OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

What can we learn from other cultures' approach to parenting?

How much of how we parent is actually dictated by our culture? How do the ways we parent express the essentialness of who we are, as a nation? By exploring other cultures' values and techniques on parenting, we can apply globally-informed learnings towards solutions for early childhood development.

Photo of Alaine Newland
11 26

Written by

Jennifer Senior, author of  All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, had an interesting discovery when she asked American mothers who they went to for parenting advice: "Mothers primarily named friends, websites and books. None named their own mothers. Only the most current child-rearing strategies were desired, in order to best position their children for achievement in the future."

How much of this is dictated by our culture versus personal beliefs? Let's take a look at some other countries' parenting techniques as explored in depth in this TED article by Amy S Choi:

- In Norway, parents believe that it is better for children to be in daycare as toddlers, and childhood is strongly institutionalized. Most children attend daycare at 1 year old and parents get almost a full year of state-sponsored leave from work.

- In Japan, kids as young as 7 years old don’t hesitate to take the Tokyo subways by themselves and walk on busy streets alone without supervision.

- In Sweden, the “rights” of a child are important. For example, a child has the “right” to access their parents’ bodies for comfort, and therefore should be allowed into their parents’ bed with them in the middle of the night. If a parent doesn’t allow them, they are both denying them their rights and being a neglectful parent.

- Korean parents spend more time holding their babies and having physical contact than most. But within a family, obedience is key — not democracy."

- In Jewish tradition, there’s a teaching in the Talmud that every parent has an obligation to help their children develop self-reliance and resourcefulness and resilience. It is taught that we must raise our children to eventually leave us and allow our children to make mistakes.

- American parents are highly focused on making sure that children are groomed for success. "Nearly 25 percent of all of the descriptors used by American parents were a derivation of “smart,” “gifted” or “advanced.” Our sense of needing to push children to maximize potential is partly driven by fear of the child failing in an increasingly competitive world where you can’t count on the things that our parents could count on.”

- In the Netherlands, parents rarely use “smart” to describe their children. "Dutch parents believe strongly in not pushing their children too hard. They feel that you shouldn’t teach your child to read before they got to school, because then your child would be bored at school and not have any friends."

- In Spain, parents are shocked at the idea of a child going to bed at 6:30pm and sleeping uninterrupted until the next day, instead of interacting and participating in family life in the evenings. They believe in the social and interpersonal aspects of child development and their kids are going to bed at 10 p.m.

What's our takeaway from this diverse exploration of parenting?

"The diversity of ideas should be liberating, not stress-inducing. 'It is incredibly freeing to realize that there was no single way to do things and it’s totally okay to make mistakes as a parent."

What resources might we gather from these unique approaches to parenting? How might we build a cohesive approach based on the best methods and learnings from around the world?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Uve Kindia

I like the way you've shown insight into other cultures. I was unaware of certain countries rules and guideines when it comes to under aged children

View all comments