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Parenting around the globe are other countries doing it better?
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I know there are as many theories to raising children as there are people in this world, and I guess it comes down to that we are our own childrens experts. - photo by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
American parents sometimes get a bad rap for the way they raise their children.

If you read my last column, you know that I read parenting books. A lot. A few years ago, I got on sort of an international parenting kick. I was fascinated with how people around the globe raised their children, and wanted to know what tips I could incorporate from other countries into my American household.

Shortly after my second child was born, I checked out Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. This American mama moved to France after her husband took a job there and learned how to get her kids to eat better, sleep better and behave better when out in public.

I had to know how.

Druckerman observed that French women strongly believe in learning how to tune in to their infants from birth, forming a trusting bond between mother and baby. By responding immediately when their babies cry, they believe they are learning how to be sensitive to their needs. They believe babies arent just cute squishy bundles who dont have a clue about whats going on; rather, they are very smart little beings who can and will communicate, if youre willing to pay attention. French women observe their babies carefully and speak politely to them, even using phrases such as please and thank you.

Please dont wake up at 2 a.m. tonight. Id like to get a solid five hours of shut-eye. Thank you.

However, they also believe in something called the pause a short five-minute window in which you would allow your screaming infant some time to figure out how to get back to sleep on his own, without coming in as soon as he makes a peep.

Ill admit it was a little stressful trying to figure out when it was time to observe and when it was time to pause, but when I forgot about what I was trying to remember, something called instinct kicked in and it all turned out OK.

Besides being experts at picking up on baby cues, the French pride themselves in the fact that their kids are not picky eaters. Why? They are not allowed to be. A babys first food after formula (they arent big on breastfeeding) is veggies, and kids eat earlier in the evening than adults so they dont get hungry while waiting for mom or dad to get home from work. They also arent allowed snacks during the day, except once in the afternoon. That way, they are actually hungry for meals.

Brilliant concept, and if I could find a way to get my boys to eat more veggies and stop snacking on crackers, I would pay one katrillion bajillion dollars. Right now their greens are blended and mixed in sauces, smoothies and soups.

I dont eat salad, I drink it, my 7-year-old son told my sister when she tried to spoon some spinach on his plate at a recent Sunday dinner.

(Also, we just put a lock on our pantry door after coming downstairs one too many mornings to find 10 granola bar and fruit snack wrappers piled up on the table.)

I should point out I understand it's up to me to buy healthy food for my children. I should also point out that unless youve walked through Costco with four boys fighting and crying and begging for bagel or dino or any other frozen bites, youll understand why I cave. I need to learn how to be more firm when it comes to giving in to my boys demands.

Which brings me to another book.

In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, author Amy Chua pounds her theories on raising well-behaved, disciplined and determined kids dramatically and hilariously into her readers hearts by explaining that it is absolutely up to the mother to mold the child into the person they ought to be.

She explained her parents demanded total respect and were very tough with my three younger sisters and me. We got in trouble for A minuses, had to drill math and piano every day, no sleepovers, no boyfriends. But the strategy worked with me. To this day, Im very close to my parents, and I feel I owe them everything. In fact, I believe that my parents having high expectations for me coupled with love is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. Thats why I tried to raise my own two daughters the same way my parents raised me.

I loved Chuas book, and laughed about and pondered on many of her theories. Chua believes that Americans dont push their kids to their full potential. It is her belief that although typically Chinese students get labeled the smart ones, its not because they naturally necessarily are, but because they work harder, longer.

She also believed in only allowing her daughters to play classical instruments, either the piano or violin.

I signed my oldest up for violin lessons a few months after finishing the book.

But is Chua really right? Can children of super strict parents really turn out to be well adjusted? Are they happier?

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandhal claims to have the secrets to raising the happiest kids in the world by essentially going against almost everything Chua believes. They allow their children more playtime, encouraging and teaching empathy, authenticity, and having family cozy time, dancing and singing by candlelight.

My brother-in-law served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Norway, and said they believe one of the secrets to raising happy, strong children is by teaching them to enjoy nature.

The Norwegians have a saying: ingen drlig vr, bare drlige klr, meaning no bad weather, only bad clothing. He said he would frequently see babies all bundled up with only their tiny faces peeking out from under warm coats and blankets while their older siblings played outside in the snow. Ruggedness is expected in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Youd think with my Canadian blood (I was born in Edmonton), I would be somehow genetically coded to endure harsh cold winters, but Im kind of a wimp about being cold. Those Northerners are tough!

From what Ive observed living here in the good ol USA, American parents push their kids to compete. We are involved, sometimes almost to a fault. We encourage innovation and creativity. We teach our children values and hold them to a high standard. Like every parent around the world, we too want whats best for our children, even when we think that means getting them fast food because we dont have time to make dinner, because we are running them to their third extracurricular activity of the evening.

I know there are as many theories to raising children as there are people in this world, and I guess it comes down to that: we are our own childrens experts. No matter where youre from, each country, each couple, each parent has the capability to be the best parent they can be for their children, because no one knows your child like you do.