What makes a good parent? Here in Australia, we have our own ideas and standards, but have you ever thought about how other people parent their children? We’ve rounded up parenting tactics from ten different places for comparison.
In a Dutch family, everyone – including the children – has a say. This isn’t just fundamental for language skills and self-expression, but also for problem-solving, negotiation and confidence. Parents and children are seen as equal, and children are treated as such. Dutch kids also tend to spend a lot more time with both parents and are considered to be some of the happiest children in the world.
Would you let your six-year-old get themselves to school – on public transport, no less? Apparently, even in bustling Tokyo, children in the early years of primary school are often seen taking themselves to school on trains and buses without parents or chaperones guiding them along. It’s a general expectation that adults – strangers or not – will keep an eye on children when they’re out and about and, considering the exceptionally low crime rates in Japan, there’s no reason to think otherwise.
While Australian children are going to school at younger and younger ages, children in Finland don’t start until they’re seven. It seems seriously late, but when you remember that Finnish students are among the smartest in the world, you start to think that maybe we should take a leaf out of these parents’ books. Instead of school bags and pencil cases, Finnish children spend their early years being physically active, playing and creating. Sounds delightful!
The old adage ‘it takes a village’ is particularly true in many parts of Africa. Across the continent, many places believe the responsibility of raising a child doesn’t just fall to the child’s parents, but to the entire extended family – and even beyond, to non-relatives. It’s also not unusual for mothers to share breast milk in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.
Making your own mistakes – and learning from them – is said to be a big part of Irish parenting. What may be seen as permissive by Australian standards, the Irish approach to childhood frustration or injury is more geared towards helping children learn their own lessons in responsibility and patience. A far cry from the helicopter parenting we know so well, ey?
The notion of sending your children to bed early is completely foreign to Spaniards – and to many people in Taiwan, India and Hong Kong, apparently. In Spain – and no doubt many other places around the world – sending your children to bed at 10 pm is a common occurrence, as it’s important to parents that their children, no matter how old, participate in their family’s nightlife. No wonder siestas are a thing!
Spanking is slowly becoming a lost notion here in Australia, but the Swedes are firmly against it – so much so that it’s actually illegal. Sweden became the first country to ban spanking in 1979, which means the first generation of children who grew up under the law are now parents themselves. Since then, 52 other countries have prohibited parents from using physical punishments on children and the list continues to grow.
Savouring food is a big part of French culture – which is hardly a surprise, considering how good their food is – but it starts a lot younger than you may think. French parents believe it’s important to slow down and savour meals, and they pass this onto their children. It’s such a widely-held belief that many schools will allow their children to go home at lunchtime to eat with their families, and lunch breaks can last as long as two hours. We’ll have what they’re having, thanks.
While infants in the Polynesian Islands are certainly cared for by the adults, once they reach a certain age – typically, when they are able to walk – children are typically cared for by other children. Toddlers can become self-reliant at a much younger age, and the reason is seriously adorable: apparently, it’s so that they can keep up with the rest of the older kids.
Much like Australia, tall poppies are quickly cut down in England – often during childhood, it seems. While social media has made all of us a lot more likely to brag about our children’s accomplishments, in England this is still seen as totally distasteful. Self-deprecation is favoured over self-flattery, and this attitude is demonstrated in front of children so that they know how to behave in society.