What the U.S. Can Learn From British-Style Parenting

Brits have uncovered the secret of great parenting! (Photo from the series 'Outnumbered' via BBC)

Brits have uncovered the secret of great parenting! (Photo from the series ‘Outnumbered’ via BBC)

Listen up, Americans! British parents have unwittingly honed a fail-safe formula for moderately/sometimes/probably successful child-rearing…

We assume medical professionals know their stuff
In Britain, doctor knows best, even when they proffer a ludicrous diagnosis or prescribe compression socks for warts. With deference and apathy stitched into our souls, we nod and do as we’re told, and that goes for when some lunatic is treating our kids too. Only when it all goes tits up do we get in a huff and sell our story to the Daily Mail. Most of the time, however, our “Of course, whatever you say, Dr” attitude makes for an easier, less neurotic family life. Conscientious American parents, meanwhile, challenge everything they’re told in the pediatrician’s office, because they’ve read 359 books on every childhood medical condition ever documented, and so they obviously know more than someone with a mere medical degree.

We let them eat (some) cake
Moderation can be a difficult word in American child-rearing. You either have parents who ban sugar — and anything else fun — from their kids’ diets completely, or the ones who think Strive for Five refers to cans of coke. Middle-class British parents generally end up somewhere in the middle. They don’t ram unnecessary sucrose down their tots’ tiny necks but they will, on occasion, give their five-year-old Skittles for lunch because they’re distracted by their toddler, who had a three-hour tantrum after they took away the plug it was chewing.

If our kid swears, we don’t assume we’ve failed as parents
Americans do not like their children to curse. When they do, all manner of unpleasant things happen. Letters are sent home from school; fingers are pointed and the likelihood of the potty-mouth devil child enjoying a successful, happy future is called into question. Also, the sky falls in. In Britain, when your precocious, dimply three-year-old spouts her first “bloody,” parents swell with pride. Because she used it correctly!

Sometimes we need to leave our kids alone, and it’s FINE
Leaving your children to amuse themselves (even if it means them eating multiple Milky Ways and watching TV) while you nurse a hangover or read very important celebrity gossip is entirely reasonable to the average British parent. We assume our kids will still get into university even though they once watched Power Rangers. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of conscientious US parents occasionally “ignore” their infants too. The difference is, deep down, many Americans suspect they’re doing something wrong, and it could have devastating consequences.

What are your top child-rearing tips, Brit expat parents?

See more:
Crazy Baby Names and Five Other U.S. Parenting Trends That’ll Drive You Nuts
Five Things Brits Need to Know About Bringing Up an American Baby
10 Expat Parent Worries and How to Handle Them

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis