Parenting Across the Globe: What Kind of Parent Are You?
A recent NPR article about global parenting trends got me thinking about what kind of parent I am. According to the piece, American parents tend to be overprotective hoverers, and a bit strict compared to our contemporaries in other parts of the world.
In Norway, for instance, babies are often left outside to take naps, even in the winter; in Japan, many parents allow their young children to run errands and take the subway alone; and in Polynesia, some parents leave the childrearing to the kids. While I don’t send my 8-year-old son on milk runs to the corner store, my parenting style is fairly different than that of my peers, and miles away from how I was raised.
Growing up, my mother laid down the law. Although my parents were married, she was the sole disciplinarian and never shied away from breaking out “Mr. Leather” when my older brother and I got out of line—or in my brother’s case, underperformed at school. Before I had my son, I figured I’d continue my mother’s belt-welding tradition, but I quickly found out that spanking my son was not only harder on me than it was on him, but it also was quite ineffective. I’ve since committed to parenting him without spanking. But I won’t lie; sometimes when I’m frustrated the only thing I want to do is pop him real quick. However, I remind myself that hitting my son does little more than make him angry, so I think of non-violent ways to handle the situation.
In addition to keeping my hands to myself, I’m also not very strict when it comes to things like set bedtimes, and apparently I’m not alone. In Spain, children stay up until well after 10pm because evenings are a time when families connect. And according to some American travelers in Spain, it’s not uncommon to see children playing outside until midnight. While I usually tell my son to turn in before the clock strikes 12, I don’t obsess about having him in the bed by 8 either. Instead, I allow him to listen to his own body, which usually means he’s hitting the pillow at a decent hour.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and often times, parents are harshly judged because of how we choose to raise our children. Some parents will inevitably be strict, others not so much. Some parents will spank, others, like me, will not. We all have our own ideas about how to raise happy, well-adjusted kids; and as long as we’re doing the best we can to impart knowledge, wisdom, and love to our children, how we make it happen shouldn’t matter.
Weigh-in! What kind of parent are you?