August 25, 2013
When Christine Gross-Loh and her family moved from the United States to Japan for several years, Gross-Loh observed a number of fascinating things about the variability of parenting styles in different countries. While growing up as part of the educated middle class in the United States, she learned to assume that certain parenting approaches and techniques are best, she learned that parents in other countries can raise well-adjusted, independent, successful children using totally different approaches.
After making her observations in Japan, Gross-Loh traveled to and studied parenting practices in a number of other countries, becoming fascinated with the subject. These included Japan, Italy, Finland, France, and China, among others.
In her recent book Parenting Without Borders, Gross-Loh relates what she observed and learned during this process.
She was surprised to find for instance that parents in the majority of the world co-sleep with their babies and do not require nighttime independence during infancy. While the current American norms strongly reject co-sleeping as negative and even dangerous, she learned that promoting the continuing attachment though co-sleeping may lead to greater independence. She also learned that small children who spend practically all their time with a parent in their earliest years can end up happy and independent.
Additional parenting practices Gross-Loh addresses include the American parent’s “hovering” mentality for older children – the belief that a parent has to monitor the child’s social interactions and ensure they are all supportive of the child’s self-esteem. She found that in a number of other countries, parents leave children to navigate their own time and social relationships as they get older.
Gross-Loh discusses and analyzes numerous other parenting practices, finding primarily how important it is to realize that an ethnocentric view of what constitutes good parenting can be problematic. She believes that we Americans have a lot to learn from others which may challenge our assumptions as to what good parenting is in a healthy way.