6 Foreign Parenting Practices Americans Would Call Neglect
As the country that invented Toddlers & Tiaras and crack babies, the U.S. doesn't always have the best track record when it comes to raising our kids. But if you want to freak out a set of American parents, just let them see some of the habits that are considered routine in other countries. Because somehow the world's kids do just fine despite the fact that ...
Europeans Park Their Kids on the Sidewalk
Americans -- even ones from New York -- tend to freak out at the sight of unattended children, as a Danish tourist found out in 1997. While visiting the city, Annette Sorensen and her husband decided to eat at an East Village restaurant, but instead of hiring a babysitter or ordering takeout or, we don't know, maybe taking their child into the restaurant with them, they left their daughter parked in her stroller on the sidewalk.
Not one, but two different worried New Yorkers took the time to walk into the restaurant in hopes of finding the abandoned toddler's parents, begging whoever owned this child to just get her off the street. "The stroller alone is worth at least $30 in Times Square," they probably argued, New Yorkerly. The couple refused, leaving their baby outside for a whole hour while they enjoyed dinner. The locals called the cops, which was why the couple was arrested for child endangerment and lost custody of their kid for a day.
Here was their defense: It turns out that in the mom's hometown of Copenhagen, leaving your kid outside while you grab some dinner or a latte is as normal as not leaving your kid outside while you grab some dinner or a latte in New York.
The restaurants are small and smoky and crowded, and the sidewalk is as safe and unattended as the Muppet Baby nursery, apparently. Parents all over Europe have no problem littering the streets with the fruit of their loins.
This also explains why the New York situation wasn't an isolated incident -- a Swedish mom was gobsmacked (or whatever the Swedish version of that word is) when she was busted for leaving her kid outside a Tex-Mex restaurant in Massachusetts. Not only do European criminals not kidnap babies or their high-end strollers willy-nilly, European police are totally used to seeing kids out on the street unattended. "The child wasn't in danger and the mother claims she had an eye on things," one Stockholm cop told the press. You'd think the people who were the inspiration for the syndrome of sympathizing with your kidnappers would be a little more self-aware about how bad this looks. But you'd be wrong!
Speaking of Northern Europeans hating their children ...
Nordic Kids Nap in Subzero Weather ... Outside
Ask a conscientious American mom about her baby's nap routine and she's probably going to mention the standard safety measures: laying junior on his back, keeping stray stuffed animals and blankets out of the crib so he doesn't suffocate, kissing the crucifix that hangs over the bed exactly 12 times so Jesus will keep the baby safe during his nap, and then keeping the baby monitor on and by your side while he sleeps. Ask Nordic women the same question and they'll say something along the lines of "Stick 'em outside" and then go back to being insanely beautiful.
No, that's not a stock photo with a white background. That's snow. The thermometer reads -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
For generations, Northern European moms have seen the bitter air of Old Man Winter as a healthy supplement to their babies' routines, as if babies are like cheese and will get moldy if left at room temperature. Talk to any Nordic mom and she'll tell you that exposing babies to the elements makes kids stronger, more resilient, and able to handle the elements later, which may not be true from a science perspective but is sure as hell metal.
Imagine standing outside a Swedish day care in January and seeing a whole row of baby strollers full of napping kids. In Finland, they recommend putting babies in the cold at two weeks old. Do you even know what a 2-week-old baby looks like? It's an overgrown marshmallow.
Obviously, the tots are wearing multiple layers of clothes and covered with blankets and probably have tiny little roaring fireplaces in their strollers. Parents even put cream on their little cheeks so the babies don't get chapped in the biting wind. Northern European parents aren't monsters, after all.
Are these kids perpetually afflicted with colds or pneumonia? Are the parents just too stupid to figure out that noses aren't supposed to run 24/7 and chronic, hacking coughs are a bad thing? Of course not. But researchers are on the fence as to whether outside naps are good or bad for babies. Some studies indicate that kids who manage more hours outside end up taking fewer sick days from school during the year. Other studies found the opposite. So we're going to conclude that unless Europe starts unleashing mutant Mr. Freeze kids on the world, no one is nearly as worried about babies napping in subzero temperatures as we are.
Letting Kids Drink Beer Is Way More Common Than You Think
When Americans got worried about the rise in childhood obesity, our FLOTUS made awareness of the problem a major priority. Mrs. Obama enlisted everyone from Beyonce to Jimmy Fallon to help get American kids back on the right track. When Belgium noticed the same problem back in 2001, they tried a different approach: Specifically, serving children beer.
True, we're talking about a light beer, and only 11 ounces of it to boot, but still. For Americans, the idea of giving kids any alcohol is just about equal to child abuse. So how did Belgian kids get so lucky? When health authorities got worried about their kids' preference for soda over water, a beer lovers' club suggested offering beer as a soda substitute. And to answer your next question, we don't know what a beer lovers' club is, either. The group you join before you're ready for AA? Maybe a fetish group?
Whatever a beer lovers' club is, this particular one was so influential that they got the beer on the cafeteria table in 2001, and 80 percent of the students who participated in their pilot program actually said they preferred beer to soda. Which is weird, because when you're a kid, Coke tastes like liquid candy and beer tastes like your dad's bath water. The next day after his bath.
Shockingly, Belgium didn't pick up the "Officially Giving Beer to Kids Now" program on a national level, maybe because alcoholism is the third leading cause of death in Europe and they didn't want to stoke the tragic death fire. The bad news is that is no one told Croatia that Europe has an alcohol problem, because parents are giving over 7 percent of their first graders alcohol more than six times a month. That's over once a week for the calendar-challenged. Even more horrifying, 30 percent of eighth grade boys and 12 percent of eighth grade girls report boozing it up six times a week.
Remember that the next time you start worrying about American kids twerking.
Vietnamese Moms Train Their Babies to Pee on Command
Unless you've tried to figure out what to do with a pair of poop-filled Underoos in an Olive Garden bathroom, don't assume you know the first thing about potty-training toddlers. It's hard and messy and you will touch another human's fecal matter at some point. Which is why we're both fascinated and horrified by the Vietnamese method of getting kids to pee on the toilet -- by treating their kids like one of Pavlov's dogs, only with whistles instead of bells.
Here's how: As soon as Vietnamese babies are born, their moms give a special whistle every time they notice their newborns urinate, which can be up to 12 times a day if they're paying attention. So walking in a Vietnamese newborn nursery must be like walking through an aviary at sunrise.
Here's where things get a little weird. In the same way that the famous doctor Ivan Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, Vietnamese moms train their babies to piss at the sound of their whistle -- and it works.
By the age of 3 months, the moms hold their kids over toilets, give a little whistle, and their kids urinate on command, like magic. By 9 months, they're done with diapers altogether, like some kind of goddamn pee prodigies. By contrast, it takes American kids two and a half years or longer to shake the diaper habit. So if you ever want to have some fun in Vietnam, whistle at kids on the street and find out what happens.
Some Chinese Moms Abandon Their Newborns for a Month
Right after you give birth, you've got a dilemma on your hands. On one hand, you might feel some level of affection for your baby, encouraging you to spend time with your newborn. On the other, pregnancy was hard, you want to relax, and the baby kind of gets in the way of that. So what's the solution?
Try zuo yuezi, the Chinese practice that lets new moms recuperate from the trauma of pregnancy and childbirth sans their new baby -- for a whole month or longer. Traditionally, new Chinese moms spend the month after birth confined in their homes following a prescribed set of dietary and hygiene rules to get back to their old selves. No showers or teeth brushing so you don't let extra water or bad wind into your already loose skin folds. "Cold" foods like fruits and vegetables are avoided and "hot" protein-rich foods are encouraged.
Moms are ordered to avoid housework, sex (that one makes sense), and leaving the house during their confinement, so relatives take on the more stressful duties associated with taking care of a newborn. Soooo, house arrest, but with a screaming baby.
That's the traditional version of zuo yuezi, but today's woman has a few more options, like checking into a resort that pampers you for weeks on end while your baby is tucked away safely out of sight. The moms who patronize these new confinement facilities can chill out, watch TV, enjoy the spa, and eat specially prescribed food from a cart brought to their rooms, all while their brand-new babies are cared for by nurses down the hall.
While the old-fashioned version of zuo yuezi recommends breastfeeding to bond with the baby and get the mom's body back to normal, modern resorts are totally "whatever" on the breastfeeding front. During your time at the luxury confinement center, you can bond with your baby, or not, and just watch the tyke remotely on your TV monitor. Totally your choice. There's no such thing as sleepless nights for these new moms. And at the price of $330 a day, you can bet your ass the moms are taking advantage of every amenity they can get their hands on. Can you blame them?
Kenyan Mothers Refuse Eye Contact With Their Babies
No one really has to tell you to try to make eye contact with your baby. You just want to. For one thing, you need to make sure he or she doesn't have the mailman's eyes, then you just want to bond with your child. It's as natural an instinct as screwing the mailman.
The Gusii people of Kenya feel differently about bonding with their babies. In fact, Gusii moms actively turn their gaze away when they see their children trying to connect with them. Their reasoning kind of makes sense when you look at their culture.
In the Western world, avoiding eye contact looks like guilt or shyness. In the Gusii world, eye contact has power, and there are very strict rules about who you look at. And when it comes to kids, you don't want to give more power to them than they already have. For Gusii moms, their babies are already demanding their time, their attention, and their boobs, which is a lot of energy in a culture that needs the mom's labor. Giving babies the ultimate sign of respect -- eye contact -- is like saying "You're in charge." And babies clearly aren't in charge. They're babies. No one who poops on himself should be in charge.
Here's where the Gusii eye contact thing almost makes sense: Researchers have discovered that Gusii kids are conditioned to not seek attention from others when compared to kids from other cultures. That's something to remember the next time you're around a gaggle of American teenagers vying for the most eyes they can get. Twerking.
Yosomono writes for Tokyo's English blog, Gaijinass.com. Support their quest to reverse Japan's lack of babies by liking their Facebook page. Ryan Menezes is a writer and layout editor here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter.
Related Reading: Parenting actually gets worse than this. There's a man at Georgetown university who refuses to speak to his son in anything but Klingon. And that sounds downright rational next to teaching kids how to use stripper poles. For the flipside of all these careless parenting shenanigans, read this article!
If you're looking for a way to raise your kids right, wearing a Teddy Roosevelt shirt in front of him couldn't hurt.