The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

Why American parenting is catching on all over the world

'25.08.2022'

Source: Air force

Europeans have always taken parenting more casually than Americans. But today, “intensive parenting” is becoming more common among the developed world. Should parents be so worried, Olga Meking argues for Air force. Next - from the first person.

Photo: Shutterstock

Once, in a restaurant in The Hague, a woman complimented my son:

“What a wonderful boy! He is so considerate. Probably very smart."

My baby was three months old. Of course, I was flattered by the words of a woman. Nice to hear that your son may be the next Einstein. But over time, I realized that her words are more likely to indicate how the parenting style of European parents is changing.

Parenting, as you know, is noticeably different in different societies. For example, in 2009, an international group of scientists compared what features parents from different countries sought to see in their children.

The differences were amazing. For example, Dutch parents named rest, cleanliness and regimen as the main components of upbringing.

The Italians wanted their children to be seasoned, balanced and pretty.

American parents, on the other hand, considered intelligence and mental development to be more important.

The priorities of the Americans testify to the fundamental changes that have occurred in the care of children in the United States.

The “child with a key around the neck” (a low level of care and independence from an early age) of the 1980s was replaced by “helicopter” parenting (active participation of parents in all the affairs of the child) and “greenhouse” education (all-round development from the cradle).

The inhabitants of the old continent were much more relaxed about their parental duties. But now more and more European moms and dads are adopting the American intensive parenting style.

The reason for this trend is not only the fear of growing inequality, but also the emergence of a lot of advice on parenting.

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Leading Game

“Intensive parenthood requires a significant amount of time and money,” said Patrick Ishizuka, professor of sociology at Cornell University.

Parents plan many extra-curricular activities, and also defend the needs and talents of their children in communicating with schools and other institutions.

But this is not only in the United States, but in all developed countries of the world - they now spend much more time on raising children than before.

An important role in these changes is played by the idea that the time spent with parents is critical for the cognitive and behavioral development of the child, as well as for his success in learning.

I live in the Netherlands, a country that has always been known for its laid-back approach to parenting. This is well documented in The World's Happiest Kids by Rina May Acosta and Michele Hutchison.

Dutch parents give their children a lot of freedom; Collaboration and teamwork are more important than achievements in school.

However, some changes are taking place here as well. Children have less and less free time. As one very busy midwife told me, everything she does with her children must be “amazing”.

And my daughter’s ballet teacher was very surprised when we changed the ballet to swimming. She was sure that you could somehow squeeze both circles into the schedule.

This trend is also visible in other European countries, says Frederic de Mall, a German researcher at the University of Luxembourg. He studies how economic factors affect parenthood.

“In the past, the role of parents was primarily to provide children with physical comfort and health, and the school should be in charge of learning and development,” he said.

But now parents are noticeably more involved in the education of their children and try to communicate more with teachers.

According to the American researcher Matthias Dopke, the main reason for these changes is the growth of inequality around the world, in particular in Europe, and parents are worried about the future of their children. They pay more attention to training and education, orient their children to success.

However, intensive parenthood is becoming widespread in societies with high social protection, the purpose of which is precisely to reduce inequality.

A 2016 Swedish study found that many parents believe that extra activities will help children develop useful skills. And this is part of the stereotype of "perfect" parents.

Another country with relatively low levels of inequality is Iceland. She, too, is experiencing a boom in intensive parenthood. This includes long-term breastfeeding and carrying babies.

More advice - more anxiety

Economic inequality is only part of the puzzle.

In her 2003 book Unequal Childhood, sociologist Annette Larot discovered that parenting and social class are closely intertwined.

Middle-class parents tend to focus more on the education and development of their children, while their less affluent compatriots are more relaxed about parenting.

However, this factor may actually be more vague. Parenting style has changed in different social groups.

Experts point to the emergence of a huge number of books, blogs and articles about parenting.

According to Canadian sociology professor Lindy Quirk, even if parents are skeptical of all these tips, they still affect them.

Changes in attitudes towards education are also reflected in the language. In my native Polish, the word rodzicielstwo ("parenthood") is increasingly used instead of the traditional wychowanie dzieci - "raising children".

What the Germans used to have was Kindererziehung (“raising children”) is now called Elternhandeln, that is, “the actions of parents”.

“If you put in parenting a broader concept - the formation of a comprehensively developed and successful personality, then the word Erziehung (“education”) is not enough,” says sociologist de Moll.

On the subject: In America, worse than in Belarus: WHO and UNICEF named the best countries for raising children

What's next

Increased parenting efforts have consequences not only for parents and children, but also for nations as a whole. It deepens the inequality of society.

In the 1960s, parents paid less attention to developing their children's talents and hobbies, people from different social strata spent about the same amount of time and money on education, Professor Ishizuka notes.

All this creates additional pressure on parents, especially mothers, who still bear the main responsibility for raising children.

A study of three American scientists in 2012, which is often cited, showed that the more intense the parenting style, the more depressed and anxious the mother.

However, many parents are sure that it is their responsibility. Last year, Professor Ishizuka examined the attitude to education in various social classes in the United States.

His research showed that parents of different financial backgrounds had very similar views on parenting. They believed that "good" moms and dads should be very active in all aspects of their child's life. They condemned those who did not.

However, Professor de Moll is sure that the Europeans should not worry so much.

“Your child will not be left behind, unless your family is already below the poverty line,” argues the researcher.

Perhaps the pendulum of education will swing in the other direction in the future.

After all, tired American parents are so eagerly absorbing books about German, Dutch and French parenting styles.

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