Oftentimes with parenting, we’re so attuned to the routines and rules of our own culture that we forget not everyone in the world thinks babies must be soothed in glider chairs and sung songs about being rocked in cradles perched inexplicably in treetops. Sometimes, we don’t really stop to think about maybe doing things… differently. But the truth is, there are many “foreign” parenting practices Americans should adopt.
To be honest, I can get a little annoyed by all the books espousing how awesome other countries are at parenting, and how lazy/unhealthy/overly-protective American parents are. As if we do nothing but spend our days shackling our kids to our ankles, maniacally adding apps to their iPads whilst occasionally spritzing them with Cheeto dust. (I can attest that we only do that on weekends in our home! Ba-dum-bum.)
For real though, there seem to be so many books about how in places far from the United States, toddlers love nothing more than sitting down to a long, quiet dinner of duck confit and a fine Bordeaux. Or how in some countries the parents let their kids play in old mine shafts filled with band saws, and it teaches their kids strength and self reliance! Not like our playgrounds with their protective padding… In other parts of the world there’s none of this silly crib business! Parents put their infants in old Ikea boxes, outside, in -20 degrees, and not only do their babies like it, they also sleep 14 uninterrupted hours and then wake up able to discuss economic theory.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little touchy. But as moms, we are so constantly barraged with worries that we are doing things wrong, that it can sometimes be hard to take in new parenting ideas. But really, we should stay open! Because the truth is, there really are many other parenting styles out there that it would behoove us to take a page from.
1. The French say non to Pirate’s Booty snack packs.
Okay, so the French really do have much better practices around food than many American families do, as per The Local. For one, snacking is not really a thing, because parents want their kids to eat their meals. And not just that… they want kids to savor their meals. (A concept that I must admit, makes me LOL when I picture my own kid at dinner. To say he savors his sweet potato would not be accurate. His Oreos, maybe.) But it really is an idea that is worth leaning into: trying to teach our kids that meals are a communal and pleasurable experience, not a battle to the end over how many bites of peas they have to eat.
2. In Scandinavia, 23 degrees is your friend, not your foe.
This is a tricky one for me, because I really really hate being cold, and therefore do no want my child to be cold either. Once winter in New York descends, I google the words “indoor playspace” over and over, praying that some magical new play area I’ve never heard of will suddenly spring into existence. Not so in Stockholm, where temps regularly drop to -5C. There, babies are actually left outside in strollers to snooze, according to the BBC. Even in daycares, strollers are placed outside for nap-time, and pre-schoolers can be found climbing jungle gyms no matter the temp. It sounds bonkers, yes, but Scandinavians believe it’s much healthier then spending a day cooped up indoors with other children and their germs.
While I loathe being cold, I must admit that playing in fresh air is probably better for kids than crawling through a microbe-filled ball pit. #Sadbuttrue.
3. In the Congo, everyone is “Mama.”
In the Congo, they really do believe that “it takes a village.” There, all women are addressed as “Mama”, and everyone helps look after everyone else’s kids, reported Cup of Jo. Not only that, women have no problem nursing someone else’s baby, and sharing their breast milk.
If ever there was a lesson American parents should take to heart, it’s perhaps this one. So many of us feel isolated with small children, and like we don’t have any close family nearby or friends around who can help out. It can be lonely and exhausting. So can you imagine how awesome it would be to just hand your kid off to the woman behind you in Starbucks? And your kid being like, “Oh sure, you’re also Mama. It’s cool.” And then letting you drink your latte at at your leisure while you get some work done? #magic
4. Pygmy dads are the best dads ever.
In central Africa, the Aka people really know how to parent, according to Fatherly. Why? Because fathers play just as big a role as the mothers do. Parents totally take turns on who does the hunting, and who watches the kids. It’s all split equally, to the extent that fathers even let their babies suckle at their nipples. Yep.
This is totally the norm there, and there is no loss of status for a dad to be seen as a caregiver. No job is considered more important or better than the ever. Which of course is exactly how it should be. So the next time you and your husband are ready to murder each over who should load the dishwasher, be sure to send your husband a link on the Aka. And then stare at him in silent judgment.
5. The Japanese respect their kids’ privacy.
While it’s common practice for parents here in the U.S. to gab about every milestone and mishap on social media, moms and dads in Japan have a different take on sharing (or over-sharing, as the case may be).
“Japanese parents don’t discuss what’s going on with their children or families except with those they trust most,” reported Family Life Share.
“Discussing children is not a typical topic of conversation among mere acquaintances.”
When you think about all the teens who insist their parents ask for their permission before posting their likeness on Insta or wherever else, the Japanese approach makes a lot of sense. After all, kids deserve the same level of respect as anyone else. Plus, there’s always the chance that people don’t necessarily want to hear about your little one’s latest diaper blowout.