I’ve stopped reading parenting books almost completely because I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was doing it all wrong. I think wanting to become a better parent is always a good thing, but I guess we can always overdo it- and it’s not healthy when reading parenting books actually prevents you from being a good parent. However, I am still very interested in parenting and have now thrown myself into the amazing world of parenting from all sides of the world.
I was even searching for a list of such books, but the only multicultural book lists I could find were for children, so decided to make my own little list with my favorite books about parenting across the globe. I found every single one of them fascinating- and I am glad and proud to add that some of these books are actually from our very own MKB members.
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- Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
Also known as The Book that Started It All. In it, Pamela Druckerman moves to France with her British husband and gets immediately impressed with French child-rearing practices. She discovers that French kids don’t throw food, they rarely have temper tantrums and are very well behaved. In the meantime, their moms go back to work after 3 months, have their former slim waistlines even faster and have time to take care of their marriages.
- Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
Want to know why Asian mothers are superior? They closely monitor their children’s progress at school, are rarely satisfied with it and impose very strict rules about dating, sleepovers, and music practice. More memoir than parenting book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is a great read (even though it’s controversial). You may not agree with her parenting practices but you’ll sure be compelled and engrossed in her family story. And maybe you’ll learn something in the process.
- Parenting Without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh
I think the subtitle, “Surprising lessons parents around the world can teach us” says it all. Author Christine Gross-Loh was surprised when she moved to Japan and realized that some of the things she considered normal and common sense were actually deeply rooted in cultural practices. She gives plenty of examples from all over the world showing other approaches to sleep, play, food and communication with others, providing a wide picture of parenting practices form around the globe.
- The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings by David F Lancy
An eye-opener for me. David F. Lancy’s book has been acclaimed as “the only baby book you’ll ever need” by the NY Times and he demonstrated that children around the world are doing fine, no matter how they’re raised. On the other hand, he deconstructs many of the “natural” parenting myths- for example he shows that infanticide was (and sometimes still is) among indigenous cultures and that children were swaddled not because it was good for them but because the mothers needed to work and left the child with their older siblings.
- Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World by Homa Sabet Tavangar
This wonderful book doesn’t describe parenting in just one culture but instead focuses on raising truly global kids. One of the many things I love about this book is that it is cleverly organized- as if we’re meeting new people, how to greet, eat, celebrate with them. And it’s also beautifully written and a pleasure to read. It has tips, stories, anecdotes, personal experiences and ideas. A must-read for every parent raising global kids- which, these days, is pretty much every parent.
- The Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners by Homa Sabet Tavangar and Becky Mladic Morales
This book can be read as an addition to ‘Growing Up Global”. It basically complies resources, ideas and anecdotes from both of the authors (both of which, I’m proud to add are beloved members of MKB) for parents, teachers, and other educators, answering the questions, “How can I make my home, classroom or school more multicultural?” How can I raise awareness of global issues and problems?” If you’re looking for ideas to bring the world home- or school- this book is definitely for you.
- How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting by Mei-Li Hopgood
Do you remember the article about the Aka being the best fathers in the world? Or how the Chinese potty train early and how Argentinians let their kids stay up late? All of these come from this little book called “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm”. It’s part memoir, part anthropology book and describes parental approaches to raising children from all over the world. Hopgood not only describe these parenting practices but also tries some of them with her daughter Sofia. What I like about this book is that she’s very honest- not everything works out for her.
- Parents’ Cultural Belief Systems by Sara Harkness and Charles M. Super
You probably remember the idea of parental ethnotheories: “your mother-in-law the size of a country”, as this article on Slate claims (interestingly author Nicholas Day has also written a book called Baby Meets World about a similar topic). A while back, everyone was talking how parents talk about their kids. American babies were all superbly smart, Italian babies were simpatico, Dutch kids were calm and regular like clockwork. Why? Because different parents in different cultures parent differently. I haven’t read this one as you can only buy the paperback copy on Amazon and it’s awfully expensive.
- Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering edited by Suzanne Kamata
This one is a little bit different from the others in that it’s an anthology, providing various perspectives and experiences about motherhood abroad. I remember one post in particular where a mom was afraid to let her child walk alone to his Japanese school. There was another story about surviving pregnancy abroad and many, many others. Well worth a read. I’m sure all mothers raising their children abroad and with different cultures and languages will relate.
- The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide to Raising the Happiest Children in the World by Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandhal
Another one on this list I haven’t read- yet. I have it on my reading list, obviously, together with countless other books. Basically, this one claims that Danes raise the world’s happiest kids (although I’m sure Finding Dutchland will disagree) and tells you how to do it as well. I must say I’m intrigued and can’t wait to read it. I read the Danish place a lot of emphasis on empathy instead of material goods and they don’t hover as much as Americans do. More about this book here.
Have you read any of these?
Which one was your favourite?
And did I forget any good ones?
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6 thoughts on “10 Must Read Parenting Books for Raising Multicultural Kids”
I’ve read 3 of these and I found them fascinating. Thanks for the list! I look forward to checking out some of the others. I do think, as an American, it is so easy to get caught up in American parenting expectations, without even realizing that what I see all around me is uniquely “American”. I’ve certainly learned alot and tried to incorporate many of the ideas found in other cultures, into our own family. There is no “right” parenting method, but I love having the insight of how other cultures parent as an additional resource to draw upon is as I create my own unique parenting style.
Hi Elaine, very true! This is precisely why it’s so important to read about how other cultures raise their children- it’s so educational! But of course on the other hand, let’s not indealize other cultures, there are good and bad sides to every culture.
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Olga, I love this post! Heard about it from Mellissa Uchiyama. a writer/mama/expat friend of mine in Tokyo who, like I am, is raising multilingual little one/s. I loved Bringing Up Bebe and know and so admire Suzanne Kamata and her work, but the others I haven’t read yet. I’m especially happy to learn about Christine Gross-Loh’s and Mei-Li Hopgood’s books. Will put these at the top of my to-read lists.
Another one that might be interesting to add and compare is the new book by Wednesday Martin, “Primates of Park Avenue.”
So looking forward to following more of your work.
Hi Tracy, thank you for your kind words. I loved both Christine Gross-Loh’s and Mei-Li Hopgood’s books. I read “Primates of Park Avenue” and actually considered including it in this list and it also is about raising kids in another culture (even though it’s about parenting in the US) but decided against it and instead focus on the more multicultural books. The only one I regret putting on the list (I wrote it before reading this book) is the Danish parenting book. Can’t recommend it at all!
Oooh, good to know re: the one you wouldn’t put on the list again. And I take your point 110% about PPA, although I do think considering it in line with these others does prompt some interesting questions about culture and what constitutes a cross-cultural experience. What brings me down on the same side, ultimately, as you (the PPA might not be as multicultural as the others) is that, much as I admired a lot about the book and found it pretty captivating, I wasn’t totally swayed by the author’s suggestion that she was truly from another culture as these Park Avenue mamas. (The summer home in the Hamptons and the Birkin bag purchase, for one, or for two, I guess I should say.)
In any case, so appreciate you taking the time to put together this post. Just shared it on twitter and my author page on FB.
Looking forward to following you more, and yoroshiku from Tokyo!
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