To what extent does the country in which you live, far from where you grew up, influence the style of of your parenting? I don’t have the answer to that, I’ve always wondered about it though. Would I’ve become a different kind of mother back in Germany? Or what if we hadn’t moved to the US, but Spain?
I’m sure we’d handle things differently, you kind of have to. You end up following a lot of the customary rules. At least once your children reach school age. They pick up traditions and behavior that differ from other countries. That might be different if your children are not enrolled in the public school system, but in a private school, especially in an International, French, German or Chinese one. Language, manners and rules are automatically different from the local schools.
There are four parenting styles, : authoritative, neglectful, permissive and authoritarian. And in recent years two other terms have become quiet established to describe the style of parenting: helicopter parents and free-range parents.
My husband and I try to be authoritative parents and are leaning more towards being free-range parents than being over-protective, but that is not always easy here in the United States. Many of my fellow expats loathe the prevailing overprotection. People predominantly seem to think that there is the possibility of a child abduction around every corner. A lot of institutions don’t necessarily encourage independence and responsibility in children and they won’t let your child walk/ride home alone, even if you’d like them to. You have to come and pick them up in person. You might have to show your ID and sign them out.
Obviously the circumstances depend on where exactly you live. We are very fortunate because we live in a neighborhood of San Jose where most people know each other, kids are on the streets playing without supervision and walk to and from school alone or in groups. But this is not a given in California, let alone the rest of the US. We all heard about the cases when parents had to go through a time of supervision with Social Services after letting their children roam free in the park.
I wonder if we’d say “I love you” to our kids as often as we do now if we’d stayed in Germany. Probably not. I have an English friend and she often makes fun of this habit. Friends say it to each other all the time, too. It’s not that they don’t mean it, but it has a different significance. It is definitely part of American parenting to praise your children often and to tell them repeatedly how great they are and that they can do anything. It’s a general attitude and even though I regularly struggle with this kind of excessive praise and for me unnatural positivity (I am German.), I can see and appreciate the advantages of it. Our kids do have very positive mindset (I’m often astonished, I can’t recall myself being that way in my tween or teen years.). And friends and family back in Germany recognize this fact as something good.
A big part of the life in the Silicon Valley is technology. It is everywhere, we live where all the stuff is invented. Kids use and often own iPhones, Androids, iPads, MacBooks, chrome books and what not. Technology is present at schools and social media misuse starts in Middle School. This fact makes parenting even harder as it already is and technology use is something where free-range parents seem to stumble. You need to be over-protective of your kids on this matter. So it turns out, we can’t always be free-range parents. We are somewhere in the middle, trying to be sensible, balancing between the extremes, just perfect, right? Aren’t we all trying that?
And there are some German parenting habits we brought with us and that we maintain and even try to emphasize. Growing up in Germany, you were sent outside to play every possible time when there was no pouring rain. (“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”) And if there was sunshine, you had to be outside. We kept this habit here, even though it can become somewhat annoying, because the sun shines almost every day. Our children got a “Schultüte” on their first day of school. We don’t look at every single homework sheet or tell them how to write a better essay (and we couldn’t, really). They are responsible for their schoolwork and have to make their own mistakes. We love to send our kids to the store (they can walk or bike) to get groceries and they love these expeditions. We celebrate our family dinners without watching TV. We
try to only speak German during our meals. We watch “The Voice of Germany” and while watching our kids learn the bad words in German, they are not supposed to say here. Brilliant, he?
This week, I met a woman from Guatemala (she’s lived in Belgium, Italy, Spain and now the US) and surprisingly she thinks that all the American parents seem so carefree to let their kids walk or ride to school on their own. First I couldn’t understand her point of view, but then she explained that while growing up in Guatemala, no one would let their kids walk around without supervision, because it was just too dangerous. Children were not allowed to go anywhere without their parents, that’s why she admits that she is also very overprotective of her daughter today and she’s totally fine with this fact. That shows me that our heritage always affects our way of parenting, no matter where we live.
With this post I don’t intend to answer my initial question, but I’m very interested in your experience and opinion. Where do you live, how would you describe your parenting style and how do you think does the place you live has an impact on how you raise your children? I’d love to hear your two cents.