When there’s no rule book for parenting, it gets interesting to see how varied parenting styles can get all over the world. Naturally each parent would do what they think is best for the child, so let’s have a look at the different versions of ‘best parenting’ across the world.
The Danes leave their babies out in the open
You’ll know you’re in Denmark if you see a row of strollers (with sleeping babies inside) outside cafes and restaurants. Yup, the Danes trust their fellow people enough to leave their sleeping babies outside while they do what they need to do indoors. Before you freak out big time, perhaps it’s consoling to know that parents attach a baby monitor to the stroller, so that they will hear when the baby is awake. The strollers are also generally within the parents’ line of sight, so they can still keep an eye on their child while getting some time to themselves.
In fact, Danish babies spend most of their time outdoors. Even during winter, so long as temperatures don’t dip below 14, parents are more than willing to bundle their child up and let them take a nap outside. Danish parents really appreciate the outdoors and want their children to have as much frisk luft (fresh air) as possible.
Relationship between parent and child
One of the greatest differences in parenting styles between the East and the West lies in the dynamics of a parent-child relationship. In the West, the parent and the child are viewed as equal entities – parents try to involve their child in decision-making (“What do you think if we make a move now?”), and take the effort to explain the reasoning behind their actions (“We can’t go to the mall because mummy has to work”).
In the East, the “because I say so” culture is prevalent. Parents take authority very seriously, and children are used to doing what their parents ask for. This possibly led to children who are more obedient, and have greater respect for authority.
Such a difference in parent-child relationships has led to different ways in which children express themselves, which we explain more in the next point.
In most Western countries, parents encourage their children to express their thoughts and opinions. Being aware and honest of one’s feelings is a trait parents try to develop in their child. And parents reciprocate – they will actually take into account their children’s perspectives and act accordingly.
On the other hand, being too open about one’s emotions is not well-looked upon in many Asian countries. Asian families are about keeping their ‘face’, which means only showing the good side of things to outsiders. So children are discouraged from expressing negative emotions, and to just keep their opinions to themselves. When there’s a conflict between parent and child, we might hear parents say “Let’s talk about this”, but parents don’t actually intend to talk talk. It’s more of a I talk, you listen, and when the monologue is over, parents expect things to be done their way.
With that said, the new generation of Millennial parents are becoming more receptive to their children contributing an opinion. Children nowadays are given more authority in decision-making and are even encouraged to ask questions.
Being a normal parent in Japan means allowing your child to take the subway or walk to school on their own – the Japanese believe this helps to train up independent children. But try doing the same in America, and people might call you out for neglect.
Similarly, Japanese parents are willing to send their young ones out on errands to nearby grocery stores, even when the kids are as young as six or seven. This is reflective of a country that trusts the community to help the child if anything goes wrong.
Honestly, what’s there more to say. Students in Finland don’t start formal education until they’re seven, yet they have the highest PISA score amongst the European countries. At Finnish daycare, there’s no attempt to introduce mathematical equations nor squeeze an essay out of the child. The focus is solely on creative play. Amongst Finnish parents, there’s no competition to give one’s child the earliest head-start. Everyone starts formal academic lessons at the same age of seven, and there is no streaming of students by academic ability.
But in all honesty, when every other parent is sending their child for after-school classes and enrichment lessons, it is difficult to expect a parent to deviate from the norm and not do the same. It’s understandable if parents feel like they have to do everything they can to get their child ahead. However, just remember to take the time and ask your child what they enjoy, and try not to make the learning too stressful for you and your child 😊
With all the differences in parenting styles across the world, and the ease with which parents can make comparisons, it is no wonder that parents feel stressed about finding the ‘best way’ to parent. But as cliched as we may sound, there really is no best way. The only thing we strongly encourage parents to focus on, is building the right character in a child. With good character, your child would then be ready to concur the world even without you by their side.
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