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21 US Parenting Norms That the Rest of the World Thinks Are Strange

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Parenting norms vary globally and follow diverse beliefs, values, and traditions. These norms are often shaped by cultural practices, societal expectations, economic conditions, and religious beliefs.

Some parenting norms can confuse those who do not belong to a particular culture or community. Certain peculiar parenting norms for Americans may seem confusing at first glance to the rest of the world. Does that make them right or wrong? Not really. It’s another way of raising children that may differ from what others are accustomed to.

Here are 21 things American parents do that might surprise the rest of the world.

1. Baby Showers

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Baby showers are a beloved American tradition in which expectant mothers are ‘showered’ with gifts for their unborn baby. This event is unique to American culture and can often seem extravagant to those from other countries. The cost of a baby shower, including decorations, food, and gifts, can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

In some cultures, it is considered bad luck to celebrate a baby before it is born, such as in Chinese culture, where it is customary to wait until after the baby’s arrival to hold a celebration.

2. Gender Reveal Parties

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If a baby shower wasn’t enough, another uniquely American tradition is the gender reveal party, which often involves grand gestures like colored smoke or fireworks to announce whether the unborn baby is a boy or girl.

This celebration of gender before birth is not as commonly celebrated in other countries. It might be seen as an unnecessary expense that could be better spent elsewhere.

3. Early Independence

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American parents often encourage independence in their children from a young age. This might include expecting them to move out and support themselves financially after they finish high school or college, which can seem quite early compared to other cultures.

In many other countries, it is common for children to live with their parents until they are married or have a stable job.

4. Helicopter Parenting

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Some American parents exhibit ‘helicopter parenting,’ where they are overly involved and protective of their children. This parenting style can seem excessive to people from cultures where children are encouraged to be more self-reliant and free to roam more.

However, helicopter parenting is also a product of American society’s safety and security concerns, where parents aim to shield their children from potential harm.

5. Saving College Tuition

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Given the high cost of tuition in America, it’s common for parents to save for their children’s college education. This financial burden is less common in countries, particularly in Europe, where university education is heavily subsidized or free.

6. No Paid Parental Leave

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The U.S. is one of the few developed countries that does not mandate paid parental leave. This often means American parents return to work sooner after the birth of a child than parents in other countries, a practice that can seem shocking to those from countries with extensive paid parental leave policies.

Many countries recognize the importance of parental leave for both the well-being of parents and the child, providing anywhere from several weeks to years of paid time off.

7. Extracurricular Activities

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American parents often enroll their children in numerous extracurricular activities, from sports to music lessons, to build their skills and enhance their college applications. This emphasis on structured, skill-building activities outside school is less common in some cultures.

Too much structure and pressure can lead to burnout for children and parents, causing confusion or concern for those not used to this approach.

8. School Fundraisers

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It’s common for American parents to participate in school fundraisers, selling everything from cookies to wrapping paper. These fundraisers, often necessary to fund school programs, are not as prevalent in countries where the government funds schools more fully.

For those from countries with free education, the idea of paying extra for school supplies or activities might seem confusing.

9. Emphasizing Sports

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In the U.S., there is a significant emphasis on sports, with some parents dreaming of their child becoming a college or professional athlete from a young age. This intense focus on athletic achievement is less prominent in many other countries.

Foreign universities and sports aren’t usually associated with their educational system, keeping them completely separate. Thus, college scholarships for sports are a uniquely American custom.

10. Car Culture

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The dominance of car culture in the U.S. means American children often rely on their parents exclusively for transportation far longer than children in countries with robust public transportation systems.

For those from countries with more accessible public transit, it may seem strange to see teenagers still relying on their parents for rides instead of taking a bus or train.

11. Fast Food

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American parents are often criticized for the prevalence of fast food in their children’s diets. While fast food is enjoyed worldwide, the convenience and low cost make it a more frequent choice in the U.S.

Many of these foods have even entered the American education system, with fast food companies providing meals for school lunches and sponsoring sports teams.

12. Parent-Teacher Associations

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Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) play a significant role in American schools. This level of parental involvement in education is less common in some other countries.

PTAs conduct fundraisers, organize school events, and provide a means for parents to voice their concerns and suggestions for the school. This level of involvement may be seen as excessive or intrusive by those from cultures where education is primarily left to teachers and administrators.

13. Emphasis on Self-Esteem

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American parents often place a great deal of emphasis on building their children’s self-esteem (indeed, an important thing). This is reflected in practices such as participation trophies, where children are rewarded simply for participating in an event or competition.

Some cultures may view this as coddling or falsely boosting a child’s self-esteem, while others see it as an important factor in building confidence and resilience.

14. Children’s Healthcare Costs

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The high cost of healthcare in the U.S. means American parents often face significant medical bills for their children’s care. This contrasts countries with universal healthcare, where such costs are covered by the state.

For American parents, this financial burden can be a significant source of stress and worry.

15. Heavy Use of Technology

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American children are often exposed to screens from a very early age. Whether it’s television, tablets, or smartphones, this heavy reliance on technology for entertainment and even education can seem concerning to individuals from cultures where technology is more restricted for young children. However, the lines are blurring everywhere these days.

16. Political Indoctrination

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In some households, American parents can be quite vocal about their political beliefs, which may influence their children’s views. This early political indoctrination can be surprising to people from countries where political discussions are considered inappropriate or are generally kept away from children.

17. Medicating Children

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The U.S. has some of the highest rates of diagnosed childhood ADHD in the world, and American children are medicated much more than in other countries. This reliance on medication as a solution for behavioral and attention issues is highly controversial in many parts of the world.

18. Parenting Books and Manuals

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American parents are known for their reliance on parenting books and manuals. The U.S. parenting book industry is massive, covering topics from toilet training to child psychology. This reliance on experts for parenting advice is unusual in cultures where family traditions and grandparent wisdom play a significant role in child-rearing.

19. No Reliance of Family

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Many American families are spread out across the large country. This means that grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other family members will not be around to support and help care for a child. In fact, many people globally rely on their family for support, while in the U.S. it is almost a stigma to have grandparents so involved- with most relying on daycare for that.

20. Daycare

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In the U.S., due to lack of parental leave, sadly many moms must leave their children in the hands of daycare staff earlier than they’d like- even as early as 6 weeks old. In many parts of the world, such as Europe, the norm is closer to 1 to 3 year later.

21. Spread Out Families

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As mentioned, in many parts of the world, extended families stick together to support each other. Grandparents take an active role in child raising for many. While in the US, it’s common to see families spread across the giant country- only getting to see each other once a year if they’re lucky.

Every culture has its own unique approach to parenting, and what works in one culture might not in another. While some of these American parenting practices might seem unusual or even shocking to those from other cultures, they are a reflection of the values and societal norms within the U.S. It’s important to remember that diversity.

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Choosing a name for a newborn is a weighty responsibility for new parents, as it wields a profound influence on a child’s identity. Yet, what unfolds when the selected name emerges as undeniably cringe-worthy? Some parents go to great lengths to deviate from tradition, occasionally venturing into the domain of bewilderment, which leaves others puzzled and scratching their heads.

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