Nevermind French Or Chinese Parenting, Diversity Defines American Childrearing

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When it comes to extreme parenting philosophies, America is just begging for their own crazy animal-themed mother to take control. Nevermind that Amy Chua was actually employed at Yale and raising her kids in the states, she’s emblematic of all  Chinese mothers. Ignore the fact that Pamela Druckerman was a transplant, she brought up a bébé, not a baby. Definitely French.

Obviously, all mothers in those two countries behave just like the parenting books would have you believe. Why else would we be stereotyping all French children as more polite and all Chinese children as musically proficient shut-ins. It wouldn’t make sense to throw those assumptions around without being sure. And the parenting world always makes sense.

Alright, back to reality. The most amazing thing about all our new parenting trends is their impressive ability to over-simplify parents and reduce them to the easiest-to-explain common denominator. Or the most headline-grabbing common denominator, but I guess that’s a different topic.

Do you ever wonder why there’s no quintessential American parenting theology? Why we aren’t dedicated to one single approach and we refuse to let one parent or author define us? American parents have accepted, for better or worse, that there are a whole lot of different schools of approach. From free-range to attachment, hipster to slow family, most of us accept that no single philosophy fully encompasses our parenting choices. And we definitely don’t expect them to apply to everyone in the entire country.

So why are we keen to stereotype and make grand sweeping assumptions about other cultures and their parenting techniques? Why do we allow any labels or passing parenting trend to define who we are as mothers and fathers?

Parents everywhere generally have the same goal. We want to do what’s best for our kids. We want to help them grow up to be successful human beings.

Now, we all have different ideas about what success is. We don’t agree on what’s best or how to get there. There are plenty of things to discuss and debate along the way. But parents in general have a combined goal of raising the next generation to be happier and healthier than the current one. By the way, that’s not unique to our country, it fits in all over the world.

The strict guidelines set out by parenting guidebooks and creating “parenting trends” don’t do anything to help real adults navigate the difficult journey that is raising children. In fact, a new study suggests that they do the opposite, they leave parents feeling insecure and confused. They create adults who are afraid to trust their own instincts when it comes to parenting their kids.

Racially stereotyping parenting guides go one step further. They make you confused. They make you afraid to use your own reason logic. And they promote a dumbed-down, overly simplified, intensely generalized view of parenting in other cultures. It’s a trinity of parenting trend madness.

There’s a reason that we haven’t tried to create “The Great American Guide to Parenting.” There’s no way for us to fit all these disparate ideas together. And it’s the exact same reason that no book will ever give you an accurate or fair representation of parenting culture in another country. There’s simply no way to generalize any group of parents into a single message, especially not one provocative enough to garner media coverage.

We should stop worrying about Chinese parenting, French parenting, Attachment parenting and Free Range parenting. Instead, let’s start focusing on how parenting works for you, in your own individual home with your own one-of-kind kid.

(Photo: Moments of Exhilaration)


  1. Angi

    March 25, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    I have 5 kids, I like to read those books for ideas. No, their method most likely won’t work for me as a whole, but with 5 disparate personalities, they can have useful things. I think we spend entirely too much time judging one another than finding out WHY this works for this mom or didn’t work for that mom. And we’re far too superior about our parenting skills (as if there is a “right” way).

    I mean, yeah, some things are obviously wrong from a logical standpoint, but other things are more gray. This child responds to this type of parenting, this one to that, this one needs more confidence building, this one needs her confidence tempered. We could all share ideas on what works for our kids and why and either offer a better way to handle something or just a different way. Instead what usually happens is a lot of judgment and a lot of name calling. We can either work together as parents or work apart, but I think our kids would benefit from working together.

    I think parents turn to these books because they are already frustrated and confused thanks to the behavior of other parents. Which came first, the book or the emotions?

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