My husband comes from the south of Italy and I am French. We often have differences in the way we raise our children. Although our culture clashes are unique to our own situation, I am sure other couples in multicultural relationships have faced similar issues when parenting.
Take a look at how some of our parenting philosophies stack up.
|Italian Parenting||French Parenting|
|The mother is the person responsible for running the family. She is expected to put aside her own needs for the good of the family.||The mother must assume her role, even if she delegates tasks, in order to combine her personal life with her family life.|
|The father serves as the head of the family. He personifies authority and often inspires fear. He doesn’t worry about preparing meals or dealing with any issues relating to the children.||The father works in tandem with the mother in terms of all the educational activities. He is involved with discipline and making sure rules are respected He also helps out with bedtime, games, family outings and homework.|
|3||Grandparents and extended family’s role|
|Grandparents take a leading role in their grandchildren’s education and care.Concerning childcare, the extended family usually takes over, especially the young women of the family.||The grandparents are an occasional source of help and only in case of a specific need.We hire unrelated people, especially professionals to care for our little ones.|
|4||Type of education according to the child’s gender|
|Boys are less encouraged to do housework. They have more freedom to get out and play. Parents pay more attention to their success in high schools.||Girls and boys are brought up in a similar fashion. They have the same duties and are granted the same freedoms. Boys are encouraged to express their emotions as well as the girls.|
|Parents guide their children and try to help them avoid mistakes. A strong focus on ethics is ingrained so that children may become productive members of society.Parents don’t “learn” how to be parents; it’s something picked up from and passed down from previous generations.||Children’s aptitudes and talents are to be developed, and both parents must help them to sharpen their critical faculties and their aptitudes to make their own decisions.It’s common to question oneself and to be helped by professionals in order to find one’s way as a parent.|
|6||Rules and punishment|
|No set rules to dictate children’s behavior. The child may be given verbal warnings or be spanked so he understands he must not repeat his actions.||It’s very important to establish and to explain rules. It is even better to negotiate with a child than for them to receive a spanking. Talking and working through conflict is encouraged.|
|7||Sleeping and eating|
The child is allowed to sleep when he wants, but mealtimes are strictly observed.
Meals are eaten with the entire family when everyone is present.
|Children have their meals before the adults. However they have a lot of control over what they eat. Adults oversee food choices to ensure balance and nutrition.|
|8||Importance given to the child’s stimulation|
It is not considered productive to stimulate a child’s curiosity at a young age. Hygiene, clothing and food are more important than intellectual awakening.
|Children are stimulated as soon as possible. We are always looking for ways to develop their creativity and open their minds.|
|9||Importance given to emotional health|
|It’s not essential to show or talk about one’s feelings with your child, nor to tell them you love them. On the contrary, it is believed that showing too much emotion can hinder a parent’s ability to assert control over their children and can result in a lack of respect for the parents’ authority.||The father and the mother openly show their affection, give compliments to their child and place great value on the child in the hope of building their self-confidence.|
From my observations, Italians adhere to a more traditional style of parenting. Respect for elders and acknowledging their authority is paramount. Great emphasis is placed on the extended family unit with everyone knowing and keeping to their established familial roles. The father holds supreme authority and maintains his distance to a certain extent, while exchanges between children and both parents are limited. Children are expected to obey instructions or risk serious, often physical, punishment. They must learn their duties toward others, and boys and girls are often reared in different ways. This mindset is especially widespread in Southern Italy.
The French, on the other hand, value listening to, showing love for and supporting their children. The child holds the main place in the family and the parents adjust their roles around the child’s needs. Parents handle the majority of the responsibility for educating and caring for the child, only asking for help if it is specifically needed. Authority is shared among the immediate family members and rather than using physical punishment, non-violent methods are preferred to resolve conflicts and teach children right from wrong. Communication with the child is very important, and is used as a method of instilling the child with value and of developing his/her talents. There is no difference in the treatment of boys and girls, and children are encouraged to develop as many skills as possible to encourage early autonomy. This style of French parenting is found mainly in families with a high education level.