In America, we are fascinated with the concept of “good parenting”. The vast number of books that are dedicated to how to raise a child is astronomical. In other countries, this is not the case. Yes, you will find well educated and well-read parents, however it takes a very different form. I recently finished reading Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. In her book, Druckerman does not concede that the French are “better” than Americans at parenting, only that there are great techniques. This book catered to techniques with young children that she saw worthy of adopting herself. Druckerman also shares her opinions on the vast differences of hovering New York City mothers vs. the independence of Parisian methods.
If you have read all the parenting books and consider yourself a well-informed parent, this article may be for you. International parents around the globe have a few things to say that differ from the American customs in every parenting magazine today. Surprising as they may seem, there are techniques I am going to urge you to consider today that may add to your definition of “good parenting”. Here are few parenting tips from around the world that may intrigue you as you raise your own little ones.
Choosing a Name
This is my favorite topic right now as I am 5 days away from having my second baby girl. We have still not decided on a name. The difficulty for me is that a name can conjure all sorts of emotions or preconceived ideas. For the sake of offending our worldwide audience, I will refrain from telling you the names I would never be caught dead choosing. 🙂 I will say however, that a name can carry quite a bit of weight for a child’s lifetime. Academic grades, getting a job interview, self-esteem, and so many more issues arise simply based on a person’s name. There are actual studies that show teachers playing favorites based on names. The studies show grading certain names more harshly based on a name that was associated with a trouble maker. Germany, Sweden, China, Denmark, France, Spain, Argentina and Japan even have restrictions placed on names from the government.
In the Muslim tradition, a child is not named until the 7th day after baby’s birth at a ceremony. This ceremony entails a sacrifice of a goat or sheep (two for a boy, one for a girl). The infant’s head is then shaved and covered with saffron. A Jewish boy is given his Hebrew (as opposed to his secular) name at his “Bris” eight days after his birth. A Jewish baby girl receives a naming ceremony eight to fifteen days after birth that includes a public reading of the Torah. Chinese naming traditions include waiting a month to name the baby as well as shaving their heads. I begged my husband to let me shave my daughter’s head at age 1 like one of my friends from India. He won that battle, but I have another chance in a year with baby #2!
It is almost an Olympic sport to excel in packing school lunches. Just check out the 3 million articles with pictures of Bento box ideas on Pinterest! We in America equate a homemade lunch as “healthier” and a sign of “good parenting”. A company in Chicago called Gourmet Gorilla has made $5 million by capitalizing on the idea of a healthy homemade lunch made for young children. Their idea came from the European principle of fresh and hot food at lunch time. When I taught at a school in Latvia, it was not acceptable to have a cold sandwich for lunch. Even if the sandwich was shaped like a Rolls Royce complete with gold trim made of chocolate truffle oil and garnished with foie gras wheels, it was looked down upon.
Getting children to eat vegetables is an area that the French excel. Their philosophy begins with infants being introduced to all vegetables through puree that include spices. There is no bland or raw vegetable given to young children because “they might be allergic” or “it’s too early for spices”. The French rotate which new vegetables to give to their children until they learn to appreciate it. French infants spit out pureed broccoli just like an American child, but the French do not get discouraged. They use different blends, spices, and types of cooking to reintroduce it many times and eventually, you see French 2-year-olds enjoying the same 3 course fine dining meal as their parents.
For a great book on this fabulous concept, check out: French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon
Again, the vast number of parenting books on how to potty train your child is overwhelming. I myself read many books and decided to potty train using the 3 day potty training method. This method may seem drastic, but was effective in my opinion. I had also decided not to allow any TV or screen time until she was 2 years old so this worked out heavily in our favor when we were bound to our house for 3 days straight. We were armed with fluids galore and Doc McStuffins to distract our house bound toddler. As a teacher, I had the luxury of having Winter Break, but you can use babysitters, nannies, or friends to help cover the entire 3 days at home.
I recently found out that in Vietnam, they are masters of potty training before a child can walk! Vietnamese parents potty-train their babies using a whistle. They are able to potty train their babies by nine months of age; over a year faster than is considered “normal” in the U.S. For parents like me who have chosen not to do cloth diapers, this is about a $1500 savings. The general concept is that when the baby fusses or gives a sign that they need to go, parents hold them over the toilet and whistle. Even if the child is in a diaper, the parents will hold a child over the toilet. This method is done consistently from birth, and when you fast forward 9 months, Vietnamese babies are completely potty trained. For more on potty training like the Vietnamese, click HERE.
(picture from Fatherly.com)
As a group, Scandinavian countries are the leaders in outdoor parenting risk taking. They allow elementary students to climb trees and run free in the forest at recess. However, it starts when children are infants. Napping for young children in countries such as Sweden, Finland, Latvia, etc. include the outdoors. Allowing a child to be outdoors in subzero temperatures has some of you panicking. A common phrase I heard while living in Northern Europe was “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
This technique begins with parents taking children outdoors for a nap beginning at 2 weeks old. It is not uncommon to see a sidewalk cafe lined with strollers full of sleeping infants. I have watched fellow parents use this practice and have come to appreciate its value for sleep training a child. I even plan on using the technique with my own 2-week-old this month. For a great article on the research behind children sleeping outdoors, click HERE.
(picture taken from BBC news article)
Traditions to Bring Good Luck
Luck is another hot button issue around the United States. Often seen as urban legends, parents in the US do not tend to implement parenting methods based on luck. However, in most countries, it is quite the opposite. In Bali, babies cannot touch the ground until they reach 3 months of age. Indonesians believe a newborn’s purity can be defiled through any contact with the ground. A ceremony is held at three months old where the baby sets foot upon the ground for the first time.
In Greece, Turkey, as well as many other countries it is custom to spit at a baby three times to ward off evil spirits. When I lived in Turkmenistan, babies were given bracelets and necklaces with the evil eye to protect them. In the US, we tend to touch the babies head. I experienced the shock of a mother spitting on her child’s face in the middle of the market. I accidentally committed the culture misstep by complimenting her baby as “beautiful” while touching her head. It only took the one time to learn my lesson!
The current fad that I learned from living in Latvia is to put amber necklace on babies for luck. A few years ago, when my first daughter was an infant, this would have been labeled as crazy in the US. Now I see parents walking around with their babies sporting for the same amber necklace I brought home as a souvenir 4 years ago for myself.
My family spent 2 years on assignment in West Africa in the country of Mauritania. There we learned from our friends who are from the Wolof tribe believe that human saliva can retain words. They too spit on newborn babies to add blessings. Women spit on the baby’s face and men spit in the baby’s ear. Then, they rub saliva all over the baby’s face for extra good luck. You raise your eyebrows at this one, but I happen to know many well educated and wonderful people who swear by this tradition. Remember, they watch Americans attend college and NFL football games. Imagine their tendency to judge your coordinated dances to ridiculous lyrics as a “pre-game ritual”.
(picture taken from Pinterest article)
Hopefully this article could make you smile and appreciate our diverse world a little more today. Parenting is the hardest thing that humans do. Remember, we are all on the same sleep deprived and very expensive team!
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