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Spreading the word in Uruguay

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I recently spent a week in Montevideo, Uruguay. What an unbelievable experience.  Yaír Hazán and Andrés Buschiazzo Figares were the best hosts a traveler could wish for. They not only entertained me for the week, they also educated me about Uruguay, its’ history and culture. I enjoyed the Museo del Carnaval (a bigger version of our Caribana) and the Mercado del Puerto (Port Market) to enjoy their traditional bbq meats (or asado). We made an excursion to the ancient port city of Colonia and much, much, more.


While I was there, I gave a parenting lecture free to the public. So many parents turned up to my talk at the Antel tower auditorium that we had to scramble last minute to arrange seating in a second auditorium across the hall where the overflow crowd watched my talk via video streaming. The lecture was also broadcast via video streaming to 5 satellite towns outside Montevideo. In total, over 1,500 people participated in the evening.   Amazing, right?


So, a big thank you to the people of Uruguay for your eagerness to hear my message about “How to Discipline Children Without the Use of Punishments and Rewards” and for the help of both my interpreters for keeping up with this fast-talking, non-spanish speaking women.  The video can be viewed here.

spanish translation

I think the reason my talk was so well attended was because the people of Uruguay are eager to learn new ways of parenting that are divergent from their past traditions. You see, South America is a Spanish/Portuguese culture and therefore a largely Catholic continent. The schools in their country were run by the Catholic church, rather than the government. Historically, these schools were very punitive. And I mean VERY. Yair took me on a tour of the museum of education to see displays of how children were disciplined and I was horrified. The museum is a reminder of the mistakes made in child guidance and the Uruguayan people long for a better way.

museum1 museum2 museum3 museum4

Uruguay is also a proudly progressive country. They honor their hero Jose Artigas, “the father of Uruguayan nationhood” (é_Gervasio_Artigas).  Their hero of education was José Pedro Varela who was a Uruguayan sociologist, journalist, politician and educator.  It was because of Varela that Uruguay established the 1877 Law of Common Education, which continues to influence the country today.  Uruguay is now the only secular country in South America, breaking church from state. (They also have legalized marijuana and no, I didn’t explore that freedom, but thanks for asking just the same.)

So Uruguay, like so many other countries who have suffered and overcome their own oppression, want a different path for their children. They hold the ideas of democracy and respect but still need help in learning the pragmatic methods of disciplining without the old tools of punishment and rewards. That’s the missing piece that Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs provide so well to families around the world. I feel honored to continue sharing the message of these two legendary men.

After the lecture at the Antel auditorium, I spent the rest of the week teaching masters students at the Centro de Estudios Adlerianos. What a great group of people. They were so enthusiastic and engaging and appreciative. I learned about the clients they work with in their practices and helped address issues of bullying and more. After our last class the students took me out for a nice farewell dinner and showered me with gifts of thanks. We shared many laughs, including my days of not knowing how to turn the hot water on in my bathroom so I showed in cold water for the first half of the trip! Apparently I need to travel more!

studentsdinner gifts

It is a culture, like others, that give a traditional kiss on one cheek. The hotel staff kissed their bosses on arrival for their shift, the students kissed each other and their profs when they convene for class. Everyone kisses everyone all the time. I loved it!

It got me thinking about the impact of that psychologically and I started doing some research from my hotel. There is a body of work on this subject matter, and it was interesting to see how the meaning of a kiss has changed over time. The research stated that the custom of a social cheek kiss is a sign of social equality! So, I guess the Uruguayans are really walking the talk! I came home wanting to kiss the cheeks of everyone here too. Imagine how much nicer we would all be to each other if we started every encounter with our fellow man this way?

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

2 Responses to “Spreading the word in Uruguay”

  1. María Noel Hernandez

    I am proud to tell u that I attended that talk at the Antel Arena. I am a mother of a five-year old kid and a three-year old kid. Besides, I am a Teacher of English (have been an educator for much more time than a mother) and I would like to share my gratitude with you. Since that day I haven’t looked back. I always read your blog and put into practice what I learn here… Thank you vey much!!!

    • Alyson Schafer

      Oh Maria – thank you so much for this lovely note and for coming to my talk in Montevideo Uruguay. Please share the word! Stay in touch! Alyson


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