Being multilingual

Multicultural life and parenting style

updated in 2018

I have often been asked which parenting style I have with my children. My reaction is  similar to the question “where do you come from?”. I don’t have a clear answer and would list up all the different parenting styles I know. I’m sure that the cultures I’ve been in touch with did influence me for the way I parent my children.

Our society and our culture determine the way we raise our children. But do we adapt our parenting style when we move, change country and culture?

I know that this sounds a bit like the clichés I’m usually eager to avoid, but I recognize a few specific italian characteristics in my parenting style, but on the other hand I can identify particular german, swiss, dutch and english ones as well.

I want my children to be quite independent, take their own decisions and learn the consequences (I am a trained love&logic parent).

When it comes to food, I want it to be as fresh as possible. Even if this means for me to wake up early in the morning or to cook twice or three times a day. I want my children to have fresh home made food. I don’t like processed food at all for so many reasons… – And I prefer the cucina mediterranea (although I must confess that especially during the winter period I also like German or Swiss dishes a lot! )

My children learn to be organised and to be on time, because it’s a sign of respect in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland … I also like them to be polite, respectful, but not in a way that they say things they don’t mean. I don’t want them to be nice at any cost (see here). I don’t expect them to sit quietly at the table for hours while I have a conversation with my friends (not as the one described in Pamela Druckermann’s book). – I’m quite strict but not inflexible.

I don’t give any kind of physical punishments. I tell my children about the consequences of their behavior and encourage them to think about their decisions. I can raise my voice and am very determined. Some consider I’m too strict, but I prefer my kids knowing the boundaries.

Something I’ve noticed and that made me smile is, that when I get upset or if I want my children to do something quickly, I talk in Italian; it seems more natural to me. And I can talk faster than when I talk German. – My children always know that if I talk Italian, things get serious.

I’m a real “mamma chioccia”, a very mothering kind of mum. I know that some might consider my parenting style too close – I like to hug and to cuddle my kids – but to be honest, I don’t care. I want to let them know that I love them. And I want them to not feel uncomfortable to show their feelings – this is something that some of my friends who grew up in cultures where physical intimacy is not common, don’t understand. But that’s fine. It’s how I am and the way I’m raising my children.

My parenting style differs from how my parents raised me. I am not that kind of person who would simply do things “because that’s how it’s done” or “that’s how I was raised”. I naturally question many things and parenting is one of them. I observe others, see how people do things in other countries and if I consider them interesting and worth to try them out myself, I do that. I like how in the Northern countries very young children spend lots of time outdoors even in the coldest months. The Italian part of me found it difficult to consider this for my children, but I encouraged my children to play outdoors whenever possible and I followed the German/Swiss/Danish/Swedish etc. maxime “there is no bad weather, there is only bad clothing”. I didn’t let my children play with knives when they were 3 yo, but they helped in the kitchen from 2yo onwards and used proper knives very early (under my supervision). Some German friends were appalled to see a Nigerian friend ask her 11 yo to prepare the lunch boxes for her siblings: I don’t see a problem if the child is good at it. It fosters competence and confidence, and one of my daughters liked doing it too.

I never questioned my parenting style and for some aspects, I think it’s more or less similar to how I grew up, but it is very much tinted with all the other parenting styles I observed, I read about and adopted with my multilingual and multicultural children.

Multicultural Parenting

I had my children relatively late. I am a confident person and I do raise my children alone, without extended family nearby. I somehow naturally know what I must do and follow my guts. – A few years ago I would ask my sister for advice (she lives even further afar than my parents), because I really appreciated her opinion and considered her a wonderful parent, but now that my children are 15 and 12 (+12) years old, I know how to navigate the waters of international parenting and let my children guide me. Yes, because they might prefer Chinese meals, Australian pancakes, Indian food, read mangas and fold their clothes the Asian way. I truly enjoy the variety, the diversity in our “parenting”. And I actually would say that our children contribute 60% to the styles we adopt and I’m enjoying all the phases of this journey!

What is your parenting style?

Do you think the cultures you’ve been in touch with did influence you in your parenting style?


13 replies »

  1. I think I have a more relaxed style of parenting (not Polish at all!) My parents (raised in France and the Netherlands) had a very different parenting style than their peers- and they had American friends and they used the Benjamin Spock book with us. I don’t really have a defined parenting style although I do care a lot about my relationships with the children- much like the attachment parenting method. I cook once a day, I think “live and let live” would be my parenting motto.

    • Thanks for sharing Olga. My parenting style is also very different from my parents’ one. They were very permissive in one way but quite authoritarian in another. It were the seventies and people were experimenting with different parenting styles – but my parents were quite consistent.
      I also care a lot about my relationship with the children, but I’m more the authoritative parent. I mentioned the cooking because one of the person involved in that discussion about parenting styles told me that she cooked once a week, freezed everything and just heated it up when needed. I don’t have this habit (but that’s not the topic of this post)…

  2. I try to cook every day, but don’t always succeed, but usually I do.I think I am different than my parents- who were authoritarian in some situations and permissive in others- I was allowed things my peer couldn’t do, but was not allowed things everybody did. I am different in a way that I don’t think of allowing or not allowing something, rather I try to redirect their attention, to explain, to model, to give an example. I am not perfect, but I do work hard on this.

  3. Every day I observe so many different parenting styles, often considered typical for a certain culture, and I was wondering if at some point we adapt our former one – the one we intended to have while your children were babies – to the one of the majority of the families we’re in contact with every day when our children grow up.
    We all do adapt our style while our children are growing, but don’t we also adapt to different social, cultural environments? And doesn’t it affect also our very personal parenting style?

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  5. I consider myself being somewhere in between. I am not too lenient but neither am I too strict. I don’t use physical punishment for my children but I must confess I have unfortunately lost my patience a few times and raised my voice beyond recognition….I am a cuddler (although my daughter is not really the cuddling type-unless she wants something ;). I tell my children all the time how much I love them and that they mean the world to me. I never lie to them and as a result they trust me. I make mistakes as I believe every parent does but I try to look at the big picture and not go down the guilty lane. Being a full time, stay at home mom is wonderfully challenging. That is how I would describe it.

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