Move over Tiger Mums. It's the German Mum we all want to be now.

What international parenting style do you most identify with?

The German mothers who let their kids walk home alone from school?  The French mothers who don’t pick their babies up when they cry or the Chinese parents who don’t allow their children playdates.

From “French Children don’t throw food” to the Chinese Tiger Mum, we are bombarded with clichés about worldwide parenting styles.

Like everything, I am sure there are exceptions to the rule, but the cultural stereotypes persevere and make us Aussie mums wonder where do Australian parents stack up in the international mix?

An article in Time Magazine, “How to parent like a German” is currently making us all envious of mothers in the Fatherland – apart from their gorgeous landscapes and ready access to delicious strudels, it turns out they have a parenting style to be envious of.

Contrary to popular assumptions that Germans are strict and authoritarian the writer says that instead, German parents are remarkably laid back.

According to Sara Zaske mothers in Germany, “place a high value on independence and responsibility.”

She says, “those parents at the park weren’t ignoring their children; they were trusting them. Berlin doesn’t need a ‘free range parenting’ movement because free range is the norm.”

What's the best parenting style in the world?

Children in Germany frequently walk to school alone and academic study isn’t encouraged until they have mastered the art of playing.

In kindergarten reading isn’t taught at all.

She says, “Our grade school provides a half-day of instruction interrupted by two (two!) outdoor recesses. But don’t think this relaxed approach means a poor education: According to a 2012 assessment by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, German 15-year-olds perform well above the international average when it comes to reading, math and science while their more pressured American counterparts lag behind.”

Kids in Germany are they the happiest in the world?

It’s a common thread of such articles – a comparison between the behaviour and education of children country to country.

Books about French children flood the market.

France’s children have a reputation for being well mannered, well behaved and for eating what they are given.


According to Pamela Druckerman author of Bringing Up Bebe, the French are raising happy, well-behaved children free of tantrums and full of patience.

They sound perfect don’t they?

She says the key is the fact that French children aren’t over parented.

The French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. "For me, the evenings are for the parents," one Parisian mother told me. "My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it's adult time." French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and pre literacy training, French kids are - by design - toddling around by themselves.

She also points out that French infants are only given one snack a day between meals at either 4pm or 4.30. Other than that they eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner and if they don’t like it, tough, wait for the next meal.

Quelle horreur!

Supposedly, French children don't just eat well but they sleep.

According to Pamela Druckerman, parents in France don't pick their babies up the second they start crying, instead they allow the babies to learn how to fall back asleep.

And then there are those Tiger Mums...the cultural stereotype from China epitomized by Amy Chua’s books.

In a piece for The Wall Street Journal Amy Chua wrote:

Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise.”

It all begs the question what are we like as Australian mothers? Are we laid back or helicopter, are we overbearing or encouraging? Have we developed a national parenting culture?

According to child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg Aussie mums are headed down the path of what he terms “precious snowflake syndrome” – treating our kids like the world belongs to them - indulging them, idolising them and rewarding them for every task whether they do it well or not.

Perhaps it's time to adopt some of the traits of our international mums?

What do you think are the quintessential elements of Australian mums?

Want more? Try:

Dear Parents. Change your attitude.

In defence of free range parenting.