One of the great gifts of this day and age is our ability to seamlessly access ideas from around the globe and potentially integrate them into our own lives. This is true in every domain ― from business to design, from cuisine to architecture ― but I find it to be doubly exciting in (you guessed it) parenting.
Why? Because throughout history we, as parents, have been pretty much bound by the styles and approaches we’ve experienced within our immediate clan. We were programmed to do whatever our mothers and fathers did, with little variation. And hey ― it worked. We’ve survived excellently (pats self on back).
But today, we don’t just want our kids to survive. We millennial parents are on a mission to thrive - to raise the best, brightest happiest... this goal, in and of itself, raises questions. And I think it’s vital that we have a cultural conversation about what ‘success’ looks like when it comes to raising kids: does it mean raising people with jobs, high paying salaries, fancy cars? Does it mean raising people with degrees, PhD’s and awards? Does it mean raising someone who is blissfully happy the whole time? Or someone who follows the law and obeys authority?
However we define success is a critical question (one which I hope to touch on in several future posts) but for now - let us rejoice in the fact that we have, at our fingertips, real live examples of entire communities, indeed entire countries, that are parenting vastly different than us (whatever that happens to look like) and that we can draw from their wisdom too, not just rely on whoever happens to be our own mom and dad (although they’re also great, obviously).
I personally have lived on three different continents - which had similarities and also many differences in their approaches to child raising. Still concepts like elimination communication (diaper free), extended (or ‘full term’) breast-feeding, co-sleeping, unschooling and many others - were ideas I had simply never come across - even with the thousands of parents I personally know.
This is what is so amazing about global parenting. I do not feel at all alone in my choice to cloth diaper, to homeschool, to parent without punishment - simply because I have learned of big communities who sanction these choices and where these ideas are the norm. This normalization is critical for parents because parenting is one of those domains where social proof really counts. We don’t want to “experiment” on our own children. We want to know that hundreds of thousands have walked this path before, and there is a culmination of evidence for how it is likely to turn out.
Consider these fascinating anecdotal facts:
- In an overwhelming majority of the world co-sleeping (certainly with babies but also with children up until their teenage years) is the norm.
- The worldwide average for weaning from breastfeeding appears to be somewhere between 2.8 - 4.2 years of age (you can read about how complicated it is to calculate this accurately here).
- In Denmark, babies are left to sleep outside in public, in sub-zero weather, even in major cosmopolitan cities - while their moms pop into the store to do some errands or have lunch with their girlfriends.
- In Japan, children as young as 5 or 6 take the subway and run errands alone.
- In France, children snack only once a day.
It is so refreshing to me to hear how wide the range of accepted parental behaviors is, around the globe. And how for some crazy (what?! your baby still sleeps with you?!) is someone else’s normal (well, duh, why wouldn’t she?).
Where in the world do you come from? And what are some parenting norms, local to you, that you think might be unique to your culture? Have you borrowed ideas and approaches from other cultures that you’ve never even visited?