American families have different viewpoints when it comes to raising children. And yet, despite the breadth of American child rearing techniques, many of the choices Americans consider normal wouldn't go over as well in other countries. In the same manner, some parenting choices we would consider odd are quite normal in other parts of the world.
This list features unique parenting practices from around the world. While people in the US might consider the practices strange, the scientific studies behind some of these parenting decisions prove that there are unique benefits that these children experience.
Vote up the childcare methods you'd be willing to test for yourself.
School-aged Finnish children receive 15 minutes of free time for every 45 minutes they work. These frequent breaks throughout the day allow them to rid themselves of excess energy to return to their work with better focus.
As a result, Finland claims one of the best educational systems in the world.
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Swedish law and cultural customs allow families with young children many freedoms. Among other perks, these include flexible school drop-off and pick-up times and flexible working hours, which allow parents to cater to and rearrange their schedules based on their children's needs.
When a child is sick, the government pays a parent 80% of their salary to stay home and take care of them until they are well. Either parent can take this time off, and families can choose to take turns.
This practice is so common that it's considered a verb in the workplace, called “vabbing.” It derives from the Swedish Vård av Barn, which roughly translates to ”care of child."
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Beyond a healthy snack directly after school, French children are rarely allowed to snack. Because sitting down to a long meal to socialize is an important part of French culture, parents in France encourage their children to be patient and to eat with them at the dinner table.
Children are also only offered the same foods that the adults sitting around the table are eating, creating better food choice habits that they bring into adulthood.
The tradition of slowly enjoying a meal extends beyond the home and into schools, where children are given much longer periods to savor their lunches with classmates at midday. A French mother currently living in Boston summed up the decision:
Food is very important to us, as everyone knows… We don’t understand the American concept of children snacking all day, because then they aren’t hungry for dinner. We want our children to really sit and enjoy their food so that we can enjoy it, too!… We teach our children that food should be savored, not just eaten as quickly as you can so you can move on to other things.
While American parents will do anything to keep their children from growing hungry and grumpy, French parents believe in allowing their young ones to experience hunger.
According to the French, this practice encourages children to become better eaters because they are genuinely hungry when they sit down for dinner each night. As a result, the obesity rates in French children are much lower than they are in American children. Additionally, their children aren't picky regarding their food choices and eat the same meals as their parents do without leaving any extra food on the plate.
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During World War II, preschools near the Reggio Emilia region of Italy began encouraging children to explore their creativity through woodworking - and using tools like saws and hammers to complete their own unique designs.
The tradition continued after the war, and many preschool-aged children in Italy who attend Reggio schools develop problem-solving skills by building their own small pieces of wood art. According to early childhood expert and woodworker Peter Moorhouse:
Reggio Emilia encourage a wide range of media through which children can express themselves… [Parents] are surprised by just how confident and competent their children are working with tools.
In Mexico, children are taught to give the adults in their life a proper greeting. Whether they are toddlers or young adults, Mexican youngsters present their surrounding adults with a kiss on the cheek to say hello and goodbye. This universal practice happens no matter the environment: when a child enters a home, sees someone they know at the markets, or at a social gathering.
Schools also expect children to be properly groomed, sending them home with notes concerning discrepancies (like not having gel in their hair) and including a personal hygiene grade on their report cards.
Vietnamese parents rarely put diapers on their infants, if ever. Instead, from the time their babies are born, they look for signs - like facial expressions, body movements, or cries - that identify their infant is about to go.
As the baby urinates or poops, the mother makes a low whistling sound that the baby eventually learns to correlate with their potty needs. The baby soon learns to use the bathroom at the cue of their mother and eventually recognizes their need to go without being reminded.
According to the Journal of Pediatric Urology, most Vietnamese infants are potty trained by the time they are nine months old.