A tour of global practices that will inspire American parents to expand their horizons (and geographical borders) and learn that there’s more than one way to diaper a baby.
Mei-Ling Hopgood, a first-time mom from suburban Michigan—now living in Buenos Aires—was shocked that Argentine parents allow their children to stay up until all hours of the night. Could there really be social and developmental advantages to this custom? Driven by a journalist’s curiosity and a new mother’s desperation for answers, Hopgood embarked on a journey to learn how other cultures approach the challenges all parents face: bedtimes, potty training, feeding, teaching, and more.
Observing parents around the globe and interviewing anthropologists, educators, and child-care experts, she discovered a world of new ideas. The Chinese excel at potty training, teaching their wee ones as young as six months old. Kenyans wear their babies in colorful cloth slings—not only is it part of their cultural heritage, but strollers seem outright silly on Nairobi’s chaotic sidewalks. And the French are experts at turning their babies into healthy, adventurous eaters. Hopgood tested her discoveries on her spirited toddler, Sofia, with some enlightening results.
This intimate and surprising look at the ways other cultures raise children offers parents the option of experimenting with tried and true methods from around the world and shows that there are many ways to be a good parent.
Hopgood (Lucky Girl) is living in Buenos Aires when she notices that the city including its children never sleeps. A first-time mom from suburban Michigan, Hopgood sets out to research how cultural expectations and customs determine the way kids are raised. For starters, she discovers that to the Argentineans, socializing with family is more important than strict bedtime schedules. Such cultural constructs may ruffle Americans; the author learns, however, that even sleep guru Richard Ferber can't see anything intrinsically wrong with later bedtimes. In separate chapters Hopgood examines why French children eat so well (noshing on mussels and Roquefort cheese), "How Kenyans Live Without Strollers," "How the Chinese Potty Train Early," "How Polynesians Play without Parents," and other fascinating topics. Hopgood's text is a satisfying mix of research, observation, interview, and personal experience; she travels from Argentina to Chicago with her toddler sans stroller, and decides to potty train her daughter at 19 months, using the Chinese method of "split pants." Along the way, Hopgood and readers alike learn quite a bit about parenthood from different cultures. Her investigation, Hopgood points out, both opens her mind and challenges her beliefs, revealing that there is no single best way to raise children, though being a good parent is a universal goal. Readers will laugh, marvel and muse over the many (frequently opposing) child-rearing methods that persist despite the growing globalization of parenthood.