It takes a village: advice on parenting from around the world
Would you let your baby nap outside in sub-zero temperatures?
Would you prefer your kids to not have homework?
Would you like to hibernate after giving birth?
These are just a few maybe-not-so-crazy parenting practices from around the world. Because let’s face it: nobody really knows what they’re doing when it comes to raising kids, do they? Without the universal parenting manual that we all wish was available, there are tons of ideas floating around about the best way to do it, and who’s to say who is right? Maybe great aunt Cynthia actually knows what she’s talking about.
But here are a few ideas that have been tried and tested all over the world that you might want to consider giving a go:
Chinese women are put on bedrest after birth
For a month after giving birth, Chinese mothers are expected to be on bedrest, according to the ancient tradition of zuoyezi. By this practice, new moms should not go outside – or even get out of bed – shower, watch TV, do housework or even have visitors. They are looked after by in-laws or nurses who take care of the newborn and cook special meals for the mother. All the mother is expected to do is rest and feed her baby.
Indonesian babies don’t touch the ground
For the first three months of their lives, babies in Bali are preferred not to touch the ground. For these first few months of their lives they are considered very special (holy, even) and so are carried around as much as possible. If the mother needs to do something which is awkward when holding a baby, the baby is passed onto another family member to hold. No bouncy chairs, no play gyms, no sleepy pods. Just people holding babies.
Swedish babies nap outside
…even in the middle of winter. In fact, parents and schools will put their babies outside to nap no matter the weather. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a row (a herd? a gaggle?) of prams outside a creche or coffee shop, presumably while the adults sit inside and drink coffee. Now why didn’t we think of that?
Ok wait, are there actually any benefits to this, besides moms getting a chance to drink a hot cup of coffee?
Well, it turns out babies nap for longer when they are outside and they don’t get sick as often. If you consider the germs that can lurk inside when people spend as much time indoors as they do in Sweden in winter it can make sense that the fresh air can do the babies good. Plus, Swedes firmly believe in swaddling, so their babies are warm and cosy and won’t die from exposure.
Danish babies go to daycare
Daycare is seen as a valuable part of bringing up a child for the benefits they bring their caregivers. Even if mothers don’t work, they are encouraged to send their child to daycare so they can have some time to themselves. As they put it: “if the mother doesn’t get a chance to breathe, the children cannot breathe either”. Daycare is fully funded by the government, too, so cost is not an issue.
Chinese babies aren’t potty-trained
What?! I hear you gasp. But you heard right. Chinese parents don’t go through the same process we’re used to to get their kids to use the toilet. Their secret? Split-crotch pants. Rather than wear diapers, Chinese babies and toddlers wear pants which are split at the bottom, so that their tiny little tooshes can enjoy the breeze as they go about their day. When their parents notice they need to go to the toilet, they will help them squat wherever they are – be it in a flower pot, a bush, a sink, the sidewalk or the toilet. Parents also make a noise – a shushing or a whistling – when the child does their business so that eventually the kid will learn to, um, evacuate on demand.
Polynesian babies are looked after by their siblings
In Polynesia, older children are given the responsibility of looking after their younger siblings. Children from around the age of two are handed over to their older brothers or sisters to be looked after. While I can see how this will help the older children grow up a lot quicker to be more independent and be able to handle responsibility, I’m not sure how Little S would turn out if J got his hands on him!
Dutch children don’t do homework
According to a 2013 Unicef survey, Dutch children are the happiest in the world. The Dutch school system is considered the 5th best system in the world and, interestingly, Dutch pupils are not given much homework until high school and report low levels of stress.
Finnish children don’t write tests
Finland is thought to have the best education system in the world. It might surprise you (or not, if you live in South Africa) that their school system is quite different to ours. Finnish children only start school at age 7. Inside the classroom, they are not separated by ability. In other words, weak and strong pupils are taught together in the same class. During class, students are given regular breaks between lessons – 15 minutes for every 45 minutes of class. What’s most interesting, I think, is that there is only one mandatory school test – one! – at age 16. Which totally blows continuous assessment out the window.
French children eat off the adult menu
French children are expected to eat the same food as adults – at home, at school and at restaurants. What’s more, all meals are eaten together as a family at the table. No special food for the children, no rushing your food to go and do something else and no eating in front of the TV. The result? French children are known to eat all manner of food from a young age, appreciate healthy food and follow a sensible diet.
Japanese children look after themselves
In Japan, children as young as 7 are expected to get themselves to school and back, as well as do simple errands for their parents. This can mean taking trains and buses on their own or with siblings or friends. This not only frees up parents to go to work or do their own things, this also teaches the children independence and responsibility. Of course, the fact that Japan is a very safe country has a lot to do with the success of this idea. Let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend this in South Africa or some other countries.
Indian children have no bedtime
While it seems most parents I know struggle to get their littles to go to bed – and stay in bed! – parents in India aren’t fussed with the hassle. Indian children don’t have a set bedtime and can go to sleep whenever they want. Which is probably when they’re tired. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
There you have it: people raising kids in ways some of us would never even consider. But let’s be honest, some of these ideas sound like they would make our lives a bit easier. I mean, not worrying about food, bedtime or homework? Sign me up!
Which of these would you be willing to give a shot?
Featured image: Nikolay Tchaouchev on Unsplash