5 ways parenting styles vary around the world

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Have you ever been shocked at a parenting decision a friend made? Or upset when someone criticized one of your parenting choices?

Parenting is very personal. We all want to create perfect little humans– and nobody likes to be criticized.

Parenting styles can vary a good deal within a community, but globally, there are often huge differences.

Here are a few.

1) Amount of time in school

Does little Tommy spend enough time in class?

The average amount of time for students’ compulsory education is 800 hours per year for countries included in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, That’s a total average of about 7,537 hours in nine years.

That amount varies from almost 6,000 compulsory instruction hours in nine years in Latvia to about 11,000 hours in 11 years in Australia. The United States requires students to receive about 8,877 hours of education in nine years.

2) Co-sleeping

Most American parents have probably heard the American Academy of Pediatrics’ campaign, “Back to Sleep.”

Along with encouraging parents to put babies to sleep on their back, experts also recommend against co-sleeping.

There’s good reason for pushing for safe sleep practices: In 1990, the Sudden Unexpected Infant Death rate (which included accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed) in the United States was 154.6 deaths per 100,000 live births. After the AAP started its campaign in 1994, the SUID rate went down from 130.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 39.4 in 2015.

But although the rate of deaths has significantly decreased thanks to the Back to Sleep campaign, the number of deaths for infants’ accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed rates actually increased from 1997. From 1997, it  reached 23.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2015. That’s 25% of the SUID rates! In 2016, the AAP acknowledged the popularity of bed-sharing and released updated guidelines.

In many non-Western countries, co-sleeping is normal, yet infant mortality rates are also low. In Japan, the rate is only two deaths per every 1,000 live births (though there are a number of factors that may affect that number).

3) Meal time

While babies in the U.S. may start gumming infant cereal or mushed peas, French babies dive into pumpkin, leeks and spinach, even endive and chard, but avoid feeding babies too many peas.

In France, doctors often recommend waiting to introduce fruits until at least nine months old, but the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t believe it matters if you wait to introduce fruit after vegetables. Middle Eastern babies may eat hummus and those in Thailand might try Khao tom (rice soup) as one of their first foods.

Are you stumped looking at the baby food blends in the grocery aisle? Wondering if it’s too soon to try a banana, or leeks, potatoes or beans? Don’t worry too much about it. Babies around the world enjoy a variety of first foods.

4) Potty training

Sometimes kids wear diapers until they’re two or three while their little friends may be potty trained early. And some are trained to go at the shriek of a whistle.

In Vietnam, a study showed that many parents began whistling as a cue for their babies– some as young as 9 months– to begin urinating. Eventually, the kids no longer need to be reminded to go. In the study, all of the children were potty-trained by 24 months old.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the majority of children are physiologically ready to potty-train by 18 months old, but cognitively they may not be ready. The child also needs to develop other skills (social readiness, emotional preparedness, etc.), according to the Academy.

Whether you watch for cues to run little Tommy to the toilet or whistle or makes associative sounds for Suzie to pee, a normally-developing kid will become potty-trained one way or another. You’ll start saving money on those diapers before too long!

5) Independence or dependence?

Is your kiddo still not sleeping alone? Do you worry that you’re pushing your child to be too independent?

In America, mothers tend to encourage their children to be very independent while in Japan, mothers often co-sleep, co-bathe and pursue amae, a feeling of “empathic closeness and interdependence.”

Fall somewhere in the middle? Don’t worry about it. Children in both cultures grow up to become functioning adults.

It’s okay to mix up parenting styles.


There’s no test on this. (Well, except for producing a good, productive member of society and all…)

Do you feel drawn towards attachment parenting styles with your 3 year-old… but sometimes want to sleep in your own bed? Enjoy the rest. You don’t “fail” because you shook up the method a bit or blend parenting styles.

Absolutely check in with your child’s their doctor or teacher to make sure there’s no problems and that they are getting the care they deserve. But if it comes down to parenting styles, remember that each culture– and family– and parent and kid– are different. No one parenting style works perfectly for anybody.

And that’s perfectly fine.

What parenting styles do you have that others might find different?

This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or professional knowledge about specific medical treatment or conditions. Always seek the advice of a medical professional when you have concerns about your child’s well-being, diet, sleep habits or other areas of concern.

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