Considered the “parenting Bible” for decades, Adele Faber’s book introduced a host of soon-to-be-standard parenting concepts, such as acknowledging kids’ feelings and avoiding punishment in favor of empathy.
A lot of parenting ends up as a game of covert psychological and emotional manipulation, trying to get kids to do what we want through a mixture of punishments and rewards. Alfie Kohn urged his readers to instead work with their kids, figuring out what they need and how to meet those needs.
Such level-headed parenting advice was blithely disregarded by “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua, who assured anxious Americans that the US could once more compete with China if they only spent more time insulting their kids and forcing them to play piano until they started gnawing on the keys. Nine out of ten sociopaths agree: it works!
When publishers needed to find the hot, new post-Tiger Mom foreign locale from which to draw parenting wisdom, they headed to France with Bébé. The conclusions? Breast-feeding and tending immediately to a crying baby are out; talking to infants like real people and feeding kids “adult” food are in. It’s not advice conducive to raising a billionaire, complained Forbes.
Denmark was next, as an intrepid pair of writers tried to figure out why Danes are consistently ranked the happiest people in the world. The answer, it turns out, is the Danish parenting style, which prioritizes empathy, teamwork, and play. We have a sneaking suspicion that an extensive welfare state might also have something to do with it.
No one has time to read all the contradictory scientific literature on child-rearing out there, so these authors created something akin to the policy wonk’s guide to parenting, sifting through hundreds of peer-reviewed studies to give parents a supposedly neutral, science-driven perspective on what to do.
Just last year, Joanna Faber released the follow-up to her mother’s 1979 classic, adding a chapter for kids with special needs. Once again, the emphasis is on cooperation and giving kids choices over punishments and commands.
Berlin is the most recent exotic place with an extensive welfare state whose culture has been mined for parenting tips. In this case, a more hands-off parenting style that lets kids play and walk to school without supervision is presented as the answer. It sure seems like a lot of these European parenting havens have something else in common though …