Monday, December 1, 2014

Book review: Parenting Without Borders

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I am always interested in parenting around the world, so I recently picked up a copy of the book "Parenting Without Borders", by Christine Gross-Loh. It was a really interesting and informative read at how different parents around the globe raise their children. Using examples from Asia, Europe and Africa, the book focuses on cultural parenting techniques with positive impacts on children. The book discussed everything from sleeping, eating, behavioral problems, school, and the concept of "free play" and "community parenting". It really was a great read.

Here are some things that I found valuable from this book:

"Overscheduled and stressed out, children seem to lack initiative and self-reliance."

"Parents [shouldn't] struggle to control everything, and a community raises kids in an enfolding, embracing way, ignoring (or even celebrating) their bumps and scrapes as part of an utterly ordinary, yet healthy, childhood"

"Children seemed to feel more belonging, happiness, and security from seeing themselves as part of a community of people, rather than as individuals with individual needs that urgently had to be met."

"For many of us, parenting has become an individualized experience, especially since we - not society, not other parents, friends, family, or teachers, but parents alone - feel so responsible for our children's entire lives."

"Parenting is so much easier if raising children is not up to an individual parent or family, but is considered a community mandate that everyone shares."

"Advertising coaxes us into believing that what we own defines the kind of parents we are (and the kind of kids we're raising), whether that's urban and hip, healthy and athletic, nature-loving and organic, worldly and adventurous, artsy and eclectic, or sports-loving and down-to-earth."

"[Parents] are surrounded by parents who cultivate their children's unique selves through classes, activities, and the right material goods."

"having less [material possessions] made kids more patient. Handmade concoctions were more thrilling and gratifying than having brand new store-bought equipment Scarcity fostered creative solutions."

"In France, there is an idea that 'frustrating' children is good for them. [They] deny their children things or make them wait for things they may want. If you don't teach a child to wait, or that they can't have everything, 'they will never understand the satisfaction that comes from waiting'. If you give a child what he desires right away, then the child is at risk of always needing to have more, more, more."

"We don't need the best car, the latest iPod, or the fanciest dinnerware to be happy. And neither do our children. Although modern American culture tries to convince us that through buying stuff we can perfect our kids' performance, happiness, and overall self-esteem, we can be smarter than the corporations who care most about their profits. The best way to make our kids happy is by providing them with less."

"In Japan, the thinking is to introduce young kids to a wide variety of tastes and textures, teach them to appreciate food, teach them never to waste, and get them used to structured mealtimes and mealtime behavior"

" Random grazing and snacking, overall, was frowned upon as bad manners - as it is in many countries throughout the world - because of the general societal insistence on eating etiquette: not eating while standing or walking; not grabbing food, but waiting to be served; and eating without comment or complaint what was put in front of you."

"Overall, [Japanese schools] have fewer hours of actual academic instruction than American kids do. The longer school days mean that there is room for extras in the schedule that many U.S. schools have cut back on. All Japanese schools, whether public or private, can afford the time to nurture skills they believe are important for the whole child - such as physical education, art, music, and self-reliance skills such as cooking, how to do laundry, and how to sew."

"French parents believe that teaching your child to eat is as important as teaching them to read."

"[Many countries] continue to draw on cultural traditions that promote eating a variety of fresh whole foods, cooking from scratch with seasonal ingredients, and taking the time to enjoy eating together"

"Telling our kids how great they are or how wonderfully they are doing can deter them from experiencing the challenges that help build resilience. An overinflated sense of self isn't what leads to happier, more competent, more confident children. Instead, it deprives children of the chance to build up the genuine reserves of self-confidence they'd get through mastering difficult tasks on their own."

"Parents who allow children freedom and independence within clearly set guidelines, while treating children with respect and love who tend to raise confident adults."

"People with high self-esteem don't always make good leaders; humility is more of a key trait than self-esteem."

"When parents and educators send children the message that their needs and their individual happiness and dreams are more important than other things, like being compassionate, ethical, hard-working person, it makes them unhappy. People who have been told to put their needs first may feel empty and disconnected, and dissatisfied with themselves because they feel they deserve to be special rather than accepting and understanding the ways that our ordinariness connects us to other human beings. There's a fine line between feeling good about yourself, and being narcissistic or entitled; between finding your own path through life, and trampling on others."

"The underlying message kids get in Japan is that they are stronger than we think. Instead of striving to make sure their kids get individualized attention, Japanese parents praise their kids for trying hard, guide their children toward their own personal best, and have faith in their strengths and abilities."

"Perseverance is one of the most important keys to success and achievement."

"A good parent doesn't undermine her child's motivation through empty praise and encouragement. She scaffolds her child's ability to face challenges and even accept failure as something that anyone can grow from."

"Children need to be able to engage with other children and entertain themselves. There is tremendous value in giving children more space."

"Growth and change is the only thing we can be certain of with young children. They are always, always changing."

"If the people around us trust that we will grow and mature in time, we feel less pressure than if we believe that we need to hurry up and change because we're not acceptable right now as we are."

"Risk-taking fosters qualities we as a culture value highly, such as adventurousness and an entrepreneurial can-do spirit."

"We disrupt our children's brain development when we interrupt, proscribe, or deprive them of open-ended free play."

"Children everywhere like to make up their own games and rules, it's important for them to be able to do this."

"Parenting and education are closely entwined, and learning isn't just for the purpose of becoming smart and informed - it's a form of self-cultivation."

"Mistakes were often a sign you were taking on too much at once and should reduce your goals to mastering only two or three new skills at a time."

"Cultivating awareness of someone else's perspective makes it second nature to consider others as well as yourself, to look at things from a nuanced, multifaceted point of view, and to be more understanding."

"When we ignore our children's eagerness to participate when they are younger, they internalize the idea that contributing is unimportant and that they are helpless."

"The act of caring for others literally becomes a pathway to responsible and nurturing behaviour."

"If you look at the range of human societies across the globe and throughout time, it is unusual for a mother and her partner to take sole responsibility for pregnancy, birth, and the rearing of an infant. Child-rearing in most societies has always involved not just two parents and a baby, but a network of people."


Dear readers, what do you think? Which quotes speak to you?



  1. Yes, I confirm food is really important in France, as you may have guessed from my numerous questions on your post about raising a child veg or non veg. In the last few days I was very excited to have baby T taste fish with mashed fennel, and watercress soup. My husband complains we spend one hour at the dining table. Meanwhile last summer, I watched with alarm as my Indian relatives fed running toddlers by hand. What, no sitting together at the table, no big helping of vegetables, horror of horrors ?! ;)

    But of course I want my child to feel happy and comfortable in both worlds. And I believe my husband's ideas are just as valuable as mine. Recently my osteopath bollocked me because he thought we were too fusional with the baby, as we practise co-sleeping. The guy claims he loves India but I could never make him understand that in hubby's part of India, it is not acceptable to let a baby cry, and everybody sleeps in the same room, and if it's good enough for Unicef then forget about your half-baked Freudian interpretations... I fear this is only the beginning of cultural misunderstandings. :( - Padparadscha

  2. @Alexandra

    What is your take on Indian parenting?? It seems that they are not very popular among the women blog writers.

    This book probably talks about Asian parenting which means Chinese or Japanese because Asian means Chinese looking people for most Americans. They do not consider india as Asian country.

    By the way have u read the book "battle hymn of the Tiger mother" by chinese women Amy chua, a yale law professor who wrote about her strict Chinese parenting technique which she applied on her daughters to lead them to success. She draws the conclusion that which western parents care too much about the self esteem of their kids and are soft while Asian parents as strict and don't shy sway from criticising their children thereby making them tough.

    The book created huge controversy in America. It sparked off a debate whether Asian patenting is superior or not.

    1. I would also be interested to hear about that.

      India is a country full of creative and highly adaptative people and many westerners marvel about the way Indian people seem to move smoothly through life experiences. It seems to be fashionable today for some Indian women to feel bitter about the importance of "adjusting" in Indian society, and surely too much of it is bad, but I so wish I had these skills. Another thing I find surprising is how in the West we will pick up one aspect of Indian culture, detach it from context, hype it and feel we can reject everything else. Culture doesn't work like this. For example, I was taught "Indian massage for babies" in hospital years ago and I kept asking hubby how they do it in his family... after many discussions it turns out he calls that oil bath, and you do massage before bath not after as I was taught, and not everyday and many more rules.... My husband always goes on about how we are not affectionate enough in the West, and I am beginning to see through his eyes, meanwhile I know after 5 years, at least in his family, Tamil parents ask more of their children than European ones especially as far as studies are concerned and helping around the house... (Padparadscha)

    2. @alexendra

      Indian oil massage is an ancient tradition. When a baby is born it has unwanted skin cells and hair on the body which has to be removed so that the skin breathes easy and it's complexion is enhanced. It also provides the necessary exercise and improves blood supply since the baby gets very little exercise till it learns to turn on its side and crawl.

      There are specialist women who give oil massage to the mother and Child in india. Oil preferably mustard oil and flour dough is used to remove unwanted skin and hair from the body of the baby . It is very vigorous and u almost feel some harm will come to the baby but these women know their job. Massage to the mother ensures that her body gets over the trauma of child birth and gets healed. Of course it is not advisable in cesarean births. It has to be done carefully.

      The baby is then put in the sun so that the oil is soaked by the skin and then given bath. Now days doctors advise against oil massage to babies. May be they have discovered something knew which we don't know of.

    3. I see in between my last 2 children they have also stopped teaching "ayurvedic" style massage to young mothers in favour of light pressure massages, I don't know what is the theory behind this.... (Padparadscha)

    4. @anon - First I would ask you what do you consider to be Indian parenting. I think a lot of factors determine parenting - lifestyle of family, values, and also what country you live in. A huge factor is also the personality of the child. What works well with one child may not work with another. For example, when Maya has a tantrum, she needs space. I read somewhere that you should hold/coddle a child when they are having a tantrum - well I tried that and I got hit LOL!
      I have not read the tiger book but it has been on my to read list for a long time. I may read it this year hopefully. It got A LOT of bad press in the Americas, saying it was child abuse etc. But I find Indian parenting to be much different than Chinese parenting.
      One thing I do love about Indian parenting is the emphasis on education. But I personally believe that a child should do what they are passionate about, and not just what the parents want them to. In both my Asian and Indian friends, they were forced to study subjects even in college that they had no passion for, when in fact they had passion in other subjects but the parents' could not stop projecting their own interests.
      For us, co-sleeping doesn't work for us either. We like our bedroom to be adults-only. My husband hand-feeds my daughter and try to get her to feed herself. It depends on the parent as well.

  3. I find most of things you have written about follow the philosophy of the way of schooling at a steiner school, also known as a waldorf school. The children play with simple open ended ‘’nature’’ based toys which encourages creativity and initiative. Children are not rushed and grow at their own pace and there are less hours for the young ones. The food must be nutritious. Media and tv are generally avoided. The schools are non-denominational but yet ‘’spiritual’’ in celebrating the seasons with beautiful festivals and teaching in a magical way. Children grow up to be confident and secure in their place in the world. As a parent I don’t feel individualised but instead are part of a warm and nurturing community of like-minded parents. These schools often have a reputation for being ‘’hippy’’ schools but as a ‘’normal parent’’, I have only come across others like me. Finding this way of schooling has transformed me as a parent giving me confidence and allowing me to follow my instinct for a simpler life for my family. I also find it fits with me and my husband's east meets west philosophy of raising our Australian-Indian children.


  4. The book you read had a lot of good advice. I kept in mind the quote about children wanting to be helpful and have been asking my four-year-old to assist me with household work, it makes her feel very important!

    I parent with the philosophy described by Foster Cline and Jim Kay in a book they wrote that I highly recommend called "Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility".

    I was going to attempt to summarize their technique but their website is much more articulate:
    "Many ideas, offered with the best of intentions, center around making sure that kids are comfortable and feeling good about themselves in order to have a good self-concept. However, we have discovered that self-confidence is achieved through struggle and achievement, not through someone telling you that you are number one. Self-confidence is not developed when kids are robbed of the opportunity to discover that they can indeed solve their own problems with caring adult guidance.

    There is, however, an approach to raising kids that provides loving support from parents while at the same time expecting kids to be respectful and responsible.
    This approach is known as Love and Logic, a philosophy founded by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D., and based on the experience of a combined total of over 75 years working with and raising kids.

    Many parents want their kids to be well prepared for life, and they know this means kids will make mistakes and must be held accountable for those mistakes. But these parents often fail to hold the kids accountable for poor decisions because they are afraid the kids will see their parents as being mean. The result is they often excuse bad behavior, finding it easier to hold others, including themselves, accountable for their children's irresponsibility.

    Jim Fay teaches us that we should "lock in our empathy, love, and understanding" prior to telling kids what the consequences of their actions will be. The Parenting the Love and Logic Way™ curriculum teaches parents how to hold their kids accountable in this special way. This Love and Logic method causes the child to see their parent as the "good guy" and the child's poor decision as the "bad guy." When done on a regular basis, kids develop an internal voice that says, "I wonder how much pain I'm going to cause for myself with my next decision?" Kids who develop this internal voice become more capable of standing up to peer pressure.

    What more could a parent want? Isn't that a great gift to give your child? Parent child relationships are enhanced, family life becomes less strained, and we have time to enjoy our kids instead of either feeling used by them or being transformed from parent to policeman." (Rebecca, part 1)

    1. I love that! I have just ordered that book from the library. Can't wait to read it!!!!!

  5. "The Love and Logic technique in action sounds like this:

    Dad: "Oh, no. You left your bike unlocked and it was stolen. What a bummer. I bet you feel awful. Well, I understand how easy it is to make a mistake like that." (Notice that the parent is not leading with anger, intimidation, or threats.)

    Dad then adds, "And you'll have another bike as soon as you can earn enough money to pay for it. I paid for the first one. You can pay for the additional ones."

    Love and Logic parents know that no child is going to accept this without an argument, but Love and Logic parents can handle arguments. Jim Fay advises "just go brain dead." This means that parents don't try to argue or match wits with the child. They simply repeat, as many times as necessary, "I love you too much to argue." No matter what argument the child uses, the parent responds "I love you too much to argue." Parents who learn how to use these techniques completely change, for the better, their relationships with kids and take control of the home in loving ways."

    There is some Christianity incorporated in the book which I as an atheist ignored but I do agree with the general philosophy of the authors and it has worked well with my children, they do take responsibility for their decisions, both good and bad.

    The comment about tiger parenting sparked my curiosity. I had assumed that tiger parenting was effective in producing people who were successful as per the common Asian values of wealth and social prestige but according to this study tiger parenting is not as effective as other parenting styles:

    And it may even be a factor in youth suicide:

    Philip Guo has several articles about tiger parenting on his website, it would seem that tiger parenting could result in kids who really do not like their parents:

    (Rebecca, part 2)


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