The Latest Country Whose Parenting We Should Emulate

by Honolulu Mother

I’m sure we all remember when we were urged to go all Tiger Mom on our kids, and when a bit later we were urged to feed them pate and celeriac and send them off to play while the grown-ups talk, because French women not only don’t get fat, they also don’t serve up Easy Mac to picky eaters or hover over playdates. But now we’re offered a new group to be more like: the Dutch!

The key to raising happy kids? The latest trend says do as the Dutch do.

I am especially amused by this because a few years ago, around when the Tiger Mom stuff was big in the news, my daughter’s friend (whose mother is Dutch) had come along for a weekend at my parents’ house and my mother, impressed with the friend’s behavior, was talking about how there should be a book on Dutch parenting . . . right up until the friend accidentally dropped a gecko in my mother’s lap and it ended up inside her shorts.

The article suggests that features of Dutch childhood include plenty of independence, time for play, and minimal academic stress, all helped along by a wholly un-American level of work-life balance. Does that sound good to you? Does it sound feasible? And, what country’s parenting style do you think we should next be urged to adopt, and why?

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107 thoughts on “The Latest Country Whose Parenting We Should Emulate

  1. Yeah, I liked the article. Don’t particularly care much about specific culture-based parenting styles, because as the article notes, it’s basically impossible to sever the parenting approach from the culture in which it developed.

    “Just act normal, that’s crazy enough,” though — well, that’s just classic. Awesome motto.

  2. I like learning about how parenting styles differ in other countries. There’s always something to be taken from each approach. I read the French book, Bringing up Bebe, and thought the author made a good point about not having everything being about the kids. I think it’s best for the kids/family if parents prioritize their marriage over being totally kid centric. It’s hard to do though.

  3. OMG. DD takes care of a bearded dragon for camp in the off-season, and there is no way on God’s green earth I would put that thing in my bra. Holy bejeebers.

    I think that is what we in the legal profession refer to as “res ipsa” (“the thing speaks for itself”) — what more proof might you need that she was under the influence than the fact that she thought it was a good idea to drive with a bearded dragon in her bra? :-)

  4. I used to get parenting advice from family but given that we are now in a different country, and the external environment has changed over time, I have to parent in my own way.
    I find the Totebag experiences as related helpful because they are current and U.S. centric. I feel a similar connection with parents I speak to casually in my community.
    I read the books more out of curiosity and general ideas but not specific information.

  5. My kid’s been bugging me that “it is what it is” is really stupid. Now I have an impressively smart-sounding replacement!

  6. S&M – YES! I do not like the phrase “it is what it is”… but res ipsa works (or even saying “it speaks for itself” works too).

    I’ll have to read the article. But I’ll take whatever culture has figure out how to manage the terrible 2s effectively. Yesterday DH threatened to leave both kids at the zoo because they were beasts.

  7. @Rhode: 1-2-3 Magic.

    And if you really want to sound uppity, the full phrase is “res ipsa loquitur.” :-)

  8. Ugh,I am so sick of articles, blog posts, and websites telling me how to raise my kids. Free Range! Attachment! Learn to say No! (in today’s NYTimes) French! Finnish! Japanese! Dutch!

  9. I have spent a bit of time in the Netherlands, and my husband even more (he did some grad work at a university there and can speak a bit of Durch). The life there is wonderful – we always say we want to retire there. It is a combination of structured like the Germans but with a more open and free mindset and better attitudes towards women. And the bicycles! It is bicycle nirvana. I am always happy when I go there. Well, except for the food which kind of sucks but not as badly as German food.

  10. Rhode – 1-2-3 magic was indeed magical with my boys. With my daughter, she would laugh, count along with me, accept the consequence cheerfully and immediately go do the offending action again, usually while telling me to hold off on counting to 3 again until she had once again completed the offending action. So, I will say a prayer that your boys are like mine. Otherwise, I offer the suggestion of vodka. Lots of vodka.

  11. The Dutch way sounds like the way I was raised. Our parents provided us with good schools and expected us to do our homework and do well in school. If they were home, the tv was theirs not ours to watch what we wanted to watch. We played outside after school and in the summer until we were teenagers. They certainly didn’t make us special meals – if we didn’t like dinner, we didn’t have to eat it, but we couldn’t eat other things during the night.

  12. The WaPo author mocks the notion of staying home and doing the same thing every day, but the reality is that many small children thrive on regular schedules and not too many outings. It’s not as fun for parents but we found that life with little ones was much more peaceful if we were nap time Nazis and ignored those who tried to tell us that kids can manage without them in vacations or when relatives are in town. Maybe some can but ours couldn’t.

  13. Um yeah, I remember doing the 1-2-3 thing for the first time with my son who gleefully shouted 4 after I got to 3 (and I don’t think I ever got to 3 with my oldest).

    It does seem like this is a schtick to sell books. My husband’s family is originally from the Netherlands (although not sure if it was his grandfather or great-grandfather who came over). I’m a fan of the less academic stress part of it and the sleep schedule of babies but this is all stuff you can choose for your family. I did Babywise with my kids and they were all sleeping through the night before 8 weeks. I have conversations with these women who don’t expect their kids to sleep through the night until after a year old and I just do not know how they are functioning.

  14. Actually, in The Netherlands there is quite a pushback against “The Cult of Motherhood” (not my phrase), particularly for as it holds back working women. It is more progressive there, but is not nirvana.

  15. My kid needed naps until he didn’t. Doesn’t mean we raced home for them or that I built my life around them. If he was tired, he napped. If he was napping, I made him as comfortable as I could reasonably do. My preference was that we both napped at home at the same time, but I know Ada hates that idea. I forget how old he was when he started sleeping through the night, because I woke up anyway, and I still do!

  16. 1-2-3 didn’t worlk for any of my kids. In fact, no consequence based method worked for my kids. I found, through trial and error, that doing a repeat (“Let’s try again”) worked best. My daughter, when she was small, had a habit of undoing her carseat and bolting out of the car as soon as I was pulling into the driveway. Not good. So I started doing this with her – each time I would make her get back into the car, announcing “Let’s try again”. I would turn the car back on, wait, turn it off, and tell her “NOW you can unbuckle and get out of the car”. We did this 40 million times, but eventually is sunk in.

  17. My kids all needed naps, and when I was home with them (I was PT for a time), the naps were a godsend for me too. But you know what? The daycare was even better at enforcing naps than me, and in fact, they were really good at creating a quiet structured environment. So I never felt guilty when I was working and leaving the kids there

  18. Scarlett – likewise. We were also really strict on bedtimes – 7 pm was IT until they were 3-4. I am not looking forward to kindergarten next year – they may place our #3 in the afternoon class, which is right during naptime, and she still naps about 5/7 days!

  19. My kids have always been flexible with naps/bedtimes. Praise Jesus for this, because I go stir crazy staying in the house.

  20. “I have conversations with these women who don’t expect their kids to sleep through the night until after a year old and I just do not know how they are functioning.”

    I thought that I was losing my mind after 6 months. That was when we did some sort of cry it out thing (I don’t remember anymore the actual methodology).

    With these country-specific things, I always wonder how homogeneous the culture really is, and what segment they are really talking about. Is this the equivalent of the “Totebag” parents of Holland?

    If a book was written about “Totebag” parenting and was billed as the “American Way” I think that would be patently false.

    Anyway, there are definitely elements here that have worked for us. DS needed consistency and plenty of sleep as a baby/toddler, and the nanny and then school provided that along with us. Now, as a grade-schooler, he doesn’t do well if he is too scheduled – so we avoid that where we can. I can tell you that with the end of the school year, baseball season starting, and some other family things – he is really suffering right now from a lack of unstructured time, and we are all feeling it. (i.e., he has been a real bear at times) We all can’t wait for the last few weeks of school to be done & things to calm down. We do have lots of family time too – neither of us have super high-pressure jobs or much business travel. But independence – eh, we are in the middle there I think.

  21. Although some of your kids parents are our age, they typically have one or more children several years older than ours. We knew our goal was for our children to be as independent at every age as they could be and we had a day care that supported (almost preached) the same philosophy. We put our kids to bed early so we had some adult conversation every night. Though DD#1 has always needed sufficient sleep or she is a nightmare to deal with.

    We did may some effort to keep a routine schedule all week/year long as it just was easier for everyone in the early years.

    I think part of the way you parent is about you and part of it is who your kid is. I get a fair amount of “evil eye” because I try to avoid helicoptering. Example, DD#1 goes to a pediatrician (likely need to change that this next year) at age 17. We go in the doctor looks at me and starts asking me questions about my child’s toe (reason for the visit). I said, I have no idea. She said her toe bothered her and asked me to make an appointment, I think you two should discuss her toe. I got a flicker of “how rude” from the doctor for a second and then it clicked how old this child was.

  22. L, when DS#1 was ready for kindergarten, I send a nice note to the school, begging for morning kindergarten because he still took a nap every day. Not sure whether it made a difference, but we did get the morning slot. Now, nearly every kindergarten seems to be all-day.

  23. I guess I was a bit of a nap nazi in that my children needed them around the same time every day and they generally go to bed around the same time every night (within 30 minutes). My BIL/SIL are serious sleep nazis where their children aren’t allowed to nap anywhere but their house (and especially not at my MILs) and if you are at their house while their children are sleeping you cannot talk above a whisper on the 1st floor while their children sleep on the 2nd. But these are also the people that insist their children couldn’t possible sleep through the night until age 2 (and they have three kids- that’s a lot of years of no sleep).

  24. “Is this the equivalent of the “Totebag” parents of Holland?

    If a book was written about “Totebag” parenting and was billed as the “American Way” I think that would be patently false.”

    Ivy, my thought exactly. The authors of those expat parenting books make sweeping generalizations about a country based on the tiny slice of Totebag parents they interact with.

  25. Consequence based stuff doesn’t always work. Most times we have to model the behavior and give him cue words. His daycare uses a 1-2-3 approach and I do it at home. Kid counts with me with a smile. I also count backwards and get the same result. Sigh.

    We break our schedule very rarely. My children are impossible without proper sleeping and feeding.

    It seems to me that these cultural ways of parenting only work if society is supporting it in some way. Like attachment and free range aren’t the usual parenting styles around here because society doesn’t support (a) one parent always on or (b) no parents on.

    The 2 year old sleeps straight from 8p-6a (6:30). The 14 week old sleeps 8p to anywhere from 3-6a. But he’s hungry and wet so we forgive him.

  26. Scarlett – I also requested morning in the form that I sent, but we’ll see how that goes. In our old town kindergarten was 3 half days, 2 full days, which was a PITA for scheduling purposes but worked better for napping.

  27. “It seems to me that these cultural ways of parenting only work if society is supporting it in some way.”

    Do you mean supporting in some formal way, such as a long paid maternity leave, or more informally, in that many other parents are following similar practices, so you don’t feel like an outlier for turning down playdates in the early afternoon or family dinner invitations that keep kids up past their bedtimes? Actually, you wouldn’t have to deal with such issues, because everyone would understand and completely support the nazi nap and bedtime rules and so such invitations would never be extended to parents of young children.

  28. We only have full day kindergarten (which was part of the reason I held DS back a year). Half day was perfect for him at age 5.

  29. My older kid was very tired the first few months of kindergarten because of no nap. He would nap after he returned home around 3 pm. He adjusted in around three months.

    These days like AustinMom mentions for routine interactions with adults teachers, doctors, coaches – I hang back and let my kids speak.

  30. if we didn’t like dinner, we didn’t have to eat it, but we couldn’t eat other things during the night.

    I’ve never understood this. Adults don’t force themselves to eat food they don’t like, so why do they do it to their kids? I’m not talking about making them try a few bites of something, I’m talking about insisting they eat a full meal of something they just don’t like. And I know people say “they’ll eat it if they’re hungry”, but that’s BS. I’d have to be literally starving before I’d eat something like this: http://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/recipes-cookbooks/recipes/a441/mushroom-olive-salad-recipe-0910/

    It’s not as fun for parents but we found that life with little ones was much more peaceful if we were nap time Nazis and ignored those who tried to tell us that kids can manage without them in vacations or when relatives are in town. Maybe some can but ours couldn’t.

    Ditto. Ours needed their sleep, period. If anyone didn’t like it, that was too damn bad.

  31. Ivy, I don’t think even as narrow a slice as this blog could be summarized without cutting some parts short. The above discussion of discipline methods is one example.

    Waking up in the middle of the night with my co-sleeping babe didn’t bother me anywhere near as much as I kid who got up at an ungodly early hour. Every once in a great while mine would be ready to go around 7. I could usually get him to go back to sleep by nursing, but when that didn’t work, he’d go into the other room and play until I got up 30-60 min later.

    Austin, that’s been my approach to doctor visits ever since a doc did it when my kid was a preschooler. Dr. Brazelton also mentions building a relationship with the child as their doctor. The few times docs have continued to talk to me despite our signals, I’ve asked him to answer one or two of the questions and then said to the practitioner “It’s his body and he needs to be comfortable talking to his doctor”. We go to a residents’ clinic, so there are new docs all the time. The circulating/supervising docs know us and talk to both of us.

  32. OTOH, relatives we know were all for going with the flow so there wasn’t a fixed naptine or strict bedtime. The kids slept if they were tired and if they fussed the parents dealt with it. Like Kate mentioned something like this, it meant the parents weren’t constrained too much because of their kids.

  33. OTOH, relatives we know were all for going with the flow so there wasn’t a fixed naptine or strict bedtime. The kids slept if they were tired and if they fussed the parents dealt with it. Like Kate mentioned something like this, it meant the parents weren’t constrained too much because of their kids.

    And that all depends on the kids. Every child is different – some need a lot of structure and some don’t, some are good sleepers and some aren’t, etc.

    It also depends on the parents. Some are willing to deal with fussy, tired kids, and others aren’t.

  34. DD, I agree with you on the food! My kiddo seems to have really strong tastes. For his first few years, we were in sync, but his tastes changed after he started getting school lunches. I can eat what he likes, but I don’t like it. It’s just boring and I miss food I find yummy. Between that and me being a vegetarian while he eats meat until/unless he makes a decision not to some day, about the only things we eat “together” are cheese pizza and pasta (with different toppings). Oh, and we split an order of saag paneer and sambusas. I focus on the social aspect of the meal rather than uniformity of diet.

  35. I love napping. I loved napping when my kids napped. I hate the advice, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” It doesn’t work if you have more than one kid. It doesn’t work if you have a kid who take short naps or irregular naps. Until we sleep trained, my first mostly to 37 minute naps. It often took a few tries to get her down, so if I tried to nap with her, I only had 15-20 minutes after I was assured she was actually sleeping. There is nothing wrong with sleeping when the baby sleeps. However, it is terrible to assume that coaching a new mom when she should nap is helpful or substitutes for actual support.

  36. “And I know people say “they’ll eat it if they’re hungry”, but that’s BS.”

    Yup. BTDT.
    And there were only so many times we were willing to pick up the offending food from beneath the high chair tray where it had been decisively dropped overboard — never thrown — by a displeased diner. Peanut butter or plain noodles were easy to offer and eventually all of them did outgrow the picky stage.

    Other parents were willing to work harder than we at getting their little kids to eat what was put in front of them. the hill we decided to die on was nap and bedtime, not food.

  37. “Do you mean supporting in some formal way, such as a long paid maternity leave, or more informally, in that many other parents are following similar practices, so you don’t feel like an outlier for turning down playdates in the early afternoon or family dinner invitations that keep kids up past their bedtimes? ”

    Scarlett, I think it’s both. If formal policies existed and folks were expected to use them, then everyone would be OK with it. If you were surrounded by like minded people, your nap Nazi rules wouldn’t be an issue either.

    But we don’t live in communities like that (at least I don’t). I get the side eye from my family because I have some hard and fast rules, or I allow more freedom than others. So I do feel like an outlier at times.

  38. It would be interesting to compare the parenting practices of people on their 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th or more children.

  39. Certainly exhaustion becomes an increasingly strong factor in parenting with each additional child.

  40. The boys were in the school spelling bee and Baby WCE (2) responded to the spelling words with a string of random letters. She’s getting the world figured out.

  41. Well, ok, so let me be clear: 1-2-3 Magic worked for me largely because it retrained *me* as much as/more than my kids. It required me to intervene earlier, when I was tired or distracted or whatever and hoped that I could ignore it and it would go away. As a result, it kept my anger down, because I always got to 3 before she pushed me so far I was ready to lose my shit. It also made me learn a dispassionate, do-not-engage style, which for someone with a tendency to turn everything into a “teachable moment” was invaluable. And the “consequence” was basically “ok, so we’re going to stop whatever fun thing you’re doing/remove you from the situation” — i.e., remove the kid from whatever the temptation/underlying problem was.

    I don’t mean it “worked” as in my children miraculously turned into perfect beings. I mean it “worked” because, after the first month-ish, the number of times they totally lost it decreased, and the number of times DH and I totally lost it decreased even more. It’s the whole “you can’t hope to stop them, you can only hope to contain them” philosophy, which was awesome for the period in which “hey, I didn’t want to actively throttle them today!” counted as a win.

    I was also nap-and-bedtime Nazi. Made visits to my dad horrible, as no matter how many times I said “my kids need dinner around 6 because they go to bed at 7:30,” he’d start making noises about figuring out what we should have around, oh, 7:15 or so. So after a few tries, I just stopped trying to push him to do it my way, and instead fed the kids at our normal time and put them to bed before dinner. I got a comment or two about wanting to see the kids at dinner and all, but whatever, it was better to just do what I needed to than to be perpetually frustrated because they refused to convert to my way of doing things.

  42. Laura, not to infantalize your dad with the whole “old age is a second childhood” thing, but he did have a lot of years to get entrenched in a habit that was apparently as important to him as bedtime was to your kids. Good for you recognizing when it was time to give it up.

  43. Those of you who paint (walls & furniture, not portraits): what kind of tape do you use? I used masking tape to carefully mask off one side. When I pulled it off, I was so disappointed. There are tons of teeny marks where the paint bled down under the tape a little bit. It looks like a held the brush sideways and dabbed with the bristles. I only have a tiny bit of paint left, but want to get a clean edge.

  44. The blue painters tape comes in different sizes too, so you should be able to find exactly what you need for your project.

  45. My parents were bedtime nazis when we were young, but by the time they became grandparents, they forgot all about that.

  46. I am in the camp that kids will eat the food they get. Of course, I take note of their likes and dislikes, and try to make things that most of them like, and also to have things on the table, like a salad, that they can eat if they are not into the main course. I also try to make things that can be customized – so a dish may be made more spicy at the table by adding some hot sauce, but people who don’t like spicy don’t need to do that. Or I can serve the rice plain with the main dish on the side, or with the main dish dumped on top according to preference.

    But I never want to get into the short order cook thing. My husband grew up with a mom who did that, and for years, she would make him hot dogs or soup or a few other things from his very restrictive tastes while juggling other special items for his sibs, etc. And then, lo and behold, he went to college and lived in a dorm where meals where family style with ONE main course. And he realized suddenly, when everyone else around him was chowing down, that he actually never needed the special meals. Now he is one of the most adventurous eaters around.

  47. My parents were never bedtime nazis and neither am I. You really can’t be if both parents are working until 7 or later, and you want to see your kids. The bonus – I never had kids who woke me at 5am!

  48. WCE, with 3 kids, I have to keep things sort of regimented. They go to summer programs in the same place, as I said above, I don’t do short order cook, and we try to schedule things like dentist visits all at the same time.

  49. Mooshi, if DS’s pickiness had developed in a different way, I’d be less tolerant of it. It started back when he was in first grade and self harming. There were about three things he’d eat then–pizza, crepes, and brats. Even now, he is more adventuresome when he is relaxed/feeling good. The loathing is all in his head. There isn’t a lot I can do about it, so I don’t mind boiling a hot dog.

  50. I make my kids eat what I serve for dinner (but generally try to serve at least one or two things they like) but do let them pick breakfast and lunch a lot of days (within reason). My son hates salmon so when we have it every few weeks I’ll try to make it with mashed potatoes (which he loves) and a vegetable he likes. He has to take one or two bites of the salmon but after that it’s up to him how much he wants to eat. My oldest used to be somewhat picky but really eats most things now.

    My younger kids are always put to bed between 7 and 8 but always sleep until 7:00/7:30 (my oldest is more in the 8:30/9:00 range now). I have a friend who feeds her kids dinner at 4:30 and in bed at 6:00 (even the 5 year old). I don’t know how she does it. Every time we have a play date, at around 4:00 she rounds them up to go home and start the routine.

  51. “I have conversations with these women who don’t expect their kids to sleep through the night until after a year old and I just do not know how they are functioning.”

    I call the first 3 years of being a parent the Dark Ages, and I’m only half-joking. We were constantly putting kids to bed, waking up in the middle of the night, or being woken up early. I had to restrain myself from physical violence when people would say “sleep when they sleep” or “enjoy every moment because it goes so fast.” Well, all I wanted to do was sleep 6 hours in a row and not be a zombie. I realized last month that I’m pretty much recovered from this stage because I almost said the it-goes-so-fast to a stranger with a young baby at the grocery store. I caught myself in time and almost punched myself.

    Both of my kids would completely break down and lose it starting at 6:00 because they were so tired. So bedtime became 6:00. If we kept them up later, which people recommended, they screamed their heads off, and they never woke up later. The next day they would be tired and cranky monsters. Oldest used to wake up at 5:30 every day. The book that helped us was “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”. It didn’t tell us how to put the kids to bed, but it told us about how important sleep was. When the oldest was a baby, his sleep schedule was something like 6p-12a then woke up every 90 minutes or so. He is super strong-willed. We had to do the crying it out to break one of the feedings when he was somewhere between 6 and 9 months old, and he cried for 2.5 hours. The worst was when he climbed out of his crib and had to convert to a toddler bed. We could not keep him in his room until we finally bought a 4 foot tall gate and let him cry at the gate all night. In protest he would strip naked and sleep by the gate.

    Fortunately, both kids have never been picky eaters. I didn’t do anything to make them not be picky – they just like most food. We don’t require them to stay at the table until everyone is done because that isn’t a battle we choose to fight every night.

    Having 2 kids close together really helped me relax the stress I put on myself as a parent. My kids’ personalities were pretty apparent from day one and a lot of how they turn out is outside of my control.

    They also go to bed at night now and sleep through the night. They still wake up super early, but they let me sleep until 7 on the weekends.

  52. @MM – We have the same approach with food. I don’t cook things that anyone hates (including myself), and I’ll make minor accommodations like keeping the spice/garnishes on the side. I’ll make pizzas that are half/half, etc. I’ll drain the broth from soup & just give DS the veggies/beans/noodles. But no separate meals.

    Luckily, DS is not all that picky & never has been. Meaning, he likes the things that a lot of kids/people like, but he’s never been one that will only eat buttered noodles. He is also fine with picking things out of food that he doesn’t like (like peppers off pizza) or eating around parts of stir fry or whatever. He eats more (and more adventurously) when he’s hungry. Nature or nuture? I don’t know. But I definitely have seen a lot more of the coddling with friends/relatives than I have seen of parents forcing their kids to eat olive & mushroom salad!

  53. S&M, I suspect if you had 3 kids all wanting special meals, each different from the other (which is the situation in our house), you might feel differently about the effort required. My daughter, who has had some similar issues to yours, would eat nothing but ramen every night of the week if we offered her that choice. My middle kid won’t go near ramen but would want noodles and sauce every night if he could. I am just not going there. Too many pots and pans. And they all eat better because if nothing else, they will eat lettuce and cherry tomatoes which I put out most nights, and that is probably healthier than ramen anyway.

    WCE is right – number of kids has an effect on parenting choices.

  54. @Atlanta – on sleep we were more like you. Regular bedtimes/naptimes, but he would nap away from home in a stroller/pack-n-play/IL’s crib, and silence during sleep was never a thing. DS sleeps like a rock anyway. (again – nature or nurture? who knows – but it was loud while he was sleeping as a baby quite a bit – including heavy construction next door to us for a good chunk of his 1st year)

  55. Ivy – my mother and MIL counseled me to run the vacuum cleaner while my oldest napped.:)

    Tcmama – that just makes me want to cry for you. I’m really such a bear without sleep.

    My BIL/SIL visited us once when their oldest was a little over a year (and an only child at that point) and they slept in the guest room which is on the first floor. My FIL was there as well for a few days and boy did we get in trouble for carrying on normal conversation in the family room (which is on the other end of the house) during nap time and after bedtime. It was a nightmare. I certainly wouldn’t be loud while a kid was sleeping but expecting adults (and a 4 year old) to whisper for two+ hours in our own house was ridiculous. And they borrowed our alarm clock and blared it on static all night long so that you could hear it even when our bedroom door upstairs was closed because their darling couldn’t sleep in silence. They haven’t been back since which is probably a mutual thing.

  56. MM, no disagreement here. But I don’t have other kids, and the change from hugely adventuresome eater was so sudden and there is other stuff going on that you don’t know about, and I can do this.

  57. We could not keep him in his room until we finally bought a 4 foot tall gate and let him cry at the gate all night. In protest he would strip naked and sleep by the gate.

    This is NOT a criticism of TCMama or anyone else. This type of anecdote, and there are SO MANY of them, just makes me think that our culture has completely screwed up something around children’s sleep. Again, no criticism of anyone — just an observation that I bet 100 years from now there will be an entirely different system.

  58. Although before I had kids I was adamantly opposed to kids sleeping with their parents, all three of mine at some point developed the habit of waking up in the night and somehow they ended up sleeping next to me. We survived somehow….I really have no memory of my youngest’s first year.

    My kids are adventurous eaters with strong dislikes. We went through the no thank you bite stage. Then the I’m not making separate meals stage, until I realized that one kid didn’t like lamb, four of us really liked lamb, one kid didn’t like crab which everyone else loved. So, I would cook lamb or crab for four of us and something else for the oddball. At some point, I was planning dinner, and told one kid, I’m making lamb, are you ok with the leftover chicken in the fridge. “Oh don’t worry Mom, I’ll eat whatever.”

    They grow up, become wonderful people and then they leave. They should leave at 13, but no, they wait until they become fun and then they leave.

  59. At some point, I was planning dinner, and told one kid, I’m making lamb, are you ok with the leftover chicken in the fridge. “Oh don’t worry Mom, I’ll eat whatever.”

    That’s how I accommodate allergies and aversions too.

  60. I will say, this discussion reminds me of the standard human reaction to conflate easy kids with awesome parenting skills. :-) I think we all run around and try different things until we find something that works; if you’re lucky, and either your kid is mellow or your approach aligns with the kid’s personality, you get it on the first or second try; if not, well, welcome to the Terrible Threes (and Fours). . . . [ask me how I know]

    I did a complete 180 on food when DS was about 5 or 6. He started off eating everything, and then at about 18 months things started going away, until his food groups were dairy, processed pork products, refined white carbs, and sugar. I was *determined* that he wasn’t going to be a picky eater like I was; I never made him clean his plate, but I made him try a couple of bites. And it just developed into a massive battle of wills. And one day, when he was sitting at the table for an hour crying his eyes out, it became clear: I had become my parents, who never believed my food aversions were real, who grew up in the era that saw it all as a power play that must be squelched. And I just stopped — my demands were putting my kid in a position where he was forced to stick to his guns, and so I was teaching him to define himself as the picky eater and therefore creating the very thing I wanted to avoid. The fact is, his aversions were just as real and just as strong as mine, and better eating habits was not worth crushing his burgeoning sense of who he was (which, if you knew the kid, you’d think was laughable anyway — he’d stick to his guns to the grave. Freaking immovable object). So, yeah, I try to avoid short-order-cooking it, like everyone else here. But I also try to have plain stuff available that I know he will like — chicken thigh, pasta, turkey, cheese, etc. The victory would not have been worth the cost.

    @Rocky/TCMama: One of my lowest parenting points was at that same “hey, I have a toddler bed, now I can get up and come visit you whenever you want” stage — most specifically, when the toddler bed coincided with a series of several months when DS would wake up in the middle of the night, every night, and refuse to go back to sleep unless we sat by him (and then would wake up as soon as we tried to leave). One night I was so PO’d and desperate that I tied his door shut. He wailed and wailed, and the next morning I woke up to find him lying at the base of the door, his face pressed to the crack. I sort of lost it there. Decided I was never going to do that again — as desperate as I was for sleep, that just “felt” like it was over my personal line. It was definitely a “what’s wrong with this picture” moment.

  61. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about allergies. DS never really wanted dairy products. I didn’t push him on it. When he had allergy testing done, we learned he has a slight milk allergy. If I can avoid gluten, rice and corn because they make me throw up, then how could I not let a kid who’s allergic to milk avoid it? We haven’t done a full panel of foods, so there may be more he’s allergic to, or he may be like his mom with weird reactions that come and go. Whatever. There are only two of us, and half the time he gets his own meals, so it’s no problem to give him what he likes. And when things are going well for him, he steps up and says “I want to try that” and takes a bite. He knows I won’t pressure him.

  62. L – I’m not offended but I don’t know what I’d do differently in 100 years or what we should have done. My oldest is intense and strong-willed and is more stubborn than I am. I read about returning the kid back to bed with no reinforcements like talking to them etc. Well, we couldn’t do that because he wouldn’t even let us put him back into bed. He didn’t want to go to bed, and he still got up early in the morning. We were all wrecks. I couldn’t make him fall asleep. And I was going crazy spending 3 hours a night trying to get him to go to bed or laying with him for 3 hours until he fell asleep. He needed sleep. I needed time at night to decompress. He didn’t sleep well in our bed and we didn’t sleep well with him in our bed. That gate saved us. And he learned to go to bed. And we all survived. And I didn’t run away.

  63. “saw it all as a power play that must be squelched. ”
    That was my sister. For years I worried that she was going to drive the kid (perfectionist to begin with) to anorexia. She and Mom couldn’t decide if I was crazy or just stupid. Then the pediatrician said not to force her to eat stuff she didn’t want and voila, kid eats strawberries year round. Funniest is that when she went on a school trip to France that involved lots of eating new things, she tried nearly everything and likes escargot–which my sister can’t fathom eating!

  64. Co-sleeping is another one that’s easy when it’s just the two of us. I have a queen-sized bed.

  65. We co-slept with all 3 kids, but always one at a time! They eventually grow out of it

  66. I’m not offended but I don’t know what I’d do differently in 100 years or what we should have done.

    Yeah, I’m thinking more along the lines of “everybody will go to bed at 6pm, get up at midnight and do stuff til 2am, then go back to bed til daylight” or something. Earlier cultures did that. Also, in ye olden days (and in other contemporary cultures), everyone sleeps in one room though not in one bed. If you have older siblings pounding on you to shut up and settle down, that might help. But I have no idea, obviously.

  67. I imagine a 100 years ago, assuming I was rich, I’d have had a wet nurse and a nanny who kept the kids in the nursery and brought the children to see me when they were on their best behavior.

  68. DD, I agree with you on the food!

    S&M, we agree on something! :)

    I will say, this discussion reminds me of the standard human reaction to conflate easy kids with awesome parenting skills. :-)

    +1000.

    DS was always an awesome sleeper. We did the exact same things with DD and finally had to let her cry it out when she was a year old. She’s always been a bad sleeper. On the other hand, she’ll try any food and DS has always been a picky eater.

  69. Since it all goes back to the calculus track, DS’ math teacher told him he can skip algebra 2 and go right to pre-calc next year. Surprising, DS is actually excited about this. I think because he would’ve been in with the same “slower” kids who are in his geometry class and hopefully this will get him away from them.

  70. In the home country, I don’t recall all the sleep issues at all. The mothers coslept with their babies on low beds. As kids grew they transitioned to sleeping in their own beds. Many slept close to their siblings. This gave them a sense of security in the absence of parents.
    Poorer people slept with their kids nearby on floor bedding.
    There was quiet but not complete silence during kids daytime naps nor was there silence as the younger kids went to bed with the noise of the household shutting down for the night.
    The thing I recall was one cousin wetting the bed and some families had kids who sleep walked.

  71. We also did CIO – for #1 it was at 12 months when I just could.not.take getting up at midnight every night any more! #2 and #3 dropped the midnight feeding on their own at about 10 months. After that they were all good sleepers.

  72. Also, I was no good at co-sleeping. I slept terribly when I tried to do it (month 1) bc I was so worried about rolling over on the baby, and I got mastitis twice when I was lying down doing the feeding and not sitting up, so the babies went to their crib/bassinet right away.

  73. I forgot the tons of family support most women in the home country got as new mothers (which continued for three months). A lot of the changing, rocking to sleep and watching over the baby was done by family. If you were breast feeding you had to do that but if the baby was bottle fed someone took care of that. At ten, I recall bottle feeding my baby cousin.

  74. Doesn’t the idea of the bogeyman originate from trying to get kids to stay in bed? Which may have been a huddle of family members sleeping in front of the hearth once upon a time, but you still don’t want your toddler waking up and deciding this would be a good time to light out for the territories, so you tell each child in his or her time about the scary things that come out after dark to hunt for children. Though I suppose you either have a chamberpot or explain that the creature doesn’t come near the outhouse due to smell.

  75. I have a friend who lives in The Netherlands now, and from her FB postings there is a huge amount of academic stress. She posted something earlier this week about her high school senior son having comprehensive exams in each subject over a period of days, with each exam lasting 3 hours, and how much he had been studying and how sleep deprived he was. It could be that she chose a challenging school and is an outlier (she’s the whole Totebag NMSF thing), but I got the impression the curriculum there is more challenging than here.

    Both my kids are graduating this month, and I just feel now that all the obsessing and worrying I did was such a waste. So much of who they are is hardwired. For most of their difficulties, they will grow out of it. But they will grow out of it on their schedule, not yours and not the school’s. They all get there, just not on the same path or on the same timeline. The best thing I could have done for my kids was really identified who/how they were by the time they wrapped up elementary school, and focused on their strengths instead of focusing on them following my arbitrary plan of How Things Should Be. I did do that eventually, and I have a great relationship with both, but I it’s obvious to me that if I hadn’t changed the relationships would not be as close. I made things that were really nothing into a bigger deal, except the food battles. My son is a ridiculously picky eater, has always had sensory issues, and I decided early on that dinner time was going to be a pleasant family time and not a battle every night. He’s still pretty picky, but eats enough to have a generally well-balanced diet as long as I am cooking.

    I have not been able to read as much lately – has Milo come back? The male voices are so outnumbered here, and I value the perspective. I hope we haven’t lost him.

  76. This is like a whole new genre spun off from the parent-like-another-nationality books — parent like people from another historical period! Raise your children like the Western European gentry of the 1700s — absolutely don’t neglect their horseback skill, make sure the boys know how to fence and hunt, make sure the girls have accomplishments like singing, embroidery, and watercolor painting, and absolutely make sure they know how to dance a menuet. Actually, I could get behind a parenting system that would allow me to send a 12 or 13 year old boy off to begin his naval career. Kind of a bummer for my daughter, though.

  77. MBT, according to my daughter’s friend mentioned in the OP, you have to pass something like 6 or 7 APs to go to university in the Netherlands. Maybe that’s to substitute for the exams you describe?

  78. Both kids slept on the floor in our room on a futon for their toddler years. They preferred it, even though they had their own beds in their own rooms. When they got older, they migrated back to their rooms. They didn’t disturb us, so we didn’t mind.

    When they were in cribs, the cribs were in our bedroom.

  79. My eldest had to be gated in his room as a 2-3 yr old for a year and he fell asleep on his blankie by the gate after a half hour of screaming. He is oppositional and had a very bumpy road until 32 or so. There were many other instances during those 30 years. Kindergarten granddaughter is cut from the same cloth, but “of course” she has a play therapist who comes to the house.

    Louise, the next door neighbor (the one who has a very religious Hindu mother and blessed his house upon moving in two years ago with a full fire altar in the living room), just had his first baby. I saw the new mom outside carrying diapers to the dumpster before the 30 days were up and I said, did you sneak out? I guess in a condo complex it is like walking in the family courtyard, not really in public. Baby has not yet appeared, but there are multiple grandmothers, aunties and cousins there constantly, and none of them live locally. I was told at the shower by the renegade cousin who divorced her Indian husband and is married again to an American that mother in law (the religious one) took older son’s baby back to India for a year after the 3 months and wants to do the same with this one. Luckily younger son, who is very cute and probably the pet, talked his parents into a love match with a girl he met here (country bourgeois girl, also in Tamil state but not from Chennai and not wealthy). I am betting the baby gets to stay with the young parents.

  80. I would sum up all the experience here and write a book, except it’s not nearly long enough. Here it is:

    There is no “right way” to raise children. Every child is different, every parent is different, and every family is different. Do what works for your family and stop listening to everyone telling you what to do.

    Of course, if Stephen Covey could turn the 7 Habits into such a massively successful empire, it shouldn’t be too hard to turn this into a book.

  81. Mémé, how did you keep him from climbing over the gate? Was it the full height of the door?

  82. Meme, it is incredibly encouraging to me to hear that your strong willed son persisted in crying at bedtime for a year. When I hear the “Your child will fall asleep peacefully after 3-7 days of crying it out” line, I think, “Bullshit.”

  83. WCE, if it helps, my youngest persisted for a lot longer than that. Every night at bedtime it was like caging a rabid wolverine, for years.

  84. It was a doggie gate, not a baby gate, and not a full height. He didn’t climb over it. maybe he was 18 mos to 2 1/2. It was 40 years ago, I don’t recall everything. Nowadays they have those door restrictors that can be opened but not enough for a kid to get through.

    I was thinking about AP exams today after the rural school discussion and realized I have no idea exactly which ones (2 or 3 per kid) my younger 3 kids took (eldest wasn’t in that tier), and that was only 20 years ago. Only ballpark recall on the SAT scores. Much like the essays, the details really didn’t seem to matter much to the admissions outcome.

  85. Meme we were probably the only couple of our ethnicity who had no parents or family come help us with our first child. Both DH and myself wanted it go it alone and we both remember each event with great clarity. We had a houseful of visitors when our second child was born and that experience just wasn’t the same.

  86. Kindergarten granddaughter is cut from the same cloth, but “of course” she has a play therapist who comes to the house.

    Yeah, but, is it helping? That’s the important question.

    HM, I didn’t mean to suggest we should all be parenting like BITD. Sorry if it came across that way.

  87. RMS – I don’t know. Those type of kids have to fall down and pick themselves up over and over again until they find a niche in this world. The therapist works with all of them in cooperative play, but mostly with her. The objective is to give her techniques to see what is actually happening around her. Also to figure out that every single constraint or adult instruction or request by another human is NOT a direct attack on her personal autonomy, sovereignty and space and does NOT require an aggressive response to defend her very self.. Her father is still a work in progress on that.

  88. Fun Fact related to parenting BITD: Kaya is the only American Girl (at least of the ones I know) whose stories they couldn’t fit into the pattern they followed with the others (Meet X, X Learns a Lesson (school- or instruction-focused), X’s Surprise, Happy Birthday, X, X Saves the Day, Changes for X). I think the “learns a lesson” and “happy birthday” ones were the problem.

  89. This quote is from a TED talk about female sexuality by Peggy Orenstein.
    “The Dutch girls said that their doctors, teachers and parents talked to them candidly, from an early age, about sex, pleasure and the importance of mutual trust. What’s more, while American parents weren’t necessarily less comfortable talking about sex, we tend to frame those conversations entirely in terms or risk and danger, whereas Dutch parents talk about balancing responsibility and joy.”

  90. Meme – I haven’t heard of grandparents in the home country removing the grandchildren from the care of their parents. The mother especially goes with the child. The tradition in my culture was for daughters to go back to their mothers house after their first child was born and remain there for at least six weeks, sometimes longer. Then when the naming ceremony was done the mother and child returned home. The father visited his in laws house.
    The first grandchild usually has all the attention lavished on them with less and less for each subsequent grandkid. This also corresponds with the grandparents getting older and unable to be as hands on as with the first.

  91. MBT said “I have a friend who lives in The Netherlands now, and from her FB postings there is a huge amount of academic stress.”
    Yes, in the Netherlands, they follow pretty much the same model as other European countries – a lot of competition to get into the universities. Remember that universities there are public and lowcost. There is a lot of academic stress at that level. Kids who go to university are expected to master several foreign languages, for example – and they are good at it! Anyone who is univeristy educated speaks English better than we do!
    Like Germany, they also have a robust system of vocational education and apprenticeships.

  92. We had a gate at the top of the stairs (bedrooms are all clustered right by the stairs). My oldest two were very good about it, and would ask to be allowed to come down. My daughter took one look at that gate and had it knocked out of the wall within an hour.

  93. In the U.K. my sibling aims for my nephew to get into grammar school. The shift to grammar school is competitive and happens in middle school.
    This choice is considered to be better than their current near by school which they selected and were granted by school choice.
    I think the other option is to put your kids in private schools which is an expensive option.
    There was quite a bit of jockeying to get into a good near by school that I thought that was it but later discovered that the grammar school
    Was yet another hurdle to be crossed. I am guessing this is a Totebag parent route rather than a universal choice.

  94. Louise I think that the paternal grandmother is very strong willed and from what I hear a prominent woman at home. The hand picked wife of the older son is clearly a bit bullied by her. I had heard of home country grandparents keeping the child until school with Chinese families, but that was the first time I had heard of it with an Indian family. It won’t happen with this baby, I am sure.

  95. “Also to figure out that every single constraint or adult instruction or request by another human is NOT a direct attack on her personal autonomy, sovereignty and space and does NOT require an aggressive response to defend her very self.. Her father is still a work in progress on that.”

    Meme-your descriptions are informative and inspirational as I also have one of those types of children. I see slow progress, which I hope will continue through the years. But I also feel beat up and battle weary at times.

  96. “The hand picked wife of the older son is clearly a bit bullied by her.”

    This is fairly common, from what I’ve seen.

  97. MBT, congrats on TWO graduations. You’ve done well by your kids, helping them figure out who they are and make the most of it.
    A lot of European countries divide kids up around middle school age and send them to schools appropriate for their abilities. There may be a later division for kids who stay in school longer, with college prep at the top of the pile. I bet your friend’s kid is in college prep classes, ie, the toughest for that age group.

    L, the way I managed co-sleeping wouldn’t be possible with two adults+child in the bed. I slept diagonally, as close to the foot of the bed, with a duvet. The babe was in the middle of the bed, about a foot away from the headboard, body oriented the usual way, with his own baby-appropriate blankies. He was just over a year old his second winter, which is when I moved to more conventional sleep positions–but to this day, I wake to adjust his covers in the night! For couples worried about rolling over on the babe, there are those co-sleeper things that keep the babe at the same level of the bed, but in their own space.

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