How they do it: 9 parenting practices from around the world
We look around the world for inspiration in so many ways – what to cook for dinner, what clothes to wear, even for ideas about romance – so why not for parenting tips?
Although child-rearing techniques are inextricably linked to the culture they’ve grown out of, most have a generous sprinkling of timeless wisdom at their core. Courtesy of countless French mamans and Argentinian madres, Danish fars and Japanese otousans, we’ve compiled a selection of international parenting tips that you might want to try out with your own family.
We’re inclined to project an aura of sophistication onto the French (for good reason, quite frankly). And get this – their refined worldview extends to their parenting, for you’ll hear no goo goo ga ga nonsense from our chic Gallic cousins. In France, parents speak to their children as they would speak to an adult. It’s thought that doing so encourages the development of coherent speech.
With so much incredible steak and delicious red wine to linger over, late nights in Argentina come oh-so-easily. But children aren’t packed off to bed when the adults crack open that second bottle of Malbec. Parents believe that letting kids stay up with them helps develop the youngsters’ social skills.
3. Polynesian Islands
It takes a village to raise a child. The old proverb is a perfect match for Maori culture, where parental responsibility extends far beyond just the mother and father. Siblings – even when they are young children themselves – are expected to look after their little brothers and sisters. In this way, youngsters learn parenting skills and everyone grows up with rich family ties and a sense of belonging.
“I’ll go…” It’s a familiar image – the mom or dad woken from deep slumber by the cries of their newborn coming through the baby monitor. In Japan, though, putting babies to sleep in a separate room is unheard of. In fact, parents will often share a bed with their children, which they believe encourages family bonding and a sense of stability.
The sight of an abandoned child – particularly in the middle of the big city – is bound to set alarm bells ringing. But if that big city is in Denmark, and the “abandoned” child is reclining outside a shop, café or home in its pram, fret not. This is simply a manifestation of the Danish love affair with the health-giving properties of fresh air (frisk luft).
What power does a mother’s gaze hold? We often assume it to be one of pure positivity, but Kisii mothers intentionally avoid making eye contact with their crying or fussy infants. Kisii culture holds that the gaze bestows power and encourages children to be needy and attention-seeking.
Good parenting is not necessarily all coziness and comfort – at least that’s how the Mayan-Mam people of Guatemala see things. Mayan parents and their children take a traditional steam bath (“chuj”) each Saturday. The ritual is said to cleanse, heal and purify their bodies, minds and spirits and return them closer to the earth.
In Korea, there’s no such thing as a kids’ menu full of bland, beige food. Children eat the same thing as adults do, whatever that might be. The great thing about this is that youngsters are fully integrated into the eating experience – they feel part of the social occasion. And, of course, they adopt a broad and healthy diet from a young age.
If you’re concerned that children’s play is becoming increasingly sanitized – that climbing trees and getting grubby knees are endangered activities – then Germany might be the country for you. Nursery-age children are packed off on overnight camping trips, called kitafahrten, without their parents – but with supervision from other adults – to develop confidence and a sense of care towards others.
Of course, not every one of these parenting practices is going to resonate with you. But we often feel so much pressure to get it right with our parenting, it can come as a relief to recognize that there are countless different versions of “right” around the world!