|Meghan Peterson Fenn|
"Raising children can be difficult at the best of times. The way we parent is determined by many factors and our cultural environment and heritage are definitely important. I am an American mother raising my three children in the UK with a British husband. Because my children were born in England, I haven’t had the experience of bringing them up in the USA so it wasn’t until I visited my parents in my home country that I realised just how ‘English’ a mother I am.
The way I parent is greatly influenced by British parenting culture and although I try and put an American spin on some things, where possible, I am more of a British mother than an American mother. Even though I did not grow up in England, nor am I a British national, the way I parent is certainly more English than American.
For example, it is not accepted to reprimand your child by spanking in the UK. In the USA, it is more accepted (spanking on the bottom – NOT hitting your child) and therefore more common and parents are not shocked when they hear of it or see it happening. I think it is actually illegal in the UK! It is also common practice to treat your child as an equal and as a friend in the UK. Parents are more tolerant in general whereas in the US, there are more definite rules and lines that children are not meant to cross and parents, in general are stricter than parents in the UK.
It is also not as acceptable in England to offer parenting advice to friends and family. This can be a real No No with some parents who take offence when offered suggestions or advice and view it as interfering rather than helpful. British people like their privacy and find it impolite to interfere. However, when asked directly, I’ve found they are happy to offer parenting advice. And similarly, when it’s done online where there is a layer of anonymity, British mothers are more open to giving and receiving parenting advice.
These are just a few examples of things I’ve come across while bringing up my children in Britain. What have you discovered? Are you like Amanda – British and raising children in the Netherlands? What challenges have you had regarding raising your children within a different parenting culture?
I very much consider myself to be a third culture parent and sometimes wish I had the strength and gumption to be more ‘American’ in my parenting style. But it’s hard to go against the flow especially when you want to fit in and make friends and you want your children to fit in and make friends as well. I know my mother thinks I don’t discipline my children at all and she thinks the British parenting style is far too relaxed. In the past, this has caused a few difficulties with our close relationship and has had a knock-on effect with her relationship with her British grandchildren.
There are those parents who parent however they see fit no matter where they live or what the parenting culture calls for. Look at the Tiger mother, for instance.
How much does our cultural setting influence the way we parent? How does that effect our relationship with our children and our own families ‘back home’? I am also very influenced by my British husband and the way he parents. But I suppose that is another blog post topic altogether!"
If you want to learn more about Meghan Peterson Fenn, author of Bringing Up Brits: Expat Parents Raising Cross-Cultural Kids in Britain head over to www.bringingupbrits.co.uk. You can read an excerpt from her Bringing Up Brits book here.