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Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  449 ratings  ·  91 reviews
A primer on the world's best parenting strategies—with eye-opening research on the surprising disadvantages lurking in the typical American childhood.

Research reveals American kids today lag well behind the rest of the world in terms of academic achievement, happiness, and wellness. Meanwhile the battle over whether parents are to blame for fostering a generation of help
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 2nd 2013 by Avery
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Community Reviews

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This book had some interesting ideas and I'm glad I read it but I found the tone of the book grating in parts because it seems biased. It's only semi-scientific as it frequently mixes research and anecdotes. Some examples of things I didn't like:

1) The book gushes about how wonderful parenting is in Japan and how happy children are. Never mentioned is that Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates. I found online research that showed that in recent years the adolescent suicide rate in J
I know that I have read too many parenting books when I pick up a new one and think, "There is no new information here." The title is somewhat misleading, as the author draws from a relatively few number of countries. This book is kind of a Japanese version of Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, with some discussion of the Scandavian countries (and even less about China and Korea) thrown in.

Gross-Loh is an American mother of 4 children who has raised t
I think my problem with this book is how generalized it is. Gross-Loh paints a picture of adorable, polite, responsible Japanese children made out to be preferable to the hateful, rude, helpless American child. On the surface, she has a point. But it's not 100% accurate. (Note: she includes other cultures in her observations, but because of her personal experience in Japan, that dominated. I was okay with that. I lived in Japan during the same period she did, so I was interested in what she had ...more
Living abroad for a couple of years opened my eyes to the major differences in parenting around the world. As Gross-Loh illustrates, each culture has different parenting priorities and values, but our main objective is for our children to thrive. It was fascinating to read about how different cultures go about this.
Each chapter in the book focuses on a different subject (eating, independence, hoverparenting, ect). The author throws out stats, highlights how US parents address the subject, and t
Liz Chapman
Very insightful. My biggest takeaway is this: We try to make our babies too independent too fast, and then don't expect them to be independent enough later. In the U.S., we do things like "sleep training" and give our babies their own sleeping spaces so that they'll learn to be independent. But they're just babies--they aren't well-developed enough yet to even know what independence is. So then they spend the rest of their childhoods trying to get the love and attention from their parents they w ...more
Interesting, well researched book about differences in child-rearing approaches (sleeping, feeding, independence, responsibility) across the US, Japan, China, and several European countries (I don't recall anything about India). While not meant to be a self-help book, the author does give suggestions at the end of each chapter how US parents might adopt some of the parenting styles (e.g., how to instill greater sense of responsibility to small kids, etc.).

The big take-away for me is that many o
Jan 14, 2014 J rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: parenting
I recommend reading the last section “Conclusion: It Takes a Village” first. You will get a good feel for the author’s granola, UNISEF, UCLA-morals, “it takes a village” point of view. If you choose to read the entire book, you will be adequately prepared.

I did read the entire book and found it interesting in some parts. It was far from the most interesting or helpful foreign parenting book I’ve read though. The author leans heavily on her personal experiences in Japan and Sweden with anecdotal
Keren Threlfall
(More comprehensive review forthcoming. Excellent, excellent book encouraging American parents, in particular, to step back and look at the range of parenting practices across societies and over the course of history, rather than simply holding up the current American norm as best (or even normative for humans) simply because it is the American way. The American psyches that we esteem so highly (such as self-reliance, independence, and toughness; and that do indeed benefit us in other realms) pl ...more
Anna Bastow
Parenting in USA is so hard! I came as an adult and there was a lot of things that I thought I knew about babies. Then the moment I started to have my kids everything was different and that questioned my choices and my sanity. This book really gave me the perspective I needed and I think that it will help me navigate the challenges of being a multicultural mom raising kids in the USA.
If anything the take away from this is Relax. What is considered the word of God in parenting in the USA is consi
This book offers an engaging and well-researched comparison about parenting philosophies across different cultures. The author is well-traveled and has provided an insightful look at how Americans contrast against people from other countries. I was impressed with her ability to concisely discuss concepts such as caring for infants, the material possessions we buy for our children, the food we provide, how we monitor and educate our children, the way we supervise our kids, the activities we occup ...more
Ly-ann Low
Having grown up in Singapore, formed my adult perspective in Australia, worked my first job - with young kids in Japan, furthered my teaching career in Singapore and now bringing up a new family in Hong Kong, I found this book understanding of the perspective of what a global family looks like in our current times. No more are we bound only by (the good and bad of what) we were brought up with but also learn from the good and the bad we see in the family upbringing and values around us.

It puts i
One of the most thought-provoking books I have read in a while! I picked it up on a whim at an awesome indie bookstore (The Curious Iguana in Frederick, MD), and read it very quickly, finding each chapter to have interesting nuggets of information regarding how children in different countries are raised and educated. One chapter certainly made me wish I'd grown up in the Finnish educational system, while another chapter really opened my eyes about the prevalence of co-sleeping around the world a ...more
Annagrace K.
This was a great read! Though some of the chapters seemed like old news to me or not really relevant to my current life (how babies sleep around the world, how other cultures teach their kids to eat, etc.) it was absolutely worth it for the snapshots and studies of education in European and Asian countries and for the chapters on self-esteem, self-control, and character. Some of her findings and claims have challenged a lot of what I do daily, while others confirmed suspicions I've begun to have ...more
Gwendoline Van
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Courtney Melchor
We can learn from Finland, Sweden, Japan, China, Germany, and others. Teaching children by allowing them more autonomy paired with high expectations is warranted. Kids will learn to pull their own weight before they become adults with this mindset. In addition, Norway speaks of "the blessing of a skinned knee" - the notion that children toughen themselves as they experience and overcome challenges. American parents must be aware of their tendency to be overly involved and must have faith in thei ...more
When I first read the title of this book in a lonely bookstore near Orlando, Florida - I was really excited to read it, thinking it was the exact book I was searching for. Something that told me all about different parenting styles from all over the world, from all different cultures.

This is not that book.

Though there were a few pages or paragraphs that I learned from (thus the two stars), most of the book was a compilation of how American parents are doing everything wrong, how Japanese parent
After I read this book, I understood better why so many American kids are rude and self-entitled. I live in one of the states in the US with the so-called "best education" in the country, but going to the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon is like going to an exposition of the grandest show of self-entitlement.

At the core of Gross-Loh's argument is that children need good structure. This is not a harkening back to the days of "spare the rod, spoil the child." Not at all. Instead, it is a despe
Since reading this book, I have found myself talking about it frequently. Things I learned from it and perspectives I gained have been relevant in several conversations on a myriad of topics. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone, but especially parents. I loved the over-arching message of this book which was: Just because everyone around you is doing it this way, doesn't mean it's the only way to do it. So much of what we view as "normal" is actually a cultural norm, not a universal one. It was liber ...more
It was OK that's why I gave it only 3 stars. The author is at her best when she is discussing other cultures. Japan and Scandinavia feature heavily in these discussions, I wish she could have included more countries in her studies. Plus she never really mentions was the measure of success in parenting standards. It seems to be implied by all the studies she includes that Americans seem to be failing as parents. If she had stuck to simple differences in expectations and practices perhaps I would ...more
Really enjoyed this book. It was so interesting to read about the way people parent in Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Finland, and other countries. This book made me realize my husband and I should be living and raising our daughter in Finland--our parenting style and the supports (communal/societal, governmental) given there would fit so well! The thing I find most difficult about parenting in America is that I find very few parents (or even relatives) who share our beliefs (for example, kids are ...more
I have so many thoughts about this book--the chapter on sleep about how co-sleeping is the norm world wide made me want to argue the points--so did the chapter on Finnish education--how can we be sure the education system is better when poverty is at 6% vs 30%, and the population is the size of a small state like Oregon? Also--Japan was WAY overemphasized in this survey (since the author had lived there), and the very serious shortcomings that Japanese culture has were given mention, but general ...more
I generally don't give star ratings for parenting books, but this one is worth a good review.

I was originally intrigued by the idea of comparing parenting styles across cultures when I learned about the popular book Bringing Up Bebe. I have not read that book, but some of the reviews made it sound like it would be a little too far on the "French parents have it all figured out" and "Ur doin' it rong" side of things for my taste. The author of Parenting Without Boarders was raised in the US by i
Sarah Eiseman
Originally posted on

A blog I enjoy following, City Kids Homeschooling, recently posted this book on their Facebook Page, so I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. I’ve really enjoyed other books that Kerry has suggested in the past, and this book, by Christine Gross-Loh, was no exception.

In general, I’m very wary of reading “parenting” books. It’s really such a broad topic and there are so many conflicting beliefs that it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees someti
An interesting read that has found its way into many of my conversations the past month. The author discovers after living in Japan that what she thought were universal parenting norms, were in fact cultural. She discusses some of the biggest differences between the way Americans raise their children and parents from countries in Japan, Korea, Denmark, Holland, France, and Italy (and maybe others?). The issues she touches on are cosleeping, consumerism, eating habits, self-esteem, hoverparenting ...more
I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. I think I liked the premise of it better than the product itself. That isn't to say there weren't chapters that were thought-provoking, only that the overall book seemed to be lacking something. The emphasis is heavily on Japan, and as the author lived there and sent her children to school there, this is appropriate. As a result, though, some of her discussions and comparisons with other cultures feel very cherry-picked. As if she spoke to one or two ...more
After what I thought was a slow been-there, done-that start with the co-sleeping chapter (really, hasn't everybody figured out that co-sleeping is the right thing to do?? ;-) guess some things never change . . . ), I have been thoroughly enjoying Gross-Loh's anecdotes and analysis. I wish there were more discussion throughout the book about parenting models for the large percentage of the American population (the figure quoted in the book is that 23% of American children live in poverty) whose e ...more
The only reason I gave this book 3 stars was because I really was only interested in maybe 2 chapters. I thought the chapters on education in other countries were the best part of the book and very eye opening in how much the US is lacking in providing quality, well rounded, and open minded education for our youth. The research done concerning education was so interesting. For example, most countries allow for 15 min recesses every 45 minutes...all the way through school and it is shown that thi ...more
Red Letter
Here's a peek at what our readers had to say...

Nan "In several instances, the author’s effusive praise of other cultures — and then dismal contrasts to American society — left me feeling powerless, rather than inspired" Grade: B-

Megan V. "With a degree in psychology, I’ve read my fair share of child development books. I’m a bit wary of them, as it seems parenting advice and techniques often follow trends. I started reading Parenting Without Borders with a bit of skepticism. I quickly changed my
Really like this book. It synthesizes developmental research, interviews with parents in other cultures, and the author's own experiences raising her children in Japan for a few years. I know I'm digging a parenting book if I'm constantly demanding that my husband listen to me read aloud from it...and I did this. With highly annoying frequency.

One thing I appreciated was that the author refrains from making recommendations. This is not a how-to. And frankly, many parents will read this book and
Beth Melillo
Really liked this book as an interesting presentation of different cultural parenting. On the other hand, it was neither completely scientific, nor completely anecdotal, so that may have been frustrating to others. Also, as a parent in the Greater Boston area, many of the examples and voices interviewed hit close to home.

The book didn't present "solutions" or explicit advice for how to incorporate the findings, and I thought that was appropriate for the writing and way the author conducted her
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“in Japan, buying a lot of stuff for your children is considered indulgent. Wastefulness was frowned upon. Shopping bags should be saved to reuse many times, not recycled after one purchase.” 1 likes
“Finnish education appears paradoxical to outside observers because it seems to break a lot of the rules. In Finland, “less is more.” Children don’t start academics1 until the year they turn seven. They have a lot of recess (ten to fifteen minutes every forty-five minutes, even through high school), shorter school hours than we do in the United States (Finnish children spend nearly three hundred fewer hours2 in elementary school per year than Americans), and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation. There are no gifted programs, few private schools, and no high-stakes national standardized tests. Yet over the past decade, Finland has consistently performed at the top on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to fifteen-year-olds in nations around the world. While American children3 usually hover around the middle of the pack on this test, Finland’s excel.” 0 likes
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