being MVP: 3 Tips for Raising Your Kids in the Jungle: Urban or Actual

3 Tips for Raising Your Kids in the Jungle: Urban or Actual

Disclosure: This is a partnered post with Pure Energies.

Ever been to Kendjam? My guess is no – it’s a remote village in the Amazon rainforest, part of eastern Brazil. The tiny village sits within 10.5 million hectares of rainforest territory that belongs to and is protected by an indigenous people called the Kayapo. To give you a better idea of what 10.5 million hectares means, the area that the Kayapo protect is larger than 45% of the countries in the world.

The Kayapo are the finest blend of courage, strength, wisdom and kindness I have ever encountered. By Western standards they live modest lives, even though they have had contact with the outside world (by outside, I mean anyone not Kayapo) since the late 1960s, with many chances to trade for Western material goods. By choice, they have no  appliances, internet, vehicles, or modern media. Their lives are amazingly rich.

I was lucky enough to spend just over a week there. I took home lessons about many things, but I think what captivated me most is their family life. The Kayapo don’t have jobs, money or economies. Their purpose is to serve their families and communities. Because of this there is an incredible energy of love, respect and peace that spreads across their villages and their society.

Here are three stand-out lessons I learned about nurturing strong, independent, incredibly loving children from the amazing Kayapo mothers, fathers, and elders that I met. 

1. Don’t teach your kids to be afraid

Spending time with the Kayapo children was magical. They are so full of joy – all the time. Not, of course because they have the latest iPad or game. In fact, they have no toys or technology. Rather, they spend time exploring their surroundings, climbing trees, playing with their friends, and swimming. Parents don’t teach their kids to fear. There is no coddling, no overprotecting, no helicopter parenting. Kids are taught at a very young age to be independent, to be strong, to help one another, and to protect and care for those around them. 

Experiencing this firsthand was life-changing. I saw 7-year-olds carving toy wooden airplanes with machetes half as long as their arms. I saw 10-year-old girls climb 30-foot trees to cut acai berries, barefoot, a machete held firmly between shoulder and cheek.

This is how the Kayapo raise strong resilient children, children who become wise adults because they are taught to be free and fearless. It’s incredibly liberating to watch. 

Fear holds us back from reaching our dreams. Kids need and deserve to experience the world through their own eyes. To play in the water, to climb trees, to explore their limits, to push their boundaries and to learn for themselves what works, what doesn’t, and what they should be afraid of. 

2. Expressing emotions makes you strong, not weak

I was surprised at how open, kind and emotional the Kayapo were to both young and old. Fathers, mothers and grandparents were not afraid to hug, kiss, and play with their children. Families were loving, open and kind to each other. The Kayapo believe that expressing our emotions make us human, not weak. They teach their kids that protection comes from loving and giving to others – freely, openly and without fear. 

3. Who’s better than anyone else?

In a Kayapo community there is almost no sense of I, no individualism – everyone works as a collective. Kids aren't taught to undermine other kids or to compete against them in a destructive way. They don’t base their self-awareness and self-worth through manipulation, putting down, or rising above others. On the contrary, everyone is a team – everyone has the same goal. As a result, everyone is respectful. 

It was an incredibly refreshing change to live in a real, connected, loving community. To see what children were like when their parents weren't out to make sure that they play every sport, fill every hour, and get to the most prestigious university. To see what happens when everyone thinks about everyone else. I wish that every parent could see what kids are like when they are raised this way.

The things that really struck me about Kayapo childrearing – building a lack of fear, expressing emotions, and living as part of a community – are not what I hear most parents talking about today. And it’s true, most modern parents aren't planning to have their children live off the bounty of the jungle, dedicate their lives to their community, and preserve the rainforest they live in. But still. We could all learn a lot from the Kayapo. I'm grateful I had the opportunity. I won’t forget.


  1. I love that it's all about community. We've been trying to reach this to our children.

  2. What an amazing time you must have had! I love that their culture promotes community instead of individual. The photo of the little girl seeing herself on your phone is priceless.

  3. Wow. What an awesome experience for you, for anyone! Thank you for sharing their story!

  4. What am amazing journey you had. We are trying to focus on similar values at home - dialing it back (a lot), being compassionate towards others...

  5. Wow! I love that it's all about the community and closeness.

  6. What an amazing experience! I wish we lived in a society where #1 was completely possible.... but there are bad people out there that could/would harm our children if we just let them go (you know what I mean). But I do get the take away from it. I do believe fear holds us back (but it isn't necessarily a bad thing to have fear, just as long as you don't let it control you). I do love the idea of community and family and not so much of a "me, me, me" society.

  7. I keep coming back to this post. Your images of the Kayapo people are just stunning. I would love to travel more to be able to have similar experiences.

  8. The Kayapo are raising their children so differently than we do in the States. I think we could use a little more of their teachings here...especially the sense of community and that competition among children isn't necessary.

  9. Wow! It's amazing how much off course the "civilized" world has gotten. Such a refreshing post.

  10. That is so neat to learn about the Kayapo. I just love looking at the beautiful pictures!

  11. There is something to be said for living technology free. I am so glad you got this experience. It looks like a magical place with beautiful people.

  12. Wow is absolutely correct! I love how even though they are poor they all look healthy and happy because that is what life is all about. The drawings on the children is that actual tattoo's or a non permanent henna?

  13. Great lessons to learn. It's amazing how you can have so much when you have so little, or what we think of as so little.

  14. Wow what an amazing experience! These are lessons I would love to give my children firsthand.


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