About how parents discipline their kids across cultures

In a huffingtonpost article you can find a video (see here below) about how parents discipline their children across the cultures that made me decide to write this post. We all know that every culture has her own method to “discipline” the children and has different norms. (Personally, I don’t like the term “to discipline” because it implies a (usually physical) punishment, but that’s my point of view).


Especially in multicultural families parents are often on the crossroad over the discipline of the children. Some cultures (still?) use physical pain to teach or control behaviour.

This has changed in many western countries during the last 40 years and many children are now “used to time-outs and loss of priviledges” (0:46). More and more parents try to model the desired behaviour and encourage freedom of speech.

In Sweden a no-hitting law has been in effect since 1979, in 2009 the council of “Europe initiated a complete ban on corporal punishment in the home, school, penal system and care settings” (1:13). “By 2010 at least 22 members states, including Germany, had rectified the ban making it a criminal offense” (1:20), but “notable holdouts include France and the United Kingdom”… In the US it’s left up to each state to decide. In China and Japan, discipline and obedience are still pretty important. And “in most of Africa, physical force is the norm, although South Africa is joining” the countries who ban the corporal punishment.

We all know that this is a very delicate topic and for some of us it is a serious issue in their own multicultural family. With this post I don’t want to be judgemental towards other cultures and their ways to raise children, I’m just curious to know how multicultural families who have very different ways to raise their children, cope with this.

Do you experience big differences about how to raise your children in your multicultural family?

Especially during holidays when we visit family, we have to face different methods of raising children (not only regarding the topic of this post). – How do you deal with this and what are your advices for young families?

I would like to quote the speaker of this video who says at the end that:

“Perhaps we are asking the wrong question.

Is our goal as a parent to control our kids or teach them self control?

How do we raise a child capable of independent thought and action, respectful and mindful of others?

This little person will theoretically develop into a productive member of the society.

Is there an universal answer to such question across the globe or does it vary based on where you are raising your child?”

10 replies »

  1. This is so interesting. But even the quote at the end is culturally based – “How do we raise a child capable of independent thought and action, respectful and mindful of others?” What seems like independence in one culture could seem completely disrespectful in another. And what if there is no cultural value to independent thinking and acting? What if it’s far more important that the child know they are part of a larger group and respond in that way? Thanks so much for bringing up this topic. It’s huge.

  2. Thank you, Marilyn, for pointing out this aspect of the quote at the end. I thought the same when I wrote it. The video I’m quoting is obviously from a point of view of the western world, and this makes it less objective and, intrinsically judgemental… – When I compare my values to those of my friends who have opposite values and they explain them to me, those other ones seem very obvious and logic to me in that other culture, but not acceptable in the “western world”. I know several families who are a mix of these cultures and really struggle about this topic. Some of them did agree to adapt to the culture they live in, but as they move quite often between let’s call them “western and eastern cultures” (it’s much more complex than that…), it makes it really difficult for them to stay coherent.

  3. As one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents, I think I would be either dead at the hands of a Utah law enforcement official or spending life in prison if my wise old grandmother had not adopted me and given me love AND discipline. And I mean discipline. She laid down the rules and told me what would happen if I broke the rules. Guess what happened when I broke the rules? Yep, exactly what she said would happen. Well, duh. It only took be a couple of times to learn………….

    • You were very lucky to have your grandmother! Thank you very much for sharing this here: it’s really important to have not only “nice and easy” experiences. – Rules are important – not only for children or young people. And we all have to learn the consequences. Sometimes it helps to learn them on an early stage, sometimes it takes a bit longer, but I’m really glad that your grandmother did such a great job, and that you managed to become such a fantastic photographer and blogger! I’m glad I found you. And thanks for your comments. 😉

      • What are you doing up so early in the morning………..Oh, wait. I’m the one who’s up so early in the morning. Hmmmm. It might be time for a catnap with Zoey the Cool Cat…

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