Parenting styles from around the world

These six parenting practices from the four corners of the globe might shock and surprise you. Or they could leave you wondering if you’ve been doing it wrong all along…

parenting styles

What would you do if you found a baby napping in a stroller outdoors in the middle of winter without an adult in sight? Or if you saw a schoolkid catching the train solo or sipping wine? If you were in the U.S., you might consider calling the police.

But if you lived in a Nordic country such as Denmark or Sweden, you’d believe that it was healthy for your baby to nap in subzero temperatures (and you wouldn’t hesitate to leave them sleeping in their stroller outside a café while you enjoyed a hot latte inside). In Japan, you wouldn’t bat an eye to see an elementary-school student on public transport without his parents. And if you were in Italy, you’d think it was normal for a child to sample wine with dinner.

Here are six more fascinating parenting practices from around the world…

  1. Taking over a year of maternity leave in Bulgaria

In the United States, expecting moms only receive paid maternity leave if their employer offers it. But in Bulgaria, the law stipulates that a new mama is entitled to 410 days (just under 59 weeks!) of maternity leave at 90 percent of her regular income. She can start taking it 45 days before her due date, and if she happens to have her baby during that time, she can use the remainder of the 45 days after the birth. Hello, play dates and swimming lessons!

Dads also get 15 days of paid paternity leave when their child is born. And when their baby turns six months old, they can assume full-time care of the child and receive the remainder of the maternity leave payments to which the mother was entitled so that she can go back to work.

  1. Sharing breast milk in Mongolia

You won’t see Mongolian women cowering under nursing covers to feed their babies. In this East Asian country, breastfeeding is encouraged and celebrated in all public arenas. As nursing mamas walk around doing their thing, men and women of all ages commend them for their efforts and even lean in to kiss the baby. There’s no embarrassment or shame surrounding this age-old practice.

And breastmilk isn’t just for babies either. According to UNICEF, 82 percent of Mongolian children are still breastfed at 12 to 15 months and 65 percent continue to partake at 20 to 23 months. It isn’t unusual to see preschoolers or school-aged children having a drink straight from the breast. Even adults have been known to enjoy a fresh cup of breast milk as a treat! A nursing mom might express a bowl for her hubby or leave some milk in the fridge for everyone to enjoy.

  1. Co-sleeping in Japan

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against bed-sharing because it increases the risk of sleep-related infant death, but it’s common practice in Japan until children start school – or even longer.

While the average American parent might worry that co-sleeping with a school-aged child could thwart their emotional development, the Japanese teach their kids to be responsible and independent in different ways. From a young age, children are expected to take public transportation on their own and to contribute to the household by completing daily chores.

  1. Early potty training in Vietnam

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be done with diapers well before your child’s first birthday? Vietnamese mamas not only rarely use diapers at all, they teach their children to use the potty by nine months and have them fully potty-trained by age two!

Their secret? They look for signs that their child needs to pee or poop from birth, and they learn to identify the body language that indicates they need to go. While their baby is urinating, they make a special whistling sound. They can then use this whistling sound to remind their child to use the potty until the signal is no longer necessary and they’re doing it on their own.

  1. No spanking in Sweden

Research indicates that spanking is associated with anti-social behavior, aggression, mental-health problems and cognitive difficulties, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against it. Yet a 2013 Harris Poll found that 81 percent of Americans believe it’s “sometimes appropriate” to spank their children.

In Sweden, all forms of corporal punishment – including spanking, smacking, paddling and whipping – were banned in 1979. Since then, a total of 54 countries around the world have followed suit.

  1. Starting school late in Finland

Not sure whether your child should start school early or late because their birthday is close to the cut-off? Stanford University researchers found that children who started kindergarten at age six rather than age five experienced significantly less hyperactivity and inattention – both of which have strong negative links to student achievement – by ages 7 and 11.

In Finland, children don’t start school until they’re seven. They also have far less homework than American students, they don’t have national tests, and they get 15 minutes of play for every 45 minutes of learning. Despite this relaxed approach, they still rank 12th in the world in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s PISA study, which evaluates education systems worldwide.

Whether you choose to make like the Mongolians and proudly feed your baby in public or take a page out of the Vietnamese’s book and potty train your infant, there’s a lot to be learned from mamas around the world.