Europeans are known for their laid-back attitude, even when Americans probably boast a more laid back lifestyle in the American opinion. In Europe, parents are focused on raising children to be independent and responsible. In America, that message often gets lost in translation. Parents may think that’s their goal, but are they really headed toward that future?
America has become pretty synonymous with the term helicopter parents. Moms and Dads are overly protective of their little ones in the states. Everyone, everywhere knows that. But why? Why are we so worried about our children here? In a large way, the media is to blame.
The statistics speak for themselves. American children are no less safe than European children. STAT THAT. So, why are their parents living in fear of letting them out of their sight? Why are American parents arrested for doing just that while it is embraced in Europe? Why are Americans terrified of child abductions and government interference in the way they parent when it doesn’t happen any more here than it does in Europe?
Again, it’s all in how the truth is presented to the people.
Keep in mind that the media corporations in America are a huge, profiting industry. They aren’t just here to supply the news. In fact, much of the time, you aren’t even told what’s really going on in the country or the rest of the world. You’re told only what will benefit them and the government. Federal ties to cable news networks and other major corporations in the United States are plentiful.
The media publishes whatever sells. Scandals, stories of child molesters, abducted babies, and neglectful parents are the headlines that catch a parent’s eye in the supermarket checkout line. Unfortunately, articles about peaceful parenting and raising confident and capable children appears to fall into the category of boring among consumers.
European parents are doing a few things far better than their American counterparts, and it’s time we pay attention and demand the same for our kids.
15Le Buff? Big Deal!
Anyone who takes a trip across the pond to Europe is likely to notice a few differences pretty immediately. For starters, their billboards are a little more risqué. Americans staying aboard will probably notice that the television programming they turn on in the hotel during the evening isn’t all that child-appropriate, too.. at least if you’re going by American standards.
Yes, Europe is far more comfortable with nudity than Americans are. Many people in the United States think this is downright silly, but it’s to a point that it honestly just is what it is. Even for the red, white and blue folk who would like to be more liberated when it comes to being in the nude, America’s society revolves around keeping our private parts covered.
European children are raised in a climate where little to no one is complaining about a woman breastfeeding on a public park bench. Nudity is commonplace in the media, too. Advertisers may use images of models in see-thru tops. It’s the norm there, and parents don’t freak out or think their children are going to be corrupted. Most of Europe thinks Americans need to get over themselves.
14Better Breastfeeding Rates
Here’s something else people need to get over. Breast is best. It always has been and it always will be the most nutritious form of food for growing babes. The argument for formula is much less in Europe than it is in America. Here, we seem to be more likely to try to defend our poor decisions for the sake of not being wrong, if even we aren’t right. Sigh.
Over on European soil, not only is it much more acknowledged that breast is best, but mothers are breastfeeding more often and for longer periods of time there, too. By six-months of age, only 19 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed in the United States. In Germany, the rate is closer to 22 percent.
While each country in Europe varies, it is clear that breastfeeding and its culture is much more supported there. In Malta, 36 percent of babies are still exclusively breastfed at six-months old.
13Points For Poise
Have you been to Europe? You may have heard that Europeans are grouchy and rude. Likewise, you may have been surprised during your travels there that this wasn’t really the case. In fact, they’re quite pleasant, especially their children. European parents are all about manners.
On the flipside, America is known amongst other countries for having less-than-mannerly children. The trend of saying please if you want something and thank you when you’re given somethings seems to have been lost somewhere between the 1960s and today, and other nations have noticed it.
It’s not all about saying the right thing, though. It’s also about not saying anything. For instance, European children are far less likely to be seen interrupting their parents when they’re talking to another adult. In addition, table manners are a must in Europe.
Small children may not know their place settings, but they are trained from early on to place their napkin in their lap, chew with their mouth closed, and refrain from reaching across the table.
In America, many families don’t even attempt to potty-train their little ones until they’re well into the walking and talking stage. Many parents wait until it’s preschool time before getting the urge to tackle toilet-training. You won’t find this kind of delay across most of the Europe.
Instead, they’re hoping toilet-training is down pat before walking and talking even happen. The roots of elimination communication may not have stemmed from Europe, but they are alive and well in the EU. Parents from many European nations are strong proponents of the practice which encourages babies to go to the bathroom in the bathroom before they can even crawl.
Parents must be attuned to their little one’s cues, though. Do they start grunting before they have to go? Does their face turn red? Do they sneak off and try to find space alone in a corner or dark place to do their business? Do they shiver right before they’re about to pee? These are all signs that fans of elimination communication strive to look for.
Aside from the popular training method, many other EU parents simply toilet-train the old-fashioned way, but much sooner.
11Let Them Fall Down
European parents are notably more lax in the child safety department. What does that mean exactly? No, we are implying that they are taking risks with their children’s well-being. We aren’t saying they are aren’t concerned with their babies’ welfare. What we are saying is European moms and dads aren’t helicopters.
There’s nothing like a good old American helicopter parent to make you feel like you aren’t doing enough for your child. We know. We get it. We don’t like them, either. U.S. moms and dads, listen up. Sometimes, you just have to let them fall down. Sometimes, you need to let go of the bike, even without the training wheels, and let them get a bump or a bruise.
Don’t think for a second that our American ways of over-monitoring our children are helping, either. They’re not. Kids in Europe aren’t being poisoning or injured any more frequently than they are here. We’re willing to bet, however, that their kids are probably a little less, um, weak.
Building upon the idea that helicopter parents are another one of America’s unnecessary inventions, let’s discuss the most important reason we need to mix them altogether. Independence. Remember that word? You learned it in history class. The United States was built upon the term. Yet, much of America just doesn’t get it.
Europe does, though. They’re fostering independent kids over there. They are stepping back, letting go of the reins, and letting their kids take the leap and learn on their own time, in their own way. This is what raising babies is all about. They need to be encouraged to think for themselves and forge their own path.
Back here on American soil, we’re so busy grooming what we think good kids are supposed to look like and trying to make each child fit into a standardized mold of the average person, that we are missing out on creating above-average people.
9Skimping On Supervision
So, while we’ve touched on the importance of not hovering too much and letting our kids learn their own lessons, it’s still important that parents on both continents understand how much supervision is appropriate for our youth. Of course, this changes as they get older. As a baby, near-constant supervision is required from the parents.
When those babies turn into toddlers who are curious about everything as they venture toward light sockets and dresser drawers with their itty bitty fingers, we must start setting up the environment to protect them in the moments that we cannot. Slowly, as their life progresses, it gets more and more difficult to make sure the world around them won’t hurt them when we aren’t looking. And it’s no longer our job to.
Sometimes, you have to cut the apron strings, and Europeans know this far better than Americans seem to. Surely, their culture as a whole plays a role, though. In America, a mother would have the police called on her for parking her child in a stroller on the street while she goes in a store to shop. But in Denmark, that’s the societal norm.
In America, parents are judged for letting their kids walk to school on their own these days — an act that wasn’t abnormal when they themselves were kids. In the Netherlands, they all do it with no parents in tow.
Ah, the age-old question of how to balance our professional lives with our home lives come to mind. How are parents ever going to master this one? It’s tough, no doubt! But there’s a true difference between most Americans and most Europeans when it comes to work. Americans live to work, and Europeans work to live.
Over here, we spend countless hours climbing the corporate ladder, and for what? More money? It may seem like we need more money, but what if we could free up the same amount of excess funds by merely downsizing our lifestyle. What if one car payment was more doable instead of two?
What if a town home was more reasonable than the new build out in the suburbs? It seems Americans are less willing to compromise their wants for their needs.
When it comes to parenting, this is important, because the more time we have off work, the more time we have with our kids. It’s certain that Europeans, in majority, spend more quality times with their children than we Americans do. Isn’t it about time we change that?
7Food For Thought
Our diets are one of the most important staples in our lives. They are a part of every day of our existence. They are the most critical part of our health and well-being. Despite their paramount place in our lives, teaching our kids how to eat right often takes a back seat in the American culture.
Nestled into the car seat somewhere between a cheeseburger and a milkshake is that damn food pyramid we were all listening to for far too long. Now we have a nation that is full of sick people, and many of them kids.
What are Europeans doing differently? For starters, they do in fact feed their children less processed food than Americans do on average. France is one of the best examples of dietary influence in the world. French parents educate their children on quality food choices from a young age. They do not give their kids choices that include processed junk. No chicken nuggets, thanks.
A French parent won’t require that their child clean their plate. Only Americans would insist that their kids’ stuff themselves even if they’re beyond full. But, in France, kids do need to eat their veggies first. Surprisingly, their health is better. See the connection?
6Tots En Tote
Here in America, we like to cater to our little ones. We make them their own kiddie pool at the park. Every restaurant has a designated kids’ menu full of the same five dishes: macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, pasta, and grilled cheese. We even remake popular songs into kid-friendly versions sung by little kids. And we’ve got it all wrong.
Are we trying to raise adults or are we trying to raise people who look like adults but who have limited palates and expect everything to be adjusted to their needs and likings? In Europe, you’ll find that kids menus are not common in eateries. Why? In America, we would assume a restaurant without a kids’ menu isn’t kid-friendly. Guess again. The French feed their kids the same food they eat.
European parents take their kids everywhere. Babysitters are not nearly as common in England, Ireland, France and so on as they are in America. When couples have babies, they simply settle down. They stop doing things that require no kids and start attended child-friendly events. It’s seriously that simple.
European parents are known for being more stern with their children, but what does this mean exactly? Are parents across the pond whooping the behinds of little babies and ordering their kids around like it’s boot camp? Not quite. In fact, most would say there’s more of that going on in America. Yet, we still seem to be producing kids that don’t listen, kids that rebel once they’re old enough, and kids with seriously strained relationships with their folks.
In Europe, firm boundaries are an expected part of parenting. They don’t like it any more than we do, but they stick to their guns nonetheless. How do they enforce these boundaries? With a stern tone of voice and a glaring look in their eye that lets their children know they mean business. Think I’m kidding?
Think again. Europeans have mastered the art of getting through to their kids with a piercing gaze and a strongly worded argument. We could learn a thing or two over here. Just saying.
4They Aren’t Afraid To Say No
Just like they have firm boundaries that they like to adhere to, European mothers and fathers appear to be quite used to telling their children no. In America, it’s actually hard for a lot of parents to say this word. Why is that? For some, they were told no way too often, in their opinion, and they just want to shower their kids with everything they never had a chance to experience or enjoy.
In Europe, parents understand that saying no means they are not only reinforcing the role of an authority figure in their home, but they are also teaching their child that they won’t always get what they want. This is an important building block in raising a child, because, let’s face it, real life won’t always hand them a yes.
Kids who are denied the things they want from time to time are much more likely to behave reasonably when they are told no, too.
3No Spoiling Allowed
Elaborating on the practice of saying no, it’s also about spoiling our kids. America is damn good at this. We are Americans. We live in the land of the getcha some. We can do anything, be whoever we want to be, and we take pride in that. We teach our children from a young age that they can actually achieve their dreams, but we often leave out the long and dreary pursuit part of the equation.
For some parents, the pursuit is senseless. If they can give their child all the riches and experiences in the world, why shouldn’t they? Perhaps because they won’t know what it’s like to have earned anything. Perhaps, because they might not ever understand life from anyone else’s point of view if they’ve lived their entire existence with a silver spoon… appropriately places somewhere.
Even among wealthier families in many European nations, they still embrace the mindset that kids need to earn what they desire. When it comes to littler kids, you won’t see them running across a field in Ireland with an iPod in their hands, either. It’s not about gadgets and gizmos to European parents. It’s about experiences and cultivating a learning environment.
2One Snack Per Day
Right up there with diets and skipping out on the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, European moms and dads know the point of snacking is merely to curb hunger until the next mealtime. It is not to add a fourth, fifth or sixth meal to the day the way many Americans do. Oh yes, you know you’re guilty of it, too.
Likewise, hunger doesn’t need to be curbed between each meal. If it does, you’ll need to brush up on what actually makes up a quality diet. One snack per day is plenty for the people of France and Finland. Anything more than that is excessive and will leave them feeling over-full and lethargic.
They pass their habits on to their children from a very young age. As soon as babies are started on solid foods, they may be given a snack at the same time that their parents have a snack. It’s the norm, and being brought up that way, European children never question that this is the way it should be.
This is probably the biggest difference between American and European parents in existence. The sad thing is that most Americans are totally aware they’re doing this one wrong. Sure, America is notorious for being lazy. They spend their weekends lounging in front of the television instead of out chasing down a worthwhile experience with their family. But this still isn’t relaxing.
You might feel relaxed while you’re doing it, but it’s not stimulating your mind or creating a quality memory. It’s not doing anything good for your body while you’re lazing about chowing down on your third snack of the day. Relaxation is not just about being still and doing nothing. It’s about giving your mind and body a break from the norm.
Having the weekend off from work somehow equated to a weekend of doing nothing here in the states. In Europe, they’ve recognized that it simply means they get to enjoy their time not working. That leaves plenty of time for playing football, going to a play, reading a book, teaching their child to play chess, perfecting their boeuf bourguignon, and having coffee with friends.
Hey, sure beats reruns and leftovers. If you fill your little one’s childhood with weekends like these, they will grow up to be a person who gives their own children quality experiences. That is how Europe came to be where they are, and where we Americans — are not.
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