Even though it is often said it's a small world we live in, it actually seems rather big when we think about the number of diverse cultures that exist. All these cultures are different and each one of them has their own traditions. When it comes to parenting, these traditions can differ greatly. Some of the things parents consider absolutely normal in one part of the world can confuse moms and dads living in another one. The difference in views and customs can become so drastic that what parents do in one country can even be considered a no-no in another.
Still, even though we are so different, certain things remain the same for absolutely all the cultures in the world. We all teach specific values to our kids and love them so much that we are ready to sacrifice anything to make them happy.
Let us see what makes us different with regards to our parenting approach and which upbringing approaches are universal, no matter the culture and origin we have. It is sure to help us realize the reason for which certain traditions exist and embrace the differences between various countries. We might even learn some aspects of parenting from each other!
Shall we begin our journey across the globe?
25 Vietnam: Whistle For Potty Training
Believe it or not, parents in Vietnam start potty training their child as early as at 9 months of age! Can you imagine how much you can save on diapers if you do it so early? If you like this idea, you should know that they do it with the help of a whistle!
As soon as a mom sees that her child peeing or pooping, she whistles. Since she does it every time, she creates an association of the sound with going to the toilet. Slowly but surely, a kid also understands that they have to do it on the potty and, by the time the child is 2 years old, they no longer need their mom with a whistle - they just go to the toilet!
24 Kenya: No Eye Contact
For most of us, it's a natural instinct to look the baby in the eye every day, from the day they are born. We think that it helps us communicate with the child and creates a special bond with them. But the Kisii, or Gussii, people of Kenya have a different opinion.
Kisii moms carry their babies everywhere they go, but don't indulge their child's cries and don't look them in the eye.
The reason for this tradition lies in their culture. The Kisii think that when you have eye contact with someone, you're telling them, "You're in charge", and this is not the message parents want to send their children.
23 Japan: Co-Sleeping And More
In the Western world, co-sleeping with a child is a huge debatable topic, but in Japan, there's no controversy about it. Everyone just thinks that it's totally fine to sleep with your baby in one bed.
What's more, Japanese moms don't only share a bed with their child. They also tend to respond to their cries immediately and constantly hold them in their arms.
Although it might seem like it all spoils Japanese babies, it doesn't. Moms in Japan believe that meeting all the infant's needs shows them they are loved unconditionally and helps them grow into becoming confident individuals.
22 Sweden: Everyone's Equal
If you want to see a role model of equality, look at Sweden. In this European country, even parents and children have similar rights and are considered equal. In most other countries, a child's opinion on some serious matters isn't considered important.
But in Sweden, kids are encouraged to express their opinions on everything. To show children that their point of view is as significant as that of other family members, parents allow them to actively participate in family gatherings when it's required to make a certain decision.
21 Denmark: Leaving Strollers Outside
This might not seem like a good idea to you, but keep in mind that the tradition we're going to discuss has a lot to do with safety in the streets of Denmark.
When Danish parents have to go shopping or have lunch at a restaurant, they don't take strollers with them but park them out in the street. Does it seem innocent to you? Then know that they leave their babies sleeping in the strollers they parked!
Yeah, that's right, in the United States, parents would be in a lot of trouble for leaving their babies alone in the street, while having lunch inside, but in Denmark, it's a usual thing!
20 Universal: Teaching Family Values
No matter where a family lives, parents always teach certain values to their kids. Among other things, they teach about the importance of having a family and supporting each other.
Certain family values, such as love and compassion, or helping others and building a successful career, are usually taught from the early days of life.
It doesn't really matter what these values are exactly, because each and every family may have different values.
But whatever they are, parents always strive to convey them to the next generation and make sure that their kids understand and follow them.
19 Eastern Cape of Africa: Passing Through Smoke
People living in the Eastern Cape of Africa have a tradition called Sifudu. It's a ritual that is fulfilled on the third day of a baby's life. Literally, Sifudu means "passing child through smoke" and, well, it is exactly what they do - they pass a child through smoke to make them courageous!
First, they make smoke by burning leaves taken from a special tree that has a very pungent smell. Then they take a baby upside down and pass them through the smoke. It's interesting that children don't even cry during the ritual (perhaps, they don't even realize what's happening).
18 Scandinavian Countries: Open-Air Living
In Scandinavian countries, there's a concept of friluftsliv, which means "open-air living."
According to this concept, it's extremely useful to spend as much time as possible outdoors, no matter the time of the year and outside temperature.
To make sure that children are used to having this healthy habit from their early days, parents take their babies out in their strollers and let them have a nap outside, even in winter, at sub-zero temperatures.
If you ask me, I think this practice can certainly make a child cold-resistant, strong, and healthy.
17 Japan: No Supervision After 6 Years Of Age
In one of the previous entries, we saw that infants in Japan have all the attention a mom can give. But it doesn't last forever. In fact, attention-giving ends, when a child turns 4 years old. Starting from this age, a kid can ride a train alone to get to school and they're also given different errands from their parents, such as going to a store to get groceries, by themselves.
Besides when they are at school, kids are also given time during the day to sweep and clean classrooms and hallways. Japanese parents think that it all teaches independence and responsibility to their children.
16 France: Savoring Meals
Would you like to make your picky eater eat whatever adults eat? Then follow the example of French parents, who have rather strict rules about what their child's eats from the beginning of their life.
They slowly teach kids to eat new foods, being sure that they'll like them if they try them enough times.
Besides, French kids are taught to eat slowly, savoring every piece. Even at school, instead of rushing to get done, children are given at least a 30-minute break to eat their lunch and have a quality chat with their friends.
15 Universal: Cultural Assimilation
Usually, parents not only want to teach their children to follow their family values but also to know and respect their cultural traditions. All cultures in the world are unique and interesting, so it's logical that parents want their kids to be successors of their customs. For this reason, parents usually follow the approaches that are traditional for their culture and tell their kids about how their nation developed the practices that exist.
Since preserving the cultural heritage is extremely important for every nation, it's great when we get to follow our traditions!
14 Bali: No Touching The Ground Until 3 Months Of Age
In Bali, babies aren't supposed to touch the ground until they're 3 months of age. It might seem weird to us why, but the explanation of this tradition is quite simple - in Balinese culture, the ground is considered impure, and it's a bad sign if such a pure and innocent being as a little baby touches it.
But at three months of age, the infant is believed to be ready to face the impurities of this world (well, some of them) and touch the ground for the first time.
For this occasion, the family usually holds a special ceremony.
13 Finland: Unique Schooling System
Forget all about the school system in your country, because the Finnish education model resembles nothing you know. Without further ado, let's just see what Finland's Minister of Education Krista Kiuru says about it,
"[Finnish students] do not have homework. They should have more time to be kids, to be youngsters, to enjoy their life."
Besides, kids have multiple breaks during the day and spend less than 4 hours studying per day!
And what's the result, you might ask? It's simple - the Finnish education system is at the top of global rankings and it doesn't only boast producing the world's best students, but also has the happiest school kids ever!
12 Germany: Government Helps Parents
Parenting is expensive all over the world because it requires many extra expenses for everything from diapers to kindergarten and school. It can often seem like a never-ending checklist to parents, but not if they live in Germany. In this country, parents are given all the help they can get from the government.
A German family with kids gets 200 euros per month per child until they turn 18 years old.
If the child doesn't start working at 18 years of age and keeps on studying, the monthly payment can continue up until they're 21 or even 25 years old.
11 Universal: Teaching Respect
Teaching respect towards other people in the family and beyond is another universal parenting practice. It's very important to let young kids learn how important it is, regardless of the country you live in. If a child grows up as a respectful individual, who reveres other people and other cultures, they have a potential to bring changes into this world. If they respect nature and animals, they can contribute to protecting the environment. Even such a simple thing as respecting elders makes a child a better person, doesn't it?
10 Italy: Wine Is For Everyone
We all know how Italians love good wine, but few of us know that even Italian kids love it. Yeah, you read it right - kids in Italy are allowed to drink small portions of wine!
Interestingly, Boston University Medical Center claims that kids who were raised with wine at dinner time were less likely to develop "harmful drinking patterns" in adulthood.
It's safe to assume it's likely based on the fact that if children are given a little bit of wine at dinner and taught about the wine culture since the early age, they are raised to become responsible drinkers, who drink wine in moderation.
9 Korea: The Value Of Eating
Continuing on the food topic, let's proceed to South Korea where eating is taught as a life skill to kids. In this culture, children learn that food is enjoyed better if it's a shared experience. They're also taught the value of waiting as they're not allowed to eat something the minute they crave it. Even if they're hungry, they wait until it's time for the whole family to sit down and eat and, of course, savor the shared meal.
Yeah, it means no snacks, no grazing throughout the day, and no "hangry" kids!
8 Many African Countries: Extended Family Upbringing
The parents who are used to raising their kids by their own efforts, and from time to time resorting to the help of a child's grandparents, should rejoice for the families living in a number of African countries.
There, the responsibility to raise kids isn't only lying on the shoulders of parents, but also of all the extended family members.
This is right - all the aunts and uncles of the child, as well as all remote relatives are at your disposal to help you raise your kid if you live in Africa. Besides, in some tribes, children are raised by whole villages, regardless of blood ties.
7 Central America: Bathing In Cold Water
Do you think that bathing your baby is a challenge? Well, then try bathing them in ice cold water. Or don't...
At least, this is what Mayan women in Central America do. They bathe their kids in extremely cold water to alleviate heat rash, calm them down, and help them fall asleep better. Even though it might make the baby healthier and more resilient to cold, children usually don't really like this ritual and will probably cry a lot.
You betcha they will! I mean, what would you do if someone puts you in ice cold water?
6 Universal: Spirituality, Religion, Philosophy... Call It What You Will
Each family, religious or not, has a certain philosophy they live up to. And when parents with this philosophy raise a child, they teach them to adhere to it, as well. Christians or Muslims teach their kid to pray. Buddhists and Hindus will probably tell them how to meditate.
And if parents don't follow any of these spiritual traditions, but simply live a life as good people, they also pass their philosophy down to their children.
It's an important thing to do because it helps kids in their everyday life when they have to make certain decisions and perform certain actions.
5 Sweden: No Corporal Discipline
It's interesting that Sweden was the first country in the world to ban corporal punishment. You might be be interested to know it happened back in 1979! Can you imagine what it means? It means that the first generation that grew up without it has already become parents themselves! Needless to say, they probably don't even think about as a disciplinary tactic.
Since the ban was issued in Sweden, a number of other states followed suit and now more than 50 countries also prohibit parents from using it on kids.
4 Chile: Giving Candy To A Child Is Fine
What's your first reaction when you think about a stranger coming close to your child and offering them candy? I bet you don't even want to consider it and you constantly teach your child to never take candy (or anything else) from strangers.
But if you live in Chile, it probably doesn't sound like a huge deal to you. In Chile, strangers often offer candy to kids in the street as a sign of affection.
If the child refuses, or if the parent makes them refuse, a whole bunch of strangers will surround them, claiming that a kid's need for candy is absolutely natural.
3 Polynesian Islands: Older Kids Take Care Of Younger Kids
If you're thinking about a "big brother babysitting little sister" kind of thing, it's not exactly what we mean here. In Polynesian countries, it's more like an "organized kid collective" kinda thing.
In Polynesia, parents take the lead on raising kids at first, but, if they have older children, they shift their responsibilities to them, as soon as these kids learn how to walk and talk. Mei-Ling Hopgood writes in her book "How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm," "Preschool-aged children who learned to calm babies and toddlers became self-reliant because they were taught that that was the only way they could hang out with the big kids."
2 Ireland: Saving A Cake
According to an Irish tradition, couples save the top tier of their wedding cake to serve it on their child's christening.
It's interesting that after the cake is given to the guests, its crumbs are also sprinkled over the child's forehead for luck.
Usually, the cake has a good amount of whiskey in it (it's Ireland, remember?), but some couples also save some of the wedding champagne to wet the baby's forehead with it, also for good luck.
We wonder what the child is thinking about all these things they do with their forehead...
1 Universal: Loving A Child To Pieces
No matter where they live, what cultural traditions they follow, whether they bathe them in cold water or not, whether they let them drink a little bit of wine or not, whether they look them in the eye or not, parents always love the heck out of their kids. It's not only a universal tradition, but it's also a survival mechanism that makes us take care of our offspring as affectionately and as diligently as we can, to make sure that they will live and grow into strong individuals.
Isn't it amazing how nature endowed us with such a great gift of love that helps us and our kids live on and be happy?