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How does where you’re born affect parenting style?

4 years ago

1 expert and 1 parent have answered

Holly Seddon admin
Holly Seddon Editor-in-chief of Quib.ly Kent, UK

I interviewed Meredith Small, author of Our Babies, Ourselves to better understand how your approach to parenting is as much an accident of where you yourself were born, than any conscious plan.

‘The most common “caretaking package” across the globe includes sleeping with the baby, breastfeeding on cue, and responding to baby cries instantly,’ says Small. ‘Most babies in the world, and through time, have been cared for this way. Only in Western culture do we make the baby sleep alone, breastfeed rarely and for a short time, and let babies cry. We are the odd ones out.’

‘ Some kids go out and tend livestock or weed fields when they are five, and most of the daycare around the world is done by older children, not adults. Western kids are completely dependent on their parents for food, transportation, and learning.

‘I say Western kids are the least independent.’

Increasingly though, Western parents consider attachment parenting and look to other cultures to inform their parenting approach.

Small: ‘When someone has a baby I tell them I have only one piece of advice: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” And I mean sleep with the baby when the baby sleeps. If you do that [safely], you will not be as exhausted.

‘And carry the baby at all times. In a sling on the back or front. With my daughter I used a lightweight simple backpack a lot and even did housework with her on my back. She was an extremely happy baby, well attached, and she is a lovely young woman now.

‘And when you are so worn out, just remember, it changes. It really does. My daughter is now 14 and I can still feel her on my hip as a one-year-old, and I so miss that.’

‘A happy baby is one that does not cry. Western babies cry a great deal more than babies in non-Western cultures, and that’s because they are fed at long intervals and not picked up when they are unhappy. If you have travelled at all you begin to notice that babies in many other places might cry a tiny bit, but not much.

‘And who raises the happiest adults? Hmmm.’

Meredith Small is a professor of anthropology at Cornell University and author of several books including What’s Love Got to do with it? The Evolution of Human Mating and Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent.

1 Reply Share:
Fact 4 years ago
expert answer
HerMelness Speaks expert
HerMelness Speaks Parent blogger/student mentor GB
Parenting expert expert

Certainly, coming from a West Indian culture, I was definitely parented differently than our Western neighbours. While I envied my counterparts as a child, the culture and structure I grew up in seemed to have afforded me and my siblings more happiness in the end.

While my young neighbour was granted every whim and far more freedom than me, she also seemed to crave the boundaries and set rules which was the norm in our house and seemed to have little respect for the parents who 'gave her everything'.

Is it culture, where you're born or mindset? Since I have also known western 'old school' parents who too seemed to get better results and happier children because of their non-negotiable boundaries.

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Experience 4 years ago

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