Magazine article Work & Family Life

How French Kids Become Adventurous, Healthy Eaters

Magazine article Work & Family Life

How French Kids Become Adventurous, Healthy Eaters

Article excerpt

The experience of looking at parenthood through the eyes of families in other cultures has opened my mind and challenged some of the beliefs and practices I've held pretty tightly.

When I started to see how early the Chinese potty train, how the French talk to kids about food, how a Lebanese American extended family carefully teaches the importance of being responsible for and connected to one another, I started to realize how important culture is in how we bring up our children.

Parents' common desire

Despite vast differences in beliefs, religion and culture, parents and caregivers in most societies share a common desire to raise children who can thrive in the reality in which they live.

Each culture has its own brand of wisdom. We may or may not adopt what a family in another culture does, but we can take comfort in knowing that there's more than one good way to get babies to sleep, transport them from place to place and feed them.

Kids are amazingly adaptive and resilient. And while there are some universal standards of how a child should be treated, there are many ways to be a good parent.

Bedtime patterns «an vary

Sleep experts and parents in the U.S. and England have made their preferences clear: routines are important and bedtime should be early. Parents who admit to letting a child stay up late often do so with an explanation or apology and maybe a little guilt too.

Not so in Argentina, Spain and Egypt. It's a common practice in those countries for families to eat dinner later, during the cooler hours, and to make time for a nap during the middle of the day. The social lives of adults and children also blend rather fluidly, and kids are often included in late evening dinners and parties.

For example, most Argentines (including those who are single or childless) don't mind having little ones in group settings. But when families stay up late, they make up some extra sleep time the next morning-which is easier to do, because society does not get moving as early as it does in the U.S.

Although some pediatricians, even local ones, are uncomfortable with these practices, anthropologists have found that people combine their "social and sleep universes" in many cultures. …

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