Every culture has its own unique ways of doing things and when it comes to parenting, there is no exception. And in a world that is growing ever closer, it's easy for us to notice how our parenting styles compare and what other cultures seem to be getting right when we are struggling. Wouldn't it be great to know their secrets?
In Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, Christine Gross-Loh brings "the world's best parenting strategies" right to you. In this book she looks at parenting styles from countries such as Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, and China and compares them to American notions of raising children. She shows that helicopter parenting is unique to America, co-sleeping is the norm in most cultures, and the world's highest academic achievers get a lot of time to play at school, among many other things.
Disclaimer: I don't like parenting books. I think I've done pretty well so far by learning from my children and searching for advice from other moms in my life. The parenting books I have read have come across as preachy or rigid and quite frankly, I don't have the time for that. However, I'm fascinated by how people around the world tackle the same issues I do. And considering my husband and I come from two different cultures and are trying to find the balance in raising our children within them, I thought I'd give this one a try.
My first problem going into the book was that it was something different from what I thought it would be. I thought it would just be a comparison of cultures, a sort of "here's what they do in this country. Now here is what they do in this other country." Kind of like what the movie Babies did. Instead, the book takes one issue (for example, co-sleeping) per chapter, then visits with parents of many different cultures to see how they tackle that issue. Fair enough. However, in doing it this way, at many times it came across as "this is what America does wrong and here is how everyone else does it better." At times I wasn't sure if this book was to enlighten you on how other cultures raise their children, or make you feel bad for how your culture raises children.
And as it goes with most parenting books, which is my biggest issue with reading them, there is no one right way for doing things. Kids are unique. Yes, their culture influences them, but even within one family, different things work for each child. Take the issue of sleeping. One of my children slept early on in a crib in her own room. The other slept in my room and often in my bed. Neither has had any sleeping issues and both have developed similarly when it comes to independence. Actually, I could go as far as to say that the opposite of what is being suggested in this book (that co-sleeping promotes independence) has happened in my family IF I were to base things solely on that one subject. But I won't.
I'm not saying that I disliked this book, I just wish it was written differently. I guess I didn't find it as balanced as other readers have. And maybe that's because of my parenting book bias. I would have preferred a journey around the world, dropping in on families to see what life is like, but instead it was more of a "here's what we're doing, now here is what everyone else is doing differently." And as someone who doesn't over schedule their children and could never be accused of being a helicopter parent (that's me with my nose in a book while my child is dangling by their feet off the playground), it's easy to take offense to the claim that this way of raising your children is difficult to do in North America.
It was still interesting to see what other parents around the world have to say on certain subjects. And there are a lot of great ideas in there that you can apply to your own parenting style. If you like to read parenting books then I think this one brings something new to the genre. Just have a more open mind going into it than I did.