Parenting seems like a simple thing in concept, and it is really. It involves the care and raising of children in order to keep them safe, happy and healthy. The goal of good parenting is raising children who can become functional contributing members of society. This is both easy and difficult, and to make matters more complicated, unlike what we sometimes think in North America, there is not one RIGHT way to raise a child or to parent. There are many different right ways, and these ways vary according to the parent’s culture, language, and own personality traits. Families and communities also have a larger say in other parts of the world in how parents raise their children, which affects how kids are brought up and, in turn, bring up their own children.
There are no hard and fast rules then for parenting. Even concepts like keeping kids safe have different meanings in some parts of the world where danger does not mean the same thing to one culture as to another. Parenting styles are really subjective then, according to the area where one lives and is influenced by the culture of that area and the people who live there. What are some of the different parenting styles out there then? There are so many, almost too many to count. In the end, parents have to do what is right for them and their children. That will define success for that family. Here are 15 times American parenting styles differed from other countries’ parenting styles:
Now it’s not to say that French parents don’t show affection to their children. They just don't do it in the same way as American parents do. They are not as touchy-feely and huggy, you could say, but kids know they are loved. Respect for self and others is also a big thought as is taught from the time they are little. French parents also are more detached from their children and keep their distance letting children play and learn on their own. They don’t follow them around as much as US parents. In the US, of course parents teach respect and give their kids space, but will more often follow them around on the playground and comment on what the kids are doing. This is done to build a close relationship with children, whereas in France it is considered a little indulgent. Many parents in the US admire the way the French show they care without going overboard.
In the UK, parents are all about teaching children manners for the “public world.” In order to save face and be respectful, kids need to learn that there are certain rules to follow and certain etiquette that needs to be practiced. UK parents are very clear about what is appropriate private versus pubic behavior. They also never brag about their child to friends believing this will make an arrogant child. They also make sure kids understand that bragging or talking about their talents is not appreciated by others and viewed negatively. They teach the child to be hard working and modest, for that is what will get them ahead in the world. They also tend to dissect a problem situation with their child, and involve the child in finding solutions to the problem so that it will not happen again. They trust that their child will find the solution and as a result, be better able to integrate into society as they get older. This is different than in the US where parents believe praising the child in front of other people and teaching the child to talk about their talents along with learning to follow what they are told, is what will make them strong in the adult world one day.
In South Africa, the communities are very tight knit and close. Families both immediate and extended live in close proximity to one another and the child’s welfare is the responsibility of all - whether the child or parents want to hear about it or not. This forms the “village mentality” in raising a happy, healthy child. These types of societies feel that when the child is watched, given advice and taught what to do by watching elders doing it, whether it's household tasks, gardening, outdoor work and even schoolwork, they will flourish and be able to help build up their society around them. Parents usually defer to elders around them for advice on raising children, and sometimes grandparents are left in charge of raising children if parents have to travel for jobs and economic opportunities. Parents also encourage ingenuity more often than in the US, and exploring different skills as they never know where their child will be working or what they will be doing due to society’s political fluctuations.
In Canada, the main tenets of parenting children are encouraging independence from a young age with feeding, dressing and socializing well with peers while making themselves understood. Children also learn to help in the house once they are old enough to take on chores and some responsibility. Parents are usually alone without much extended family support, so rely on their partners and perhaps friends for occasional babysitting. Most children are in daycare and preschool when Moms go back to work. What is seen a lot as kids get older in Canadian schools is much peer pressure to fit in with kids their own age. This is good that kids are moving away from parental dependence, but Canadian parents often have to be careful to monitor that their children are not getting too sidetracked with following the crowd, if they are up to things that are dangerous, mean or inappropriate.
In China, tradition is everything; respect for elders is paramount, and parents are extremely close and involved with their child even if not always being physically affectionate and playing with them as parents in North America do. It’s a different kind of affection. They are involved with children’s education and achievements, and believe in pushing kids to go as far as possible in life. They have more of a formal relationship with the child where the child defers to them as an elder, and shows respect for the decisions they make regarding that child’s future. Children rarely address their father as this is seen as a sign of respect, and often extended family live with the parents and child. There are many parental figures in the home that are constantly teaching and molding the child. Children listen to their elders and believe that they have their best interests at heart to help them be successful in their life and in society.
As everyone works in Norway due to it being an expensive place to live, kids are in a daycare setting or in something like an institutionalized educational setting from the time they are one years old, from the beginning to the end of the work day. Childhood is extremely structured in this kind of setting as there are no parents who are available to take kids to Mom/Tot groups, the playground etc. Children are raised in these communal settings, so their attitudes and ways of interacting are definitely different than in the US where kids play a lot one-on-one or alone at home. Parents most likely also have a very different approach to play and how their child interacts with them and others in the household. The structure must be very organized to allow families to provide for their children in a stable environment.
In places like Italy, Greece and India, the belief in a village being needed to raise children is strong. The extended family and community is thought to have the best ideas for rearing children to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted adults. There are also no such things needed as outside babysitters. The babysitters are already in one’s family and in the community at large. Children are thought to learn best in communal settings where they can watch and imitate the adults around them. They also always have many other children to play with so loneliness is not an option. In this kind of culture, there is not a lot of privacy, nor do many people think it is necessary, unlike space and alone time that is so important to family members in the US and for children in the US. Kids learn to like alone time while watching their parents enjoy some alone time, too.
In Korea, eating is taught as a life skill, and parents teach their child that they must wait to eat when the whole family is assembled at the table. Even if the child is hungry, the mentality is that eating is a social activity so they do not believe in feeding the child before everyone else. There are no children’s snacks and kids usually learn to go with the flow. Interestingly, there are also no eating issues and children generally have good appetites along with being good eaters. Community is so important as is family, and food is seen in those contexts, not as a separate act in and of itself that can be done alone or in a group. As a culture that prizes family, abiding by rules and doing what is advantageous for the collective good, this type of set up works very well. Children never starve, and develop in a healthy way.
While in the US and Canada parents tend to lean towards an earlier bedtime for kids varying anywhere from 7:30 pm-9:00 pm, in other parts of the world, such as Spain, children go to bed much later. They will have dinner usually much later at 8 pm, and therefore their bedtimes will be later, well after 9 pm. They are encouraged to stay up with the adults and participate in adult life after school and on the weekends. Their bedtime routine is also very different as they need to adjust their schedule to the adults around them, and not the other way around. The adults do not adjust their schedule to having a small child in the house and keeping things quiet and boring at night as many families do in the US. As with other traditions, neither one is right or wrong. It is simply a different way of doing things, and children will adjust accordingly to where they live.
In the US co-sleeping is something that is still very controversial and some even feel dangerous. It has been linked to SIDS and all kinds of complications with children not learning how to self-regulate emotionally and self-soothe at bedtime. Many parents are also judged as “spoiling” or coddling kids by not teaching them to stand on their own two feet at night with learning to sleep on their own. In Japan parents and children of all ages co-sleep. It is considered normal, natural and healthy. Children are nurtured and comforted by the presence of their family around them, and grow up to be loving and very healthy human beings. They believe that parents who nurture their children in this way raise healthy, happy adults who feel unconditionally loved because after all, their parents met their needs when they were scared as youngsters.
Parents will play, talk and nurture their children often in the same way they nurture the adults around them. Kids are asked for their opinions on things, given choice on activities or what food the family will be cooking, and they are given some responsibilities to help with family planning of activities and things to do around the house. Parents believe that this will make their children grow up strong and confident. Giving them too many rules will kill their spirit. This is very different of course than in the US where kids are taught to follow rules until they are older and become adults. Then they are told they could make some of the rules themselves. A lot of children thrive in this type of setting, where parents give them flexibility and room to grow. Of course, parents have to watch for challenges to this, but usually it ends up working out quite amicably for all concerned.
In the US parents keep their children, especially their babies beside them in eyesight the whole time they are out. They are worried of someone grabbing their child or harm coming to them. Parents will take children and babies into restaurants or anywhere if they can't find a sitter. In Denmark, parents don't think it wrong to occasionally leave baby alone outside of a restaurant in their stroller. It's a popular practice for parents to go inside restaurants to eat and drink and get quality alone time, while their sleeping newborn is in the carriage outside the restaurant with other newborns. In the US most parents would probably be arrested and reported for doing this. But in Denmark, it's normal and babies are safe from harm. Danish parents do this so that the child can get fresh air and be healthier. They have never had a problem with this.
Kids are taught from a young age by parents and adults not to talk to strangers or to take anything like candy from strangers. They are taught that not all strangers are good and kind and may try and take them away. Believe it or not, in Chile this is a tradition that shows great kindness to children - giving candy to them. And if the child or the family refuses, the crowd will start chanting that the child needs candy as he/she is lonely. Amazing how such a tradition can be received so differently in various parts of the world. Perhaps with the smaller communities in other countries, trust is something easier for people to come by. Food is always, and has always been associated with the concept of celebration, community and togetherness. Hence, this is probably why the candy tradition thing has evolved in certain areas of the world.
Breastfeeding is something that is still very controversial in the US, never mind sharing breast milk, but this is something that has been going on for a long time in many parts of the world. Women can't always breast feed for many reasons. Other breastfeeding Moms have a surplus. So many women naturally share their breast milk. Some used to feed many village children at once in order to help. They were called wet nurses. Today there are many regulations around the safety of breast milk sharing in the US, but in other countries, milk banks have been established and women are freely helping one another with this. It's similar to breast feeding moving beyond the toddler years in other countries, whereas in the US, this is frowned upon by many people as being inappropriate and damaging to babies and children. There are much more people speaking out on both sides now, but just to say that breast milk sharing is not something unusual in other parts of the world.