experiencing all of these with her 3-year-old daughter.

Now Rosy was three years old, and all the crying had morphed into tantrums and a torrent of parental abuse. When she had a meltdown and I picked her up, she had the habit of slapping me across the face. Some mornings, I left the house with a red handprint across my cheek.

But after traveling the world and observing how indigenous communities parent their children, Michaeleena stopped following the modern, Western model of parenting and found ways to incorporate their ancient wisdom into her family’s daily routines.

One of the many things she changed was cutting way back on all of the child-centered activities she coordinated for her daughter. Gone were the coordinated arts and crafts, visits to museums, zoos, and special playdates. And to take their place? Nothing.

Like the children in these indigenous communities, Rosy would be brought into the family routine of work and chores, taught how to behave in adult environments, and left to have her own autonomy during free time.

The result? Rosy became calmer, more helpful, and generally happier.

This was a big change, to be sure. But it was gradual. To help herself ease into this new routine with her daughter she made up a simple rule to stick to in the early days: for 20 minutes each day, she made sure she was at least 20 feet away from her daughter, and she was silent for those 20 minutes.

Give it a try!

20 minutes a day


20 feet away


Silence from the parent for those 20 minutes

Modern, Western parents see their fair share of tantrums, whininess, fighting, and generally selfish behavior in their toddlers and young children. Michaeleena Doucleffa, an NPR science reporter, mother, and author, begins her recent book, Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy Helpful Little Humans, telling of her experiencing all of these with her 3-year-old daughter.

Now Rosy was three years old, and all the crying had morphed into tantrums and a torrent of parental abuse. When she had a meltdown and I picked her up, she had the habit of slapping me across the face. Some mornings, I left the house with a red handprint across my cheek.

But after traveling the world and observing how indigenous communities parent their children, Michaeleena stopped following the modern, Western model of parenting and found ways to incorporate their ancient wisdom into her family’s daily routines.

One of the many things she changed was cutting way back on all of the child-centered activities she coordinated for her daughter. Gone were the coordinated arts and crafts, visits to museums, zoos, and special playdates. And to take their place? Nothing.

Like the children in these indigenous communities, Rosy would be brought into the family routine of work and chores, taught how to behave in adult environments, and left to have her own autonomy during free time.

The result? Rosy became calmer, more helpful, and generally happier.

This was a big change, to be sure. But it was gradual. To help herself ease into this new routine with her daughter she made up a simple rule to stick to in the early days: for 20 minutes each day, she made sure she was at least 20 feet away from her daughter, and she was silent for those 20 minutes.

Give it a try!

20 minutes a day


20 feet away


Silence from the parent for those 20 minutes

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