I am not a big fan of parenting seminar, but easily sold to well-written parenting books. While seminar is mostly sound like preaching, these books provide not only opinion but with fact and data, research results from journal or real experience to support their writing. I have finished all these five books and so eager to write about this.
European countries have almost similar pattern and idea in raising their child. They didn’t even know before that their country parenting way existed until four American Parents did some researches, observed things,interviewed the experts, compared some studies, then published their findings into an enjoyable reading (for me).
Although there were some minor differences, but they all agree on few big ideas from the very beginning : raising a self-reliance child, the importance of playing, social skills, basic values and character development over cognitive in early years. Those are some of important skills to master that lead to many things in the child future years such as lower chance of depression and anxiety, emotional stability, resiliency, and higher chance of being a happy adult, which also linked to the result of a happy parent.
Soothing himself to sleep and sleeping all through the night, is the first and foremost skill a baby has to master as soon as 3 months, at the very late at 6 months, no matter what kind of feeding (breastfeed or bottlefeed). All four books agree with this. Mastering sleeping is more crucial than stimulating any skills in the early months.
Eating habit becomes crucial especially for French and Dutch. Children eat what is served, any kind of food, and sit on the table. In Dutch, no one is eating until every family member sits on the table and they have chocolate sprinkles for breakfast. Meanwhile in France, even babies learn to differentiate and taste many kind of cheese since early years. No wonder when it comes to food, French is quite snob.
These two basic habits are important for the baby to set a routine and schedule. Mastering both make days easier.
French and German send their children to a whole-day daycare since early age. ‘La creche’ in France and ‘Kita’ in German are available free for all children, not only as a choice for working parents. Meanwhile most of the Dutch preferred the children to be with their parents.
All four let their child wander around alone in the playground, go to school by their bike or bus from the first grade, and decided what they want to learn since daycare days.
The Danes put strong emphasize on free playing for the first seven years of a child’s life. Playground time is crucial because it’s where the children learn about empathy, patience, and social skill. Lego was made by the Danes, which derived from the word “leg and godt” means “play well”. Children creates their own playing, even without the toys, and outdoor play is a must, in spite of season or weather. They believe there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.
While French and German are more to stiff and rigid parents, the Dutch and Danes are more relax and fun. France and Germany primary schools are still heading to academic excellence while Denmark and the Netherland see school as a place for personal development training and social skills, without giving so much stress to the academic achievement.
These writers compared how different Americant parents raised their child. Kindergarten is the new first grade, a short recess time to play outside, mastering skills over growing values for the first seven years, cognitive development is a king until Vygotsky came up with what he called by “American Question” : “When will my child master… (insert skill : reading, writing, counting)?
The famous American Tiger Mom raised her two daughters in total opposite of how those European parents did. Bien sur, with more tangible and measurable result too.
“European parents main concern is for their children to be happy and find a community that they feel at home in. The main concern of American parents is for their kids to become successful in life”.
(We can replace American with some asian countries too).
European parents are lucky because they live where the whole country raise their children together. Their parenting curriculum is clear and one for all. Saying Bonjour for French becomes a national curriculum that should be achieved by everyone. Also, they have many things to make raising a child easier.
From birth child support, free health care and daycare for all children as small as 18 months to 6 years, paid maternity and paternity leave, shorter working hours, long vacation days, big and proper playground everywhere, the society who put pedestrians and bikers before four wheel rider, no long hours to commute from home to work, one single national curriculum for the whole country.
While on the other side of the continent, the situation is pretty much different. Those luxuries might not be available for everyone, and the struggle is undeniably harder. When European works to live, most of American (and Indonesian) lives to work. No wonder an American writer countered the idea by writing an article : “French parents are not superior, they just have it all easier”. French is one of the countries with most vacations day.
As much as I agree, enjoy, and have been applying few things even before reading the European ones, half of me stand on American side too and it’s great to know how both ways are aligned with Islamic parenting way.
When I was doing my final paper for master degree, I found an article about how Islam divides parenting in three big periods.
Taken from http://islam-today.co.uk/parenting-the-islamic-way :
The Holy Prophet(s), in a beautiful narration, has divided the upbringing of a child into three stages; from birth to age 21 :
“The child is the master for seven years, a slave for seven years and a vizier for seven years. So, if he grows into a good character within 21 years, well and good; otherwise, leave him alone because you have discharged your responsibility before God.”
The first stage is so aligned with European way. Up to seven, a child is a king. What he needs to do is play, no responsibility. The utmost priority is proper upbringing and character building. It’s the foundation of everything that he becomes of in the future. Universally good character should be planted before anything else.
Then, at the second stage, he is a slave. It’s when American style is suitable for this period to emphasize formal learning, academic or any talent skills. It becomes clear why salat also becomes compulsory when the child turns seven and should be punished if he doesn’t do it until the age of 10. Being a tiger parent is allowed on this stage.
I won’t go further with the third stage since I just want to point how Islamic parenting aligned with both European and American. I think the third stage is about the time the child and parents ‘see and enjoy’ the results of their upbringing from the first two periods. It’s when a child is a vizier, or in more a familiar word is minister. It’s the time when the child starts leading himself, know his preferency, and the parents need to be there as an advisor until the time he reaches official adult age.
I believe parenting is not a noun, but more to a verb, which full of hard works. As a mother who raises a daughter without my mother around, I have a lot of questions that I want to know the answer, reading so far has been a good teacher for me.
In term of the writing style, Bringing Up Bebe is the most enjoyable one. Witty, funny, and examples given feel right. Also maybe because I was raised this way and naturally, raising Langit this way too as I wrote It’s Matched!
The Happiest Kids in the World is an easy and light reading. A Battle Hymn is very well written and couldn’t help feeling the same high tension while reading it as how tense Amy Chua raised her daughters.
One of the perks of moving to London that I love the most : library with good books is only few bus stops away and time and energy for reading is widely available. Another thing I will miss when I return to Jakarta.