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Kelly Johnston

Other cultures may have the answer to your parenting questions.

Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs you'll ever have. And kids don't come with a manual! Instead, many new parents turn to other parents for advice. But look beyond your local moms group and even beyond your neighborhood. Expand your horizons and turn to parents in other countries!

Parenting styles in different countries vary widely and you may be able to pick up some interesting ideas.

“American parenting stands out as the most odd of parenting practices when compared with non-Western cultures," says Meredith Small, a professor of anthropology at Cornell University and author of Our Babies, Ourselves. “U.S. parents value independence and self-reliance. In other places, parents value family integration and there is no thought about babies being independent. In the U.S., parents are convinced, for example, that the baby has to 'cry it out' to learn to 'self-soothe,' which would horrify other cultures.” 

Here's a look at how parenting styles differ depending on where you live.


Parenting in France

  • Hands-off approach: Parenting expert Ann Pleshette Murphy says that French parents manage a certain detachment, which many frazzled American parents admire. "Although it is impossible to generalize, I would also say that American parents probably do more for their children [for better or worse] than French parents," Murphy says. "You don't see French mothers following their children around the playground and commenting on everything their children are doing.”
     
  • Demand respect: “French mothers are stricter and expect their children to be respectful and more patient and self-sufficient than U.S. moms," Murphy says.


Parenting in the UK

  • Communication is key: According to a UK.Care.com story, British parents are more likely to rationalize with their children and incorporate their children into problem solving when dealing with a sticky situation. British parents will lay out, step-by-step, what went wrong and why the behavior shouldn't be repeated.
     
  • Minding manners: British children are expected to demonstrate a mild-mannered demeanor, be polite and academically proficient. "This combination of conservative and liberal techniques aims to produce well-adjusted children," the article states.


Parenting in South Africa

  • Open to new ideas: “In a political and economic environment that is less predictable than in most first-world countries, I think that parents have an obligation to engender a pioneering spirit that is open to new ideas and quick learning," says Natalie Naude, who runs the country's premier baby and parenting expo. "Education is an area that needs special attention from South African parents. We should play a more active role in our children's education than is possibly necessary in other countries."
     
  • Learn from example: “Heritage and traditional parenting styles are very common in South Africa and often the grandparents will be the primary caregivers," Naude says. "Income and geography play decisive roles in ways that parents parent. More young parents are referring to friends and the internet to gain an understanding of the latest parenting ideas." Reading and taking advice from trusted peers and professionals is smart, but parents must find what works for their particular family in order to attain balance. Taking notes from generations past is natural, but attention should be paid to the fact parenting methods change with the times. 


Parenting in Canada

  • Fostering independence: In many countries, children are more involved in day-to-day activities than they are in Canada, says Kathy Lynn, a best-selling author and Canada’s leading speaker on parenting issues. “You are more likely to see them in restaurants or even neighborhood pubs in some countries," Lynn says. "In North America, we tend to separate children from the adults."
     
  • Peer pressure: “Today’s Canadian parents are more likely to turn to their peers for information and advice although generally, how they were raised will be part of their understanding,” Lynn says.


Parenting in China and South Korea

  • Respect for elders: Vanessa Van Petten, author and creator of RadicalParenting.com, has conducted extensive research on parenting in China and South Korea. She says the Chinese culture strongly supports its elders. “In this way, most grandparents also have an active role in raising children," Van Petten says. "Babysitters are used much more infrequently. Grandparents often live in the same home. This means a child might have two or four active parental figures.” Receiving aid and wisdom from grandparents is normal everywhere, but not as frequent in the US.
     
  • Chinese parents are extremely involved: “Overall, Chinese parents believe that what Americans call 'helicopter parenting' is the job of most parents," Van Petten says. "They believe good parenting is being incredibly involved and pushing your child absolutely as far as they can go."
     
  • Formal relationship: Van Patten says parents in China and South Korea are strict and the relationship between child and parents is less casual than in other countries. “For example,” Van Patten says, “in South Korea, one family I interviewed, [said] during the family dinners, the children rarely spoke directly to the father unless called upon by him or asked a specific question.”

Yes, parenting styles in different countries are…different. But cultural gaps aside, parenting is bound to imperfection. One similarity is certain: All parents want what’s best for their family. Lynn says it best: “Children need unconditional love from their parents and they need parents who are doing the job of child-raising in a thoughtful and considerate ways.”

And check out these 5 New Parenting Trends from Care.com.


Kelly Johnston is a freelance writer living in Washington D.C. 

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