I have never set foot out of the continental United States, and I’ve only been lucky enough to venture outside of the Southeast a handful of times so it’s no wonder that other cultures and world family traditions intrigue me so. I know this is a local moms blog, but you have to admit, it is fascinating to see how families across the world raise their children. I feel like we can learn a lot from other cultures and countries when it comes to child-rearing, and there are some truly remarkable parenting techniques and traditions that may never catch on, but they are definitely worth learning about!
- In Japan, hospitals give the mothers a wooden box with the baby’s umbilical cord inside when they leave the hospital. Another fun fact: babies are not typically named before they are born; they are given a bad “fake” name in order to trick evil spirits and keep them away from the baby. After the baby is born, the family holds a naming ceremony on the seventh day called the Oshichiya.
- “Potty training” starts from infancy in China and Vietnam. Instead of wearing diapers, families use “elimination communication” to encourage babies and toddlers to go to the bathroom on command by using signals, cues, timing and intuition.
- In Bali, babies are considered so sacred and divine that their feet cannot touch the ground for the first three months of their lives (specifically 105 days)! Could you imagine carrying your child for an entire three months and never letting them touch the ground?
- Finland’s government gifts a “baby box” to all expectant mothers. The box contains everything from a sleeping bag to outfits to some general care items. Did I mention that the box also serves as a crib? Finnish babies actually sleep in a box!
- In America, you would be arrested if you put your infant outside to nap in the middle of winter. In Denmark and Sweden, this is a totally acceptable and normal behavior. Apparently, most daycares and preschools put children outside to rest; at one in particular, they sleep outside until the age of three!
- Stay-at-home mothers are a “foreign” (haha, get it?!) concept to Norwegian parents. In Norway, the government provides state-subsidized daycare called Barnehage (Norwegian for “children’s garden”). For a few hundred dollars a month, parents have access to childcare from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Norwegian daycare is also heavily centered on outdoor play and outdoor living.
- A few parents in America have recently come under great scrutiny when they practiced “free-range” parenting by letting their young children (under 10) walk several places without adult supervision. In Japan, as well as other countries, this is quite commonplace. It is not unusual to see children running errands or taking the subway by themselves.
- French children are practically adults when it comes to meal times; children are not fed snacks and are expected to eat whatever culinary creations the parents are eating as well. The French Ministry of National Education even requires children to sit at the table for 30-minutes while eating in order to teach the importance of eating their food slowly and properly.
- Probably the most interesting cultural concept I discovered was that of the Pygmy tribe, specifically the fathers. In the Aka Pygmy tribe in Africa, the roles of the men and women are interchangeable. Fathers are just as much of caretakers to their children as the mothers are…even down to letting children suckle on them. While that might seem like a complete shock, it’s completely normal in their culture and creates an equal level of intimacy between children and their fathers as there is between children and their mothers — perhaps that is why some call them “the best fathers in the world.”
Now that I’ve shared some truly unique parenting approaches, if you are interested in learning more, check out the book “How Eskimo Keeps Their Babies Warm And Other Parenting Adventures.” I can’t officially say that I’ve read it, but after reading so many fascinating facts, it’s officially on my wish list.