I’ve got yet another great parenting book recommendation! It’s “Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us,” by Christine Gross-Loh. I LOVED this book. It took me a few months to read, partially due to lack of free time, and also because this book is really thought provoking. I would often have to stop to absorb and think about what I had read. This book challenged a lot of preconceived notions I had about parenting norms and goals across the globe. Here’s a glimpse of what I learned from a few chapters.
Chapter 3: Global Food Rules- How Parents Around the World Teach Their Kids to Eat. In America, it’s very common for us to have a fast food lifestyle, whether that’s actually eating fast food, or just making food and consuming it quickly at home. In many other countries, mealtime is much longer and more deliberate. I was struck with how this correlated with obesity in different countries- the more the culture focused on sitting down and eating a formal meal, the lower their issues with obesity. This section of the book made me rethink how my family does mealtime. With my own son, he often finishes his meals before me, and then whines for me to play with him while I’m trying to eat my own food. I wonder if I made an effort to eat concurrently with him instead of consecutively (like they do in other countries) if that would help with the problem.
Chapter 6: Quality Time- The Value of Unstructured Play. This chapter focused on how in America, children’s time has become more and more scheduled. We take our children to soccer, piano, art, or gymnastic lessons. We try to provide lots of stimulation for them to grow. But in other countries, children learn and grow through hours of unstructured play. I was surprised to learn how in Japan, preschool children from the ages of 3-6 basically play for an entire school day. They are given lots of freedom to bee outdoors and do whatever they’d like. Similarly in Denmark, children ages 3-6 can to go “forest Kindergartens” which are literally in the forest and children are allowed to “play outdoors for hours, in all kinds of weather, every day if possible.”
Chapter 8: Every Child Counts: High Achieving, The Finnish Way. This was the most fascinating chapter for me. “Children don’t start academics until the year they turn seven. They have a lot of recess (ten to fifteen minutes every forty-five minutes, even through high school), shorter school hours…and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation…Yet over the past decade, they have consistently performed at the top of the Program for International Student Assessment.” How interesting that children can learn and grow just as well with less school time. I was also impressed with the high standards they had for teachers- all Finnish teachers are expected to have a master’s degree and they are heavily mentored the first several years of teaching. This chapter really helped me re-evaluate my educational goals for my son. It made me reconsider the type of school I would like him to go to and how I think he will grow the best.
Chapter 10: Raising Responsibility- Avoiding the Helplessness Trap. In Japan, three-year olds are expected to carry and be responsible for all of their things. If they bring something to school, they are expected to carry it and keep track of it while they are there. As children get older, they are expected to pull their own weight at home by taking on chores like sibling child care. Children are expected to watch the time if they are with friends, and be home when they said they would be. They are expected to keep track of their own homework. Rarely do parents have to “nag” their children to get things done because they have grown up with that expectation. To me, this sounds like an amazing way to live. But it does come with a cost- parents have to work long and hard early-on to help their children understand the importance of responsibility. As the mother of a headstrong two-year old, sometimes the power struggle to get him to pick up his toys seems too much. This chapter helped me realize how being consistent can pay off in the end.
This was a wonderful read, and I highly recommend checking it out! The other chapters were just as fascinating.