Hands Off! Parenting Wisdom From Around the World: A Review of Christine Gross-Loh’s Parenting Without Borders
As parents and caregivers, we hold these truths to be self-evident: Children need quality time with us and active stimulation in order to develop properly. Being a good parent means putting our children’s needs before our own. Parents should monitor children’s TV habits to protect them from violent or inappropriate media exposure.
Most American and British parents trust in these fundamental, universal truths. But what if some of them weren’t universal at all?
That’s exactly what Dr Christine Gross-Loh asks in her excellent Parenting Without Borders. In it, she takes a comprehensive look at how parents raise children across the world, investigating what parts of parenting “common sense” are truly held in common and which are rooted in particular cultural assumptions.
Dr Gross-Loh may be uniquely qualified for such a comparative analysis. After earning a Ph.D from Harvard in East Asian studies, the American-born daughter of Korean immigrants moved to Japan with her Jewish-American husband and their children.
While in Japan, she noticed that some choices she thought were normal were earning her strange looks from other Japanese moms. They were surprised, for example, by her close monitoring of her children’s TV watching. Japanese parents are relatively lax about their children’s TV programs and video games — yet Japan has remarkably little violence or crime.
Is it possible, Dr Gross-Loh wondered, that what “good parents” do in America is different from what they do in Japan — and that both could be equally valid approaches? Or even more intriguingly, could parenting practices have evolved to cultivate different qualities and skills in children, with priorities and methods as influenced by the culture around us as the food we eat or the music we listen to?
…..When compared with the rest of the world, Americans stand out by butting in. What do you think??? Do you find this to be true?