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12 Parenting Lessons from Around the World

multicultural parenting

Do we North Americans have it all together when it comes to parenting?

Are there things we can learn from other cultures, like co-sleeping with our babies and children? While it is commonly believed that co-sleeping will create clingy, dependent children, research proves that the opposite is true. Or we can learn to lean on others more and ask for help from “our village,” whoever it may consist of, and let them into our family life and help raise our kids.

I used to live in a very diverse community, and in the evenings I would take walks around the neighborhood. One of my favorite things to do was to wonder what life was like for my neighbors … what they ate, how they did parenting, what family time was like, what they did for holidays, and if they were a happy couple.

One of my favorite pastimes that I enjoy is people-watching and observing how people do life. As a mom, I’m fascinated by how other moms from around the world do life. So here’s a little peek into how moms parent from around the world.

Maybe we can glean some surprising tips that will help us in the wonderful journey of parenting:

Greetings - In Japan, France, and most Latin American countries, greeting each other is of vital importance. Whenever you address a person for the first time, you start off with a greeting. You never go straight into the conversation; it is considered rude. Acknowledging each other is of utter importance. It shows respect and care for others. In most of the countries I’ve traveled outside the U.S., this is fundamental. Unfortunately, this is not how I was brought up, so I constantly show my “foreigner ignorance,” or as some would say, “foreigner rudeness.” But I love this practice. I don’t know how many times I have walked into a conversation or a room with a small group people without anyone acknowledging or greeting me. There’s a balance here though, learning to just greet and let people go on with their conversation so we are not “interrupting.” We North Americans go to the other extreme, and we feel like it’s rude to have someone interrupt our conversation, so we keep talking and don’t acknowledge the person who’s been standing there for the past 15 minutes. But I prefer the way of the Japanese, French, and Latin Americans because it’s a beautiful thing to teach my children, to help them learn to acknowledge others by greeting them as a sign of respect and care.

Kid’s Menus - In Ecuador, kid’s meals don’t exist. Kids are expected and encouraged to eat what everyone else is being served. When we first arrived here, I realized how kid’s meals are such a North American thing. When I would ask for a kid’s menu at a restaurant, they would look at me like I was crazy. Really, the only place you’ll find kid menus here are in North American chain restaurants.

Potty Training - In China, most babies wear crotchless pants. Potty training starts as early as “11 days old by holding him over the potty and whistling in his ear to make him go,” Jackie Higgins shares from Ready-Set-Read.

Father & Baby Bonding – In Sweden, fathers bonding with their little ones is highly encouraged. Paternity leave is offered to dads! Two months of 13 months paid time off for parents must go to dads!

Sucking Thumb – In the Philippines, you never see a baby sucking its thumb. The worry is that buck teeth will result, in addition to hygiene concerns. Little mittens are put on babies much of the time, but if thumb makes it to mouth any other time, parents pull it out. I got lots of questions and surprised looks from his family when we let our daughter suck her thumb as a baby, but for many American families, a baby “finding” its thumb is a positive thing, meaning the baby is learning to self-soothe. (via Julie from Open Wide World)

Daily Outdoor Play – In Russia, parents encourage their children to play outside in the common area daily. Groups of children gather often in unstructured activities: playing soccer, biking, and running for fresh air and exercise. (via Amanda from The Educator’s Spin On It)

Cooking – In Mexico, it’s important to “cook what your husband likes, not what your kids want. They will learn to like it.” (via Sonia from Texas)

Public Transportation – In Brazil and most countries outside of the US, public transportation is a part of life. No wonder we don’t have personal space issues! As Theresa puts it: “Most of us are also raised ‘among the crowds,’ meaning we take bus, subway or even train to get to places together with the masses.” (via Theresa from A Path of Light)

Children are the joy and center of life – The Dutch and many Latin Americans are child-loving people. “The Dutch are very patient with their children, and never seem to yell at them. I wish I was just as patient as them! The Dutch enjoy being around children and always smile when they see me passing by with my children.” (via Olga from The European Mama)

There’s no such thing as too much cuddling – Italy: “I’m a real ‘mamma chioccia,’ a very mothering kind of mum. I know that some might consider my parenting style too close I like to hug and to cuddle my kids but to be honest, I don’t care. I need to let them know that I love them. And I want them to not feel uncomfortable to show their feelings this is something that some of my friends who grew up in cultures where physical intimacy is not common, don’t understand. But that’s fine. It’s how I am and the way I’m raising my children.” (via Ute from Expat Since Birth)

Sibling Bonding – To watch children from Mexico and Latin America love and care for their siblings is a beautiful thing. Obviously, they have their sibling spats like any other brother and sister, but to watch them care for each other is really sweet. And this not just low-income families who are used to having to watch for their siblings. I have observed this in children of all socio-economic status. (via Mari from Inspired by Familia)

Boundaries – In the United States, parents set boundaries early and remind children of them frequently. By establishing rules, children know what is expected of them and everyone can enjoy their time together. (via Michelle from Missouri)

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