Despite much attention being paid to parenting and the role of adults in child development in different cultures, little is given about the impact of cultural differences on parents and their relationships with children and communities. However, an existing variety of parenting styles is not usually considered in the right way. Instead of taking lessons and identifying benefits, people focus on discovering differences and concerns.
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American parents focus on educating their children, explaining to them the necessity of certain philosophical ideas, and deluging them with principles and standards that prevent a rational understanding of truth. At the same time, American parenting is based on respect for traditions, cultural values, and history, as well as the recognition of personal achievements. Compared to Americans, British parents seem to be stricter to their children as they consider the importance of manners, differentiation between public and private behaviors, and individual assessment of progress. The review of the literature and communication with ten mothers (two of them came from Britain) are used to investigate the peculiarities of parenting in the chosen countries.
In the United Kingdom, there are many free parenting programs, the goal of which is to help parents deal with difficult behaviors, unpredictable changes, and required interventions. In the United States, not parents but children are encouraged to visit special courses and learn information on how to live, communicate, and achieve goals. This study is a part of a significant discussion about how to provide children with the best care, support, and parents.
Today, parenting is usually considered a serious discipline that promotes the development of special skills, clear standards, and a number of obligations. It seems to be normal to categorize parents, showing that some of them are responsible if they follow the instructions and have obedient children, and some of them are not quite serious if they give some freedom to their children at an early age or allow watching TV more than 20 minutes.
However, all these categories and differences should not be used to underline parental mistakes. Each culture has its own vision of parenting, and some parents find it interesting and educative to compare the styles of parenting in different nations, find out some helpful tips, and recognize concerns. In this paper, parenting from the point of view of Americans and the Britons (British people) will be evaluated not just to show their differences or similarities but to clarify the impact these experiences may have on modern parents regardless of their age, race, and nationality.
Importance of Parenting
A choice of a parenting style is an important step a family should take once a baby is born. However, in fact, the discussion of parenting details, attitudes, and styles should begin far before a child is born. It is not an easy task for a person to become a good parent. Therefore, some nations find it effective to create special programs and promote “improvement in parents’ and children’s emotional well-being and reduction in abuse” (Stevens 109).
In some cases, parents are involved in educating their children from an early age and forget about the true worth of parenting, as well as the necessity to “reach the age of philosophic inquiry with their reasoning minds intact,” saying that parents should parent and teachers should teach (Biddle 107). It is not enough to identify several parenting issues and make sure to follow them, meeting the standards and norms of society or a community. Parents have to realize that their children depend on their decisions in many different ways.
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Despite the nation or the age of parents, they cannot stop being the main examples for their children on how to behave, what to do, how to think about different issues, and how to communicate with the world around them. However, in some countries, mothers just do not have enough time to provide their children with care and knowledge. For example, in the UK, it is possible to have 52 weeks of maternity leave, whereas in the USA, mothers may expect only 14 weeks leave, and some countries do not give guarantees for a single day (Hendricks).
Therefore, the question that may be raised is not about how to become a good parent but how to find enough time and financing to complete parenting functions in the best possible way. British mothers are supported by the National Health Service in their intentions to give birth in a hospital and use a free service, and the majority of American mothers have to spend about $3,000 to use the same range of services (Hendricks). Though being aware of the importance of good parenting, some governments are not able to offer the required support.
Finally, it is necessary to discuss parenting from the point of view of social attitudes and expectations. In spite of their cultural background and nationality, parents believe that they have enough power and experience to control their children, protect against harmful impacts, and provide care. They take responsibility to feed, dress, and educate without even guessing how crucial the role of society can be. Such a variety of attitudes and styles proves that parenting continues developing.
Any new parenting culture is an achievement with the help of which it is possible to understand if a child is a single responsibility of a mother and a father or a larger community (Faircloth and Murray 1115). Though parents do not want to include society or separate people in breeding children, they cannot guess how much influence different groups may have. Such interference includes maternal support services, midwives’ visits, and the cost of childcare in regard to a family’s income (Hendricks). Many families may allow hiring a nanny and make use of professional services. Some families do not want or cannot afford nannies, believing that it is their responsibility to bring up children.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, parenting plays a crucial role in social development and personal growth. Though American and British parents demonstrate different approaches to the development of relationships with their children, their ideas turn out to be a significant contribution to many families. Parents determine the quality of a child’s life and define their skills and abilities regarding the expectations of their societies.
US Style of Parenting
Many attitudes and explanations can be given to the style of parenting that Americans may prefer. However, despite a variety of points that can be found in the literature, including “authoritarianism or democracy” in childrearing behaviors (Lassonde 729) or detachment from notions of “the self, achievement, and kinship relationships and expectations” (Faircloth and Murray 1126), the US parenting style can be better understood in terms of communication with people who are directly involved in parenting and its possible outcomes. Nowadays, parenting is closely connected to education, and if bad education is offered, it is expected to observe bad parenting (Biddle 104).
Interviews with mothers who were eager to participate in the study helped to identify a number of problematic issues of modern parenting in the United States. Three common problems were defined: social perception of parenting, governmental support, and the lack of confidence.
In the face of the fact that the American government takes numerous steps to support mothers and offer the best conditions for parenting, many families face multiple challenges regarding the necessity to bring up a child. The first challenge is observed during the parturition period. Mothers admit that they have to pay huge money in case they want to be provided with the necessary services. In the United States, an approximate cost of parturition is about $3,000, and not all mothers can afford to plan this process beforehand (Hendricks). Another challenge touches upon the breastfeeding process.
Though, in many states, breastfeeding is legally allowed, not many people actually support this idea. Many young women face the situation when they are asked to choose another place for feeding their children but not do it in public (Fowler). Almost the same attitudes are observed in the relationships that parents may or may not allow to their children. The experiences of Fowler and several interviewees prove that American mothers do not want their children sharing their food, bottles, and even toys with other unknown people, believing it is not hygienic and healthy.
In addition to specific public opinions and attitudes to children, the role of the American government cannot be ignored. Though multiple laws are created to support families and young mothers, this help is not usually enough for ordinary Americans, as well as immigrants who choose America as the country to stay and live. New parents have access to financial support, but such researchers as Fowler define it as inadequate and “far behind the U.K.’s 90 percent pay for six weeks” with no paternity leave. Parenting can be one of the most pleasant activities for parents, but the lack of parental support prevents this fact from becoming a truth.
Another feature of American parenting is attention to traditions, cultural education, and philosophies. There are many positive aspects of American parenting, the choice of which makes parents and children happy and satisfied. They include baby showers (when expecting mothers get presents and helpful pieces of advice from experienced friends), long summer vacations (when parents may spend much time with their children without the necessity to work and visit schools or other care facilities), and childproofing (when parents and caregiver have to check the safety of their children) (Hendricks).
At the same time, in the United States, parents seem to be too strict with their children in their intentions to educate, explain, and rationalize (Fowler). Biddle questions the necessity of such philosophic ideas as self-sacrifice, self-interest, or God’s obedience (104). The results of the interviews show that mothers are eager to find an explanation for their children’s behaviors, mistakes, or achievements instead of demonstrating their attitudes, praising, or scrolling. Through evaluation of a child’s behavior is an important part of parenting, American parents have to define the borderline when an assessment is safe and required and when it is dangerous and unnecessary.
UK Style of Parenting
There are several reasons to maintain the idea of UK parenting, including their attention to order, communication, and manners, recognition of mental and emotional needs of children and parents, and personal and public assessment of progress. At the same time, there are situations when British parents make decisions that are not understandable to the representatives of other cultures, including American mothers. The discussion of different cases and comparisons can help British and American parents recognize their weak and strong aspects and realize what children, as well as society, may expect.
One of the main achievements in the UK style of parenting is based on the necessity to control children and take responsibility for their behaviors. Espinoza introduces British parents as one of the strictest nations in Europe who support parental supervision as a crucial part of an educational process. Compared to Americans, many Britons restrict their children’s abilities to play or travel without appropriate adult supervision because they find the freedom of movement and going out after dark because of traffic dangers and kidnapping (Espinoza).
After communicating with two British mothers, it becomes clear that such a decision to promote restrictions and control is based on the British passion for statistics, news, and surveys. The statistical power to identify differences and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions is never ignored by parents and helps to understand costs and predict outcomes (Stevens 115). British people like to control as many things as possible, and their parenting is one of the best pieces of evidence.
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The peculiar feature of the UK parenting style is the necessity to understand that supervision, control, and parental involvement should not be compared or confused with force, despotism, and the absence of choice. In spite of the intentions to take care and avoid physical or emotional damage to a child, a British parent is not obsessed with childproofing and spanking. It is normal for a child to have a scrap or a scratch because it is one of the best ways to build a character and explain the importance of independent decisions (Hendricks). In addition, though a parent may give orders and expect a child to be obedient, UK parents are horrified with the idea of spanking a child (Hendricks). A parent has to forgive, support, and be an example for a child, but not a source of horror and terror.
At the same time, a conversation and discussion of mistakes cannot be defined as a good solution as it is observed in the United States. “In England, we just say “No” or “Stop that” or even “F*ck that hurts” and save the philosophizing for when our kid’s language skills comprise a little more than ‘bubbles’ and ‘more’” (Fowler). Yes, the use of foul language is another distinctive feature of British parents. They do not believe it is a big deal to let a bad work slip and do not accept it as the end of the world because, with time, even the most protected child can learn many such words (Hendricks). Therefore, a teaching of manners and smart communication has its own peculiarities, and only a true British person can understand this attitude.
Lessons from UK and US Parents
The quality and outcomes of behaviors observed among the US and UK children prove that the differences between cultures should not be used as the means to identify weak or strong aspects of parenting. The assessment of styles is a chance to understand how to create a perfect parent, meet cultural and social expectations, and promote family traditions. In the UK, parents have a chance to visit special courses and learn how to support their children, how to deal with deviant behaviors, and how to choose professional help in caring and teaching (Stevens 116).
In the United States, it is expected that children, but not parents, have access to special programs, training courses, and care facilities where they can ask for help, learn new material, and develop their skills, and the task of a parent is to choose a good option for a child (Biddle 105). In both cases, it is possible to achieve similar results, and they may be either positive or negative, depending on children, their readiness to cooperate, and the level of parental involvement.
The main lesson that can be learned from American and British parenting experiences is that it is hard and usually impossible to predict children’s behaviors. Even if parents do their best to provide their children with care, understanding, support, and love, there is always a chance to face certain emotional, physical, and behavioral problems. Parents may be challenged at any level, and their job is not to blame a child, a government, or society for being an imperfect source of information and care.
The US-style of parenting seems to be a good example for families who expect their first child. Parents have to follow traditions, try to find out a rationale, and offer as much protection to their children as possible. They are ready to spend much money, choose the best care services, read multiple books, and communicate with experts.
A family is a source of important lessons about how to develop relationships with other people, including such factors as “self-regard, reciprocity, trust, the nature of their commitments to others, and the role of adults in their lives” (Lassonde 717). Authority and discipline should play a role in parenting. However, it is important to know the line, the crossing of which can turn a good mother into a bad or faulty obsessive parent.
To improve an understanding of a good parent, the recognition of several British approaches to parenting can be recognized. UK parents show how crucial care and supervision can be, but they establish the boundaries when these restrictions are appropriate, e.g., during travel or parties after dark. They underline the worth of good manners and communication with children. Still, they do not impose the necessity to talk about serious topics and develop moral and philosophical discussions. Sometimes, it is just enough to hug a child and look them right in the eyes, even if they are full of tears and hope.
To conclude, it is possible to say that parenting styles in the United Kingdom and the United States may vary from multiple points of view. However, the essence of parenting remains to be the same in any community and any nation. Parenting is not only responsibility or an activity that has to be performed by an adult when a child is born. It is a gift with a number of outcomes. Though these outcomes may be both negative and positive, parents should never forget one simple truth that the connection between parents and children is priceless, and their task is to improve the quality of these relationships to its possible extent.
Biddle, Craig. “Bad Parenting, Bad Education, and the State of America.” The Objective Standards. 2016, pp. 104-107.
Espinoza, Javier. “UK Parents Among ‘the Strictest in Europe’, Report Says.” The Telegraph. 2015. Web.
Faircloth, Charlotte, and Marjorie Murray. “Parenting: Kingship, Expertise, and Anxiety.” Journal of Family Issues, vol. 36, no. 9, 2015, pp. 1115-1129.
Fowler, Ruth. “The Moment I Realized It’s Hard to Be a Mom in America.” Huffpost. 2015. Web.
Hendricks, Sara. “The 20 Biggest Differences Between British and American Styles of Parenting.” Insider. 2017. Web.
Lassonde, Stephen. “Authority, Disciplinary Intimacy & Parenting in Middle-Class America.” European Journal of Development Psychology, vol. 14, no. 6, 2017, pp. 714-732.
Pedersen, Sarah. “The Good, the Bad and the ‘Good Enough’ Mother on the UK Parenting Forum Mumsnet.” Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 59, 2016, pp. 32-38.
Stevens, Madeleine. “The Cost-Effectiveness of UK Parenting Programmes for Preventing Children’s Behaviour Problems – A Review of the Evidence.” Child & Family Social Work, vol. 19, no. 1, 2014, pp. 109-118.