parenting around the world

What I Learned From Parenting in Other Cultures

If you are like me, you are always open to hearing how other people parent their children. I like to take a little here and a little there to create what I call the “the best of the best” parenting. Below you will find the some parenting tips I got from other cultures and why they work!

Let your 3-year-olds climb trees 

When I lived in Germany, on my way to work, I regularly would pass a kindergarten where 3- and 4-year-olds with no adult supervision bicycling down the street, climbing the roofs of playhouses and scaling tall trees with no adult supervision.

The first time I saw this, I freaked out. I started searching for the teacher to let them know. I then saw another parent stop and chat with one of the little tree occupants, completely unfazed. It was clear that no one was really concerned except for me.

Why it’s better: Ellen Hansen Sandseter, a Norwegian researcher at Queen Maud University in Norway, has found in her research that the relaxed approach to risk-taking and safety actually keeps our children safer by honing their judgment about what they’re capable of.

Children are drawn to the things we parents fear: high places, water, wandering far away, dangerous sharp tools. Our instinct is to keep them safe by childproofing their lives. But “the most important safety protection you can give a child,” Sandseter explained, “is to let them take… risks.”

Consider the facts to back up her assertion: Sweden, where children are given this kind of ample freedom to explore (while at the same time benefitting from comprehensive laws that protect their rights and safety), has the lowest rates of child injury in the world.

Children can go hungry from time-to-time.
In Korea, eating is taught to children as a life skill and as in most cultures, children are taught it is important to wait out their hunger until it is time for the whole family to sit down together and eat.

Koreans do not believe it’s healthy to graze or eat alone, and they don’t tend to excuse bad behavior. Instead, children are taught that food is best enjoyed as a shared experience. All children eat the same things that adults do, just like they do in most countries in the world with robust food cultures. (Ever wonder why ethnic restaurants don’t have kids’ menus?).

The result? Korean children are incredible eaters. They sit down to tables filled with vegetables of all sorts, broiled fish, meats, spicy pickled cabbage and healthy grains and soups at every meal.

Why it’s better: In stark contrast to our growing child overweight/obesity levels, South Koreans enjoy the lowest obesity rates in the developed world. A closely similar-by-body index country in the world is Japan, where parents have a similar approach to food. No chicken nugget and mac and cheese daily cuisine here!

Instead of keeping children satisfied, we need to fuel their feelings of frustration.
The French, as well as many others, believe that routinely giving your child a chance to feel frustration gives him a chance to practice the art of waiting and developing self-control. Gilles, a French father of two young boys, says that frustrating kids is good for them because it teaches them the value of delaying gratification and not always expecting (or worse, demanding) that their needs be met right now.

Why it’s better: Studies show that children who exhibit self-control and the ability to delay gratification enjoy greater future success. Anecdotally, we know that children who don’t think they’re the center of the universe are a pleasure to be around. Alice Sedar, Ph.D., a former journalist for Le Figaro and a professor of French Culture at Northeastern University, agrees. “Living in a group is a skill,” she declares, and it’s one that the French assiduously cultivate in their kids.

I think it is important to keep an open mind when it comes to parenting. There are no shoulds/woulds/ musts in parenting. Everyone and every culture has a different style. It is important to understand and be open to the fact that some styles you may consider different, might just work wonderfully for your child. I know it has helped me and my children immensely.