Over the past decade, a new publishing trend has emerged: parenting books that celebrate the child-rearing philosophies of other cultures while subtly — or not so subtly — denouncing the American approach. The latest example is “Achtung Baby: An ...and more »
Think love is the same in every language? Not exactly.
Over the past decade, a new publishing trend has emerged: parenting books that celebrate the child-rearing philosophies of other cultures while subtly — or not so subtly — denouncing the American approach. The latest example is “Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children” (Picador) by Sara Zaske, a freelance writer and parent who lived in Berlin for six years.
Zaske writes that German mothers and fathers are hardly authoritarian spirit-crushers. Living in Germany, she found that parents there were so laid-back with their kids — letting children as young as 3 use real knives to cut their food, and encouraging first-graders to walk to school by themselves — that she began to question her own perspective on parenting.
“I wanted to raise my children to be strong, independent, free individuals — all very American values,” Zaske writes. “Yet I tended to use paradoxical parenting practices: constantly correcting my children, overemphasizing academic achievement and closely supervising them to ensure their safety.”
Apparently, she’s not alone in doubting the wisdom of the American way.
“I think readers are trying to escape the pressure of having their children achieve so much, so early, in so many things,” Jennifer K. Adair, an early-childhood education professor at the University of Texas at Austin, tells The Post. “These books all come out of relatively successful cultures and suggest there might be a different pathway for raising successful kids.”
Here’s a look at some parenting-advice imports resonating with Americans.
“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”The country: ChinaThe advice: Yale Law School professor Amy Chua caused a stir when she published the explosive “Battle Hymn” in 2011, condemning Western parents for their overly soft touch with their children. Chua says Chinese mothers, on the other hand, expect nothing less than perfection, which is how they end up with such high-achieving kids. The memoir contains a particularly shocking moment, when Chua threatens to burn her daughter’s stuffed animals if the young girl’s piano playing doesn’t dramatically improve.
“Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting”The country: FranceThe advice: Journalist Pamela Druckerman’s best-selling 2012 ode to French child-rearing is the ne plus ultra of global parenting guides. As an American living in Paris, Druckerman noticed something astonishing: a city full of well-behaved toddlers who listened to their parents, sat quietly at restaurants and played happily with their siblings while their mothers sipped wine. Druckerman credits the parents for performing this Gallic miracle, claiming that French mothers and fathers are better at setting boundaries than their American counterparts, and foster both independence and accountability in their kids.
“How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm and Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and Everywhere in Between)”The country: ArgentinaThe advice: Also published in 2012, American journalist (and new mother) Mei-Ling Hopgood researched parenting styles from a number of different countries to understand how other cultures deal with tricky subjects such as food, sleep and potty training. Among her findings: baby bedtimes — a full-blown obsession in the US — don’t really matter. Then living in Argentina, Hopgood noticed that her fellow moms didn’t put their kids to sleep until after 10 p.m. The impact? They were still well-rested, but felt more included in family activities.
“Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us”The country: JapanThe advice: Journalist and Harvard Ph.D. Christine Gross-Loh was born in the States to Korean immigrants, and then later moved to Japan with her husband and kids. There, she noticed some remarkable differences between her own, typically American parenting style and the more laid-back attitudes of Japanese parents, which she then wrote about in her 2013 book. For instance, her fellow moms couldn’t care less about monitoring screen time, and when conflicts erupted on the playground, the parents let their kids resolve them without getting involved.
“Do Parents Matter? Why Japanese Babies Sleep Soundly, Mexican Siblings Don’t Fight and American Families Should Just Relax”The country: IndiaThe advice: This 2016 global survey written by Robert A. and Sarah LeVine, a husband-and-wife team of Harvard academics with children, challenged American helicopter parenting. In India, for instance, parents start potty-training their infants when they’re just a few months old. Rather than keeping their kids in diapers, these parents encourage children’s independence as early as possible. Families also spend a good amount of time outside — which makes dealing with the inevitable accidents less tricky.
“The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids”The country: DenmarkThe advice: Studies consistently show that Danish people are among the happiest in the world. This, the authors of this 2016 guide posit, comes down to the culture’s parenting style, which emphasizes values such as authenticity, empathy and family togetherness. Written by Jessica Alexander (an American journalist married to a Dane) and Iben Sandahl (a former teacher and psychotherapist practicing in Copenhagen), the book makes a number of gentle recommendations. Key among them is encouraging kids to reframe their negative thoughts. So, a parent dealing with a child’s disappointment about the end of a long, cozy weekend might simply suggest a change in perspective: the beginning of a school week means a time to see friends, and learn exciting new things.
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