What is Wrong with “American” Parenting?: Insights into and Lessons from Danish and German Parenting

American Parenting

What is wrong with American parenting, if there is even such a thing as “American” parenting in the first place? Popular articles will have us believe that there are common parenting values that those of us who live in the United States hold dear no matter what our individual co-culture may be.

Everybody has an opinion and everybody believes they know better than you when it comes to raising your own kids. Even non-parents will offer you advise, solicited or not, just because they had some baby-sitting experience or are aunts or uncles. To further the insanity that has taken over parenting cultures (e.g., free range parenting, helicopter parenting, attachment parenting), online forums, trolls, not to mention random people you meet at places like grocery stores and doctors’ offices will judge you and even admonish you and for doing something that may be wrong in their self-righteous parenting world.

To write about a Pan-US/American parenting style is impossible. We are not a homogenous society like are some far east Asian cultures. We are purposely diverse and this speaks to our rich immigration history, voluntary, or by any other way. Given the many freedoms we enjoy in the United States, it is not impossible to imagine that cultures after cultures that assimilated and integrated into this country, brought with them their own native influences of parenting.

While previous immigrant groups may have accepted the parenting values prevalent in the period that they arrived in the US, new immigrants tend to, at least, anecdotally, hold on to their native lessons of upbringing more strongly and subsequently use them on their own children. It is therefore not an entirely surprising thing that a book like Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom ruffled so many feathers, perhaps forever shaking the very foundation of “American” parenting. If nothing else, Amy Chua’s book suddenly made aware the fact that in reality, American parenting is not homogenous at all. Just because a child is born in the United States, that child does not automatically get raised “American” and in fact, is variously influenced in how she or he gets raised depending on the parents’ own co-cultural/ethnic/immigrant background.

Understandably and one’s individual cultural influences on parenting notwithstanding, there may certainly be some quintessentially US-American values that we all buy into given the required socialization into US-society that is demanded of our kids (and us). However, parenting is a process. For those of us open to new perspectives, there is always something new to learn no matter where those insights come from. As the wisdom goes, we learn more about ourselves when we learn about (and from) others.

In that spirit, in a special look at parenting this month, we bring you two European styles of parenting, Danish, and German. We read and reviewed ‘The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids’ by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl, and the recently launched, ‘Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children’ by Sara Zaske (affiliate links). We also interviewed the authors to learn more about their experiences researching, living, and writing their books.

First, in our interview with author Jessica Joelle Alexander, we take a closer look at Jessica’s own transition from a non-maternal woman to one writing books about parenting, and her opinions and her perspectives on “American” parenting, among others. 

Jessica is a US-American married to her Danish husband and ‘The Danish Way of Parenting” developed from her experiences in her own family.

To read our interview with Jessica Joelle Alexander, go to Page 2

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