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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Parenting tricks from around the world



earth.jpgAn eye-opening book by Mei-Ling Hopgood landed on my desk this week called  How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm and Other Adventures in Parenting

The suburban Michigan mom is now living in Buenos Aires and was shocked by some of the parenting customs she encountered (like letting kids stay up all hours of the night), and realized how our American "rules" of child rearing are unheard of in other parts of the world. It started her on a quest to learn how other cultures approach our common challenges of bedtimes, feeding, playtime and potty training. She discovered:

China: Where children as young as 12 months are fully potty trained. From early infancy they wear split trousers and the parents (or more likely grandparents who watch the child for their working parents) hold the baby over the potty and make a clicking noise so the child associates it with going to the bathroom. This confirms my theory that dog training and tot training are eerily similar.

Argentina: Where eating together is more important than an early bedtime. It's not unusual to see kids out with their families having dinner well past midnight because bonding and social interaction are considered more important than an early bedtime.

Central Africa: Where Pygmy fathers care for their children almost 50 percent of the time. They've been known to take their tots on the hunt and even offer a nipple to suckle if the baby gets fussy.

Polynesia: Where parents don't play with their kids. This is actually found aroud the world.  Anthropologists have found that in many, if not most, cultures parents don't believe they have to play with their children. Polynesian islanders (similar to  villagers in Italy)  are super attentive to their babies, constantly carrying, sleeping with and breastfeeding regularly -- but will hand over their toddlers to other children during playtime.

Sweden: Where dads take two months of paid time off for paternity leave. Parents are given 13 months off when a baby is born and two of those months must go to dad or they lose that time and money. As you can imagine, most  take it.

France: Where kids are really good eaters, gobbling stinky cheeses, beets and mussels. Food is considered a pleasure so kids are offered and eat what their parents do, and the parents go for freshly made food with high quality ingredients over boxed packaging for meals.

Mayan villages: Where children are expected to participate in family chores at a very young age. From the time they walk, they are feeding animals, collecting water and eventually graduate to laundry, child care and farm work.

West African Benin: Where adoption and "foster" families are the norm, rather than the exception. Most people don't grow up with their biological parents.

I have to say this is kind of liberating to read. We all know there are no set rules but it's nice to see how far afield some cultures go from what we would consider unbreakable structures. Think of this the next time you run across a nosy in-law or judgmental stranger questioning what you are up to.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 4:04pm]


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