Americans could certainly learn from the various child rearing practices in different cultures. Discover seven unique traditions in parenting, found around the world.
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As an American mother, I find other American parents steadfast in the notion that American parenting is the most researched, the best for children, and the most right.
It is my personal experience that our cultural approach to parenting is to excessively google, overly obsess about schedule and routine, and dish out unsolicited advice to other new (or not so new) parents. Of course there are many aspects of American parenting that are just fine – and research, in my little librarian world, still reigns king – but it’s simply not the only way.
I find unique parenting customs and child rearing practices in different cultures incredibly fascinating. And, to be completely honest, I find many of them beneficial, well thought out and researched, and to yield great, if not better, results.
Finland, for example, children spend less hours per day and less total years “in school,” favoring family time outdoors and recess, yet their education scores outrank Americans consistently.
I’ve personally adopted certain child rearing practices in different cultures into my own parenting style because I believe in a well rounded, global approach. Here are some of my favorite, unique parenting traditions from around the world.
10 Interesting Child Rearing Practices in Different Cultures
I asked other family, travel, and cultural bloggers to share their experiences and customs when it comes to child rearing practices in different cultures. I’m also sharing a few that I was raised with and that I parent my own children with.
There are so many child rearing practices in different cultures that are worth examining and learning about; these are just a few that represent diverse backgrounds.
Nordic Friluftsliv / Outdoor Parenting Culture
Friluftsliv is the nordic concept that getting outdoors is a basic human right. In Scandinavian and nordic culture, parenting, and education, ample time outdoors, regardless of the weather, is prioritized. In fact, parents in Denmark, for example, even nap their babies outside so they sleep longer and more peacefully.
Growing up, I often heard there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing from my Danish mother. I thought she just wanted me outside more, until I heard my Danish professor recite the exact same sentence, verbatim. The same concept is echoed in the bestseller There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather. Swedish mother, Linda Åkeson McGurk, shares her thoughts on child rearing practices in different cultures across Scandinavia, including outdoor culture, and why she eventually moved her family back.
The focus on fresh air and play doesn’t just make for a more mindful, hygge approach to parenting, but has statistical benefits as well. Finland, for example, continues to rank at the top of world education statistics. Finnish children typically begin (mandatory) school at age seven, a year after American children, and have at least an hour+ of recess daily.
A driving force behind Nordic parenting and culture, the simple act of getting outside to play can solve many childhood and parenting struggles.
Indian Co-Sleeping and Bed Sharing
Submitted by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
While most of the countries around the world find it hard to believe and accept, co-sleeping and bed sharing is a cultural norm in India. Most of the parents in India not only co-sleep with a baby, but continue to do so for many years until they grow up, or as long as they want to!
Family members in Indian households co-sleep together in the same room, either in beds or on the floor with mats. A baby usually co-sleeps with the mother, but as they grow bigger, they sleep with grand parents or parents, but are never allowed to sleep in a separate room.
Indian parents are over protective of their children, and co-sleeping is a strong testimony for that. In fact, the idea of putting a baby or toddler to sleep in a separate room is frowned upon by many elder people. Although, times are changing and families are becoming more nuclear, some modern day parents are adapting to western culture and are now having a separate room for their children.
Personally, I co-slept with my parents and never had a separate room until I was 18. Fast forward to our current lifestyle, living in London, we follow the culture of co-sleeping with our 4 year old twins! Only we needed a king size bed for four of us to roll on!
Nigerian Collective Parenting
Submitted by Chisom from The Awesome Traveler Blog
When it comes to parenting, the world is packed with beautiful traditions that showcase the diversity in child rearing practices in different cultures. Many of these traditions may seem strange, interesting, sweet or awe-inspiring. But it goes to show that humans are inventive species that’ll find new ways to care for their young.
One of the sweetest traditions is the African custom of collective responsibility. This tradition still holds, irrespective of the places you visit in Africa. It is born from the African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child.
Sometimes a child maybe left alone because of busy parents or unexpected events. In times like this, it is quite normal for another family to take the child (with or without permission) and shower them with food and affection until the parent returns. Society’s role in the growth of a child cannot be ignored and in Africa it is expected that everyone lends a hand in caring for a young one.
A more extreme African proverb says, a child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth. Love is an important part of growth. It allows peace and happiness to blossom.
Brazilian Bedtime Routine
Submitted by Bruna from I Heart Brazil
Although the Brazilian culture is very similar to American culture in many aspects, children’s bedtime isn’t necessarily one. For instance, it is quite common in Brazil to let the little ones watching tv until late before they go to bed.
We know children need to go to bed by a specific time, depending on when they wake up, of course. Still, life goes on in full power until relatively late for plenty of Brazilian families.
Mind you, most schools start their first lesson in the first hours of the morning, say at 7 AM, so children must wake up very early every day. Still, it is pretty normal to see young children going to bed somewhere between 9-10 PM, sometimes even later!
One of the reasons for that is the late meals. Most parents work full-time and arrive at home around 6-7 PM. Then, they will cook dinner. If you know Brazilian cuisine, you know most dishes aren’t as quick to make as other cuisines. That’s why many parents let their children go to bed a little later.
Portuguese Parental Boundaries
Submitted by Jo from Uncensored Escapes
If Portuguese parenting were candy, it’d be Sour Patch Kids: an interesting balance of sweet and sour notes which can alternate in intensity depending on the parent’s mood. While they’ll give the shirts off their backs to their offspring and be content housing them and supporting them their entire lives, “I love yous” are virtually unheard of between parents and their
children. A sparing “I like you very much” is all you’re going to get as far as verbal displays of emotion go.
Being an expat in the US, one thing that is always guaranteed to make jaws drop here is sharing how back home we grow up going to bed no earlier than 10 or 11 p.m. even in elementary school. Complement that with a complete absence of boundaries when it comes to nudity or the movies we watched (I was introduced to Fatal Attraction when I was 4), and you end up with sharp-tongued kids who grow up way faster than it would be ideal. Santa? Who’s that?
But fret not: what Portuguese parents lack in stringency when it comes to bed time or TV permissions, they more than make up for in backhand slap accuracy. Talk back one too many times and you’ll have your nose massaged into your skull faster than you can say “social services”!
Russian Cold Tempering
Submitted by Sasha from The Alternative Travel Guide
My mother is Russian from Siberia. Even though I was born and raised in a warmer region, my mother did cold hardening activities with me. Tempering or cold exposure training is a popular parenting custom in Russia. Almost every Russian pediatrician promotes tempering. If parents ask a pediatrician about increasing the child’s immunity and making sure that he does not get sick in kindergarten, the answer will be “practice cold hardening.”
In many families, tempering the body has become a family tradition. It is a great way to boost a child’s immune system and have fun. Tempering the body through cold exposure activities leads to resistance to cold. There are many ways to do cold exposure training, but the most popular activities for children are:
- A cold and hot shower.
- Rubbing with snow in winter.
- Walking barefoot in the snow.
- Swimming in a cold river or sea.
By the way, winter swimming is a traditional cultural element in Russia and part of Epiphany celebrations.
My favorite tempering method, which I also practice with my child, is licking frozen juice ice cubes. My daughter loves this kind of “ice cream”! The main principle of cold exposure training: the child should like it and perceive it as fun.
Korean Table Etiquette
Submitted by Corritta from It’s a Family Thing
Our family is comprised of different backgrounds. I am mixed, in that my mother is African American, and my father is Korean. I grew up with both cultures, but my Korean grandmother had a heavy influence on me. We are very close since I am the only person in our family that speak Korean fluently.
To pass along part of my culture to our son, who is also half Korean, we embrace different elements of the Korean culture in our everyday lives. Within the Korean culture, respect for your elders is of the utmost importance. With this concept comes the tradition of children serving their elders. Table etiquette is one of the most basic principles.
The oldest is honored by sitting first, followed by the second oldest until everyone is seated. Before eating, the eldest person at the table must lift their chopsticks, then everyone else can begin to eat. This ritual is a sign of respect, so no rushing to stuff food in your mouth. Of course, babies are the exception, and kids learn as they get older.
Something as simple as refilling a drink must be done in a specific way. You must refill everyone’s cup at the table before refilling your own. Also, when refilling the cups of elders, you must place your hand underneath their hand, as a sign of respect. Although our son is too young to understand these concepts, we are slowly teaching him by reinforcing dinner as a time for family. At the core of Korean culture, much like many others, is family. Family is one of the things that unites everyone, despite our differences.
What child rearing practices in different cultures did you grow up with? Do you raise your children with any non-traditional parenting techniques?
Though I’m an American parent, I raise my children more similarly to Danish or Scandinavian parents. Growing up with a Danish mother has definitely rubbed off on me, but as I grow into my own person and parent, I more and more appreciate the simpler, more mindful approach of the Danish culture, as well.