parenting styles

Paleo Parenting Is Perfect For Raising Children In Hunger And Darkness

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cavemenOne of today’s most popular diets is the Paleo Diet. If you are not familiar with the Paleo Diet, I would say that you’ve been living under a rock, but living under a rock is very Paleo. To eat the Paleo way is to attempt to mimic our “primal ancestors” (as Paleo followers refer to them) and eat mainly meats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. If Uggsnorf the caveman couldn’t eat it, then neither can you. Paleo has become so popular that it has turned into a lifestyle for many people, and that includes how they parent. Parenting like cavemen? Sounds dangerous and filthy. Tell me more!

In an article this weekend by The New York Times, paleo parenting is described as being founded on certain basics like attachment parenting, home births, and breastfeeding. No surprises there. But to fully embrace paleo parenting in a modern world, you can also eat your placenta without vomiting, force your child to throw out their Halloween candy and replace it with crystallized ginger and other healthy sadness, and allow them to participate in unstructured play.

Unstructured play? So…you mean, like playing? Yes. Apparently letting your kids play is all the rage among paleo parents. For example, as this mother says in the New York Times article:

 Instead of overscheduling her 5-year-old daughter with cello lessons and science fairs, Ms. Phelps prefers to spend hours with her after school playing in a muddy creek near their house. “She loves bugs,” Ms. Phelps said. “She loves dirt. I think she’s going to be an entomologist.”

That’s some cutting-edge shit right there. But along with these natural, caveman-like practices, paleo is also supposed to help our bodies look awesome, which was indeed important to our unwashed ancestors. In her book, Primal Moms Look Good Naked: A Mother’s Guide to Achieving Beauty through Excellent Health (or, How Cavemen Got Those Amazing Abs), author Peggy Emch tells us that paleo nutrition and exercise can prevent health problems such as stretch marks, varicose veins, pregnancy-related depression, vaginal dryness, and morning sickness.

It’s always a comfort to know that among the many things in this world for which mothers are responsible, our own stretch marks and morning sickness can now be counted among them.

So what else do I need to do to mimic the parenting practices of our ancestors in my suburban Seattle home? Well, paleo parents recommend use of the Squatty Potty, which allows your children to poop the way nature intended and become hopelessly constipated in public school bathrooms.

Another of my favorite suggestions is that to improve your child’s sleep, their bedrooms should be pitch-black at bedtime, as though they were sleeping in a cave. That means black out shades, no electronics, and no night lights. That’s going to be tough for those of us with children who are afraid of the dark: “Stop screaming, Timmy. You’ll alert predators.” The paleo suggestion for dealing with scared children is to, of course, co-sleep, but if you don’t want to do that you can also put in a nightlight with a red bulb because that is the color of fire and is not harmful to us the way white light is. “Timmy. Don’t be afraid. There’s a small fire in the corner of your bedroom to keep you safe. Nighty-night.”

Finally, you can also encourage intermittent fasting for your kids which is healthy because our primal ancestors sometimes starved. I swear, people…

Paleo Parenting is not going to be happening in my house anytime soon, but if you have tried it and found that it worked for you (or didn’t) we would love to hear from you. Tell us about your experience in the comments!

(Photo: Esteban De Armas / Shutterstock)

71 Comments

  1. CrazyFor Kate

    September 22, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I assume they’re going to imitate “feast or famine” conditions to the point where they stop ovulating for months at a time, right? Cause that was Paleolithic birth control!

  2. Allthingsblue

    September 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Welp… At least I don’t have to brush their teeth anymore. #downwithhygiene

    • Foreskin Magpie

      September 22, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      Pfft, you sheeple. Big Denta is a pyramid scheme, or something.

    • Allthingsblue

      September 22, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      I think mine might be… Up selling pos.

    • Petunia Fickle Bitch

      September 22, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      Yeah, mine is always on about teeth cleanings and filling that stupid cavity and floss-pushing.

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    • CrazyFor Kate

      September 23, 2014 at 2:44 am

      I’m so honoured that the spam feels it needs to directly address me.

  3. Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    September 22, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    That’s one way to learn to really appreciate fire. Maybe?

  4. Elyne

    September 22, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    This is a joke right?

  5. Joy

    September 22, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I’m currently doing the paleeo diet against my will while trying to find out what my breastfed son is allergic to in my diet. I can’t eat wheat, gluten, dairy, oats, nuts, or anything else that tastes good. Kill me now, please.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 22, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      I am sad for yoy. We went to a friend’s house for a bbq and his wife eats paleo. She made pulled pork which was amazing but I almost cried when I saw her wrap it in kale instead of a roll. Fucking kale!

    • Spongeworthy

      September 23, 2014 at 7:10 am

      What?! That is just an abomination.

    • Joy

      September 23, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Fuck kale. I’ll just eat the meat plain but I refuse to pretend kale is in any way a bread substitute. I miss cheese way more than bread though.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 23, 2014 at 9:04 am

      I know! I love kale, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not god damned bread.

    • biggerthanthesound

      September 23, 2014 at 9:36 am

      I went paelo-ish last fall to win a body challenge at a local workoutland and I don’t even like to eat bread-stuffs anymore. I would have liked eating it that way better, so maybe she feels that way, too. I have a hard time saying no to waffles, though. And doughnuts.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 23, 2014 at 11:11 am

      I’m sure she enjoyed it but it still made my taste buds cry. I may or may not be made of bread though.

    • Joy

      September 23, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      I am also made of bread. I’m pretty much a carbivore when left to my own devices.

    • Maitri

      September 23, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Meh, I am on the ketogenic diet which is low carb so I’d wrap it in romaine lettuce leaves myself. Do I miss bread? Hell yes. But it’s working and I’m losing weight, so YMMV.

    • Foreskin Magpie

      September 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      How long have you been doing it? I actually love ~eating paleo~ but it does take like, 3-5 weeks for it to really start feeling great, imo. I also love making fun of paleo.

    • Joy

      September 23, 2014 at 8:00 am

      This is day 9. I’ve lost three pounds, even though we had family in town and I haven’t had a chance to work out. Eating enough to protect my milk supply has been hard with so many options for snacks removed. Eating at home isn’t too bad because I’m a good cook and I can’t make things that taste good but restaurants suck, salad with no croutons, cheese, or dressing, please! I had no idea how many things had soy hidden in them, and every restaurant I call uses soy or peanut oil in the fryers. It’s worth it though, because my son is much better.

    • Petunia Fickle Bitch

      September 23, 2014 at 8:52 am

      That’s great! Some of these are obvious, but some good snacks are fruit and nuts, spoonfuls of almond butter, baby carrots and bell peppers, hard boiled eggs, turkey pepperoni sticks, tuna on cucumber slices, and MEATBALLS. Eating out blows, no way around that. Whenever I do paleo, I don’t eat out much, unless I can just order a steak. Blood makes a great paleo-friendly sauce, lol. Burgers are easy too–just toss the bun discreetly so no one makes fun of you.
      If you haven’t already, definitely check out the nomnompaleo blog! Love her recipes and she is a cutie.

    • Joy

      September 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks! I will definitely check out that blog, I’m badly in need of special recipes. I made “brownies” out of sweet potatoes last week. They tasted like sadness.

    • LA Face, Oakland Booty (and

      September 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Holy fuck that is the saddest thing I’ve ever read. I do love some sweet potatoes, but they aren’t brownies.

    • Joy

      September 23, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Yeah, I’m learning very quickly that trying to make healthy food taste like something else is a good way to waste ingredients. There are plenty of ways to make sweet potatoes dessert without having them masquerade as brownies. I just have to find new things to eat instead of trying to replicate old favorites with ingredients that don’t belong. Cauliflower crust pizza, I’m looking at you. (Not that I could eat pizza anyway if the crust was wheat-free, because vegan, soy free cheese is a goddamn abomination. Kill it with fire!)

    • blh

      September 23, 2014 at 9:26 am

      You’re a better person than me. I would just stop breastfeeding if that was the case.

    • Joy

      September 23, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      I read about somebody doing an elimination diet to keep breastfeeding while I was pregnant and thought “fuck that, if it comes down to it, he’s getting formula” but now it seems he’s sensitive to dairy and the hypoallergenic formulas are stupid expensive even if he would deign to eat it, which he absolutely will not. He’s already dropped from the 58th to the 3rd percentile and I don’t really have much choice at this point but to modify my diet to get his tummy issues under control and keep him gaining weight without a feeding tube. I kind of have limited other options or I would not be messing with this. Don’t put my mom of the year trophy in the mail just yet, this is not really something I’d do if not coming from a place of desperation.

    • Elizabeth Licata

      September 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      I’m so sorry, that sounds awful. Can I mail the trophy anyway? Because that sounds like so much work.

    • Joy

      September 23, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Yeah, somehow it never occurred to me when I was pregnant that this kind of thing was a possibility. I freaked out about ancephaly and passing meconium in the womb and a million other things that are almost certainly not going to be a problem, but I didn’t think to be concerned about reflux and food sensitivities and stuff that actually happens frequently. It is a grade-A pain in my pass but at least he is getting better now. 🙂

    • blh

      September 23, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Eh, he’d eat the formula if that’s all there was I bet lol(that’s why you’re better than me). But I don’t blame you for not wanting to buy the super expensive stuff. Good luck to you.

  6. RayneofCastamere

    September 22, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I wonder how accurate they’re being or if they’re just going off of what they THINK Paleolithic people lived like. Probably the latter.

    • SarahJesness

      September 23, 2014 at 1:58 am

      What they think. Even my physical anthropology teacher confirms it. (she gave a short lecture on how stupid the concept is) Many the foods we eat today bear no resemblance to the stuff “cavemen” ate. Corn as we know it pretty much didn’t exist until agriculture. (it was selectively bred from a grass called teosinte)

      Besides, cavemen totally would’ve eaten junkfood if they had access to it.

    • Guest

      September 24, 2014 at 2:33 am

      Um… obviously it’s not accurate, and nobody who follows a Paleo lifestyle purports to actually be living like a caveman or eating the same foods our ancestors ate. I don’t understand why people continue to throw this overused straw man argument out there. Paleo is framework, which is put into the context of the modern world. That’s all. It’s not a bunch of people hunching over and growing out all their body hair and beating prey over the head with clubs. I promise.

  7. Valerie

    September 22, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Meredith this post cracked me up. You’ll alert predators?! Dying.

  8. rockmonster

    September 22, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 22, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      WANT

    • rockmonster

      September 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    • Assasymphony

      September 23, 2014 at 8:31 am

      Mine!

    • Petunia Fickle Bitch

      September 22, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      This is so French Country.

    • rockmonster

      September 22, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Okay, what is the backstory behind this username? I’m curious. 🙂

    • Petunia Fickle Bitch

      September 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm

      There’s a popular diaper bag designer named Petunia Pickle Bottom. But I am not a pickle bottom, I’m a fickle bitch 🙂

  9. jendra_berri

    September 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Amazing.
    I’ve often wondered about the logic of this paleo diet. Some early humans would have eaten avocados, but other would have corn (But you can’t have corn in paleo, can you?), and others would have eaten venison, others horse, others goats, whale, or insects…
    Which portion of the planet is it acceptable to eat from? And since all food has been genetically modified from its original wild source due to agriculture, how do you actually mimic a paleo diet at all?
    At what point in human progress should you stop? 50,000 years ago or 10,000 years ago? Is 5,000 years ago too recent?

  10. Kathryn Mackenzie

    September 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    My favourite justifications for the Paleo diet are “you never saw a fat caveman!” – well, I’ve never seen a caveman at all, because the didn’t have cameras back then, but also, cavemen were a probably a fuckload more active than us, what with actively hunting down their food.
    And “humans all through history never had any need for carbs.” – which may have been true back in cavemen days, but now that our brains have developed and changed, we have thought centres that are fed with the sugars found in carbohydrate rich foods.
    Which probably explains why the 3 people I know who tried the Atkins diet not only became fairly irritable, but also had short term memory problems, and were easily distracted, until they started eating normally again.

    • Grr! Arrgh!

      September 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Excellent points. I always have to give Paleo side-eye because 1) life expectancy back then was like, 30 if you were lucky, 2) while eating more whole foods and cutting down on highly processed stuff is good for everyone, you are not eating what the caveman ate. Even if cavemen ate, say corn, the corn we eat today bares very little resemblence to the corn of the caveman, because it’s been evolving just like we were.

    • SarahJesness

      September 23, 2014 at 1:52 am

      On average, foragers do tend to be healthier than agriculturalists. Buuuut that’s in large part because they are more active, and because they tend to have much more varied diets. (whereas people in agricultural societies tend to rely on a few staple foods) It’s easier to stay slim if you’re constantly on the move.

  11. Foreskin Magpie

    September 22, 2014 at 9:29 pm

  12. Zeenia

    September 23, 2014 at 12:37 am

    “She loves bugs,” Ms. Phelps said. “She loves dirt. I think she’s going to be an entomologist.”
    By that logic i should have been a nudist because I preferred to run naked when I was five. It was hot where I lived.

    • biggerthanthesound

      September 23, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Right! We live in the country, so I had no idea we were playing paleo-style. Makes sense, my 3-year-old fucking loves the Croods.

  13. SarahJesness

    September 23, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Treating unstructured playtime as some new parenting trend? Rich people are hilarious and adorable sometimes.

    In France, there’s a cave where researchers found ancient footprints of a child walking side by side with a dog. This shows that at this point, dogs were domesticated and trusted enough for people to leave them alone with their children. So, get a dog that phenotypically resembles the earlier dogs (none of this inbred purebred crap) and used it as a babysitter.

    Encourage your children to draw on the walls.

    Be on the move constantly. Most early people had to move a lot. Since they were foragers, they needed to follow the food.

  14. Rowan

    September 23, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Don’t wash, the layer of sweaty grime will keep the bad spirits away.
    Only wear things that you have killed.
    Get eaten by predators.

  15. Melanie Black

    September 23, 2014 at 8:30 am

    A good part of that Paleo health stuff was, without doubt, RUNNING frantically from predators, as well as skulking around trying not to alert predators, and possibly defending your kill from said predators. That’s the ticket! Go to the African Veldt, kill antelope, zebras, etc, using spears carved from tree limbs, and then defend from lions and hyenas. Guaranteed weight loss if you survive.

  16. Ursi

    September 23, 2014 at 8:30 am

    I think paleo is ridiculous seeing as we don’t really know exactly what people ate in a pre-civilized era– though we do know their lives were probably perilous, uncomfortable (by modern standards), and short.

    However. I do have to say this.

    1) I cannot wait to order my squatty potty stool. This position really is optimal. In fact for a seriously great bowel movement try a Japanese toilet. Sitting our big western asses on a porcelain throne may feel more comfortable in the short run but it’s not doing you as many favors.

    2) Fasting isn’t a terrible thing to do to a child. Children in plenty of cultures learn to fast from a young age. Generally for religious reasons. If you aren’t going crazy with it I don’t see the problem.

    • Elizabeth Licata

      September 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      Oof, squat toilets. I don’t know that I have ever experienced anything as harrowing as facing one of those suckers while wearing high heels and a pencil skirt.

  17. ohladyjayne

    September 23, 2014 at 11:42 am

    What the hell? Because goodness knows your kid can’t do cello lessons AND play in the dirt???

  18. Awa Adams

    September 23, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Reading this, I guess we classify as super-lazy paleo eaters. We started reading about the principles of paleo eating and liked the idea of cutting out as many processed foods as we were feasibly able to, to cut down on our intake of sodium and preservatives. We cut out canned fruits and veggies and buy organic from the farmer’s markets, or just fresh from produce when we can’t swing organic, and we make our own sandwich bread and give our kid fruit in lieu of traditional desserts except for maybe once or twice a month. Eventually we’d like to explore growing our own produce and making homemade cheese, but that’s as much about saving money and futhering our love of cooking as it is eating healthy. That’s really as far as it goes for us, though. We don’t do any seasonal eating, or co-sleep in any pitch black rooms, and you will never find a squatty potty in my home.

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  20. Jami

    September 23, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Take away their Halloween candy?

    Yeah, I assure you as soon as they’re old enough, they’ll be spending all their money on candy in secret and when they’re adults, they’ll eat ice cream for breakfast and wash it down with liter bottles of soda.
    How about teaching them moderation and self control instead?

    True story – one of my friends’ mothers was such an extreme vegan she wouldn’t even allow her kids to eat nuts. They were only allowed these smelly tofu dogs that even other vegans wouldn’t touch. My friend was constantly having dizzy spells due to her extremely restricted diet. It got to me where my mom kept lollipops at hand – she would volunteer in the school library – to give her in secret.
    Now my friend had an older brother. One day we’re in Sizzler and he comes in with his friends and orders the all you can eat ribs. He just chows down on all that meat his mom denied him. And this apparently was a regular thing for him.
    In high school both of them both started dressing in grunge styles and last I heard of them a little before he graduated they were both arrested in a motel room where they had been making and selling meth together.
    This is what being a control freak parent gets you.
    As for co-sleep – those parents always sound like one touch away from being pedophiles to me. Especially the moms who throw their husbands out of their beds in favor of their sons.

  21. Monica Friedman

    September 24, 2014 at 2:41 am

    The owners of my former Crossfit box definitely fell into the paleo parent camp and their kids were amazing. Smart, articulate, creative, coordinated, confident. Their 8 month old baby was *running*. Not crawling, not walking…the baby was running.

  22. morri85

    September 24, 2014 at 3:39 am

    you mean the kids can actually be kids? wow what a revelation..

  23. Kite

    September 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

    “their bedrooms should be pitch-black at bedtime, as though they were sleeping in a cave.”

    What????????????? Hahahaha no.

    I don’t get paleo. Modern humans evolved in Africa, not Europe. But I guess it’s Europeans who are obsessed with what their ancestors did in Europe to survive. I would be looking at the environment in which modern humans evolved, if you’re going to think about what we might be “best” adapted for. Savannah, perhaps?

    And anyway, the thing about humans is our amazing resilience and ability to survive a wide range of conditions, including miserable northern caves in the ice age. Not always surviving well, but surviving long enough to procreate. We survive foraging, we survive agriculture, we survive the industrial age, survival is where it’s at fundamentally.

    Surviving well is another matter entirely, and that’s where we choose our lifestyles, where affluence gives us the power to choose. Paleo is one method, but I don’t think there’s anything “natural” about choosing ice age European cave-dwelling as the “prime” “surviving well” scenario.

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