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Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us Paperback – Jul 1 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (July 1 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583335471
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583335475
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.1 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 322 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #70,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"In this beautifully written book, Christine Gross-Loh provokes American parents to see how we might do better, often with less intensity, to reach our own goals."
—Robert A. LeVine, Emeritus Professor of Education and Human Development, Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Through insightful research and a refreshingly skeptical approach, parenting expert Gross-Loh peers through a global lens to uncover innovative ways to raise children in contemporary America.”
Worth magazine
“In this valuable book, Christine Gross-Loh asks us to broaden our view of what constitutes good parenting; she challenges us to go beyond the limitations of our borders. This is an overdue approach to the future of the American family, demanding both intellect and humility.”
—Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods
"Bracingly honest, straightforward, and thought-provoking."
The Boston Globe
"You may not agree with each point Christine Gross-Loh makes, but there's much food for thought here.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Smart, well-researched, accessible, and fun."
The Huffington Post

Praise for Parenting Without Borders

"Every now and then I read a book that changes the way I think. Christine Gross-Loh's Parenting Without Borders is one of those books. This will be the only book I buy for new parents…The observations are interesting and important for parents of children at every age." 
—Rachel Rose, Brain, Child magazine 

"In this beautifully written book, Christine Gross-Loh provokes American parents to see how we might do better, often with less intensity, to reach our own goals."
—Robert A. LeVine, Emeritus Professor of Education and Human Development, Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Through insightful research and a refreshingly skeptical approach, parenting expert Gross-Loh peers through a global lens to uncover innovative ways to raise children in contemporary America.”
Worth Magazine

 “An intriguing look at parenting paradigms”

"You don’t have to move to Finland—even though your son would learn how to sew his own bathing suit and duffel bag in school—but you do want to read this book. Parenting Without Borders takes the reader on an eye-opening, fascinating, and vital tour of time-tested and effective parenting practices, with great armchair traveling thrown in for free."
—Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessings of a B Minus and The Blessings of a Skinned Knee
“Our hovering/helping/worrying way of parenting feels so “instinctual” that it is astounding—and freeing!—to read how odd it appears to other cultures. Better still, this lovely book brims with examples of things parents in other countries do differently that could make our lives (and our kids’) so much nicer. Love it!”
—Lenore Skenazy, founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids
“In this valuable book, Christine Gross-Loh asks us to broaden our view of what constitutes good parenting; she challenges us to go beyond the limitations of our borders. This is an overdue approach to the future of the American family, demanding both intellect and humility.”
—Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods
“The dilemmas facing loving parents regarding how best to raise their kids can be vexing and entrapping. Christine’s book offers clear and effective release for parents from their anxieties by revealing a rich landscape of effective multicultural parenting practices experiences. A balanced, factual, fresh book.”
—Stuart Brown, M.D., author of Play and founder of the National Institute of Play
“Young American parents including myself are plagued with the feeling of making it up as they go along. Cultures around the world contain so much wisdom on parenting—and it’s far past time that we harvested the best of it. Christine Gross-Loh couldn’t be a better guide to lead us on a grand world tour of parenting styles and practices.”
—Ethan Watters, author of Crazy Like Us
“Christine Gross-Loh offers a global perspective on parenting that’s practical, reasoned, and fascinating. Parenting Without Borders helps all parents take-away greater compassion, simplicity, confidence, joy and balance by sharing best practices of parents around the world. A must-read for these globally-connected times.”
-Homa S. Tavangar, author of Growing up Global

“This book should be required reading for any parent or anyone thinking of becoming one.”
—Marianne LaFrance, Professor of Psychology and Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Yale University and author of Why Smile?
“This even-handed, fascinating, well-researched book takes the reader on a journey to so many different cultures and countries. On every page I learned something to make me both a better parent and a more thoughtful educator.”
—Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University and author of The Business of Baby
“What an eye-opening tour through parenting practices the world round! Gross-Loh brings balance and perspective to complex issues, with wonderful results. Her lucid and balanced book will help parents see their practices anew, and ground their everyday decisions in something very like wisdom.”
— Gish Jen, author of Tiger Writing

“An intriguing look at parenting paradigms in countries where children are deemed to be the best adjusted…Gross-Loh’s patient, grounded explication and engaging personal anecdotes make this a much more positive, culturally expansive contribution to the discussion than most parenting books.”
Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Christine Gross-Loh is a journalist and author. Her writing has appeared in publications including The Wall Street JournalThe Atlantic, and the Guardian. She has a PhD from Harvard University in East Asian history.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Harvard-educated, first generation Korean-American Christine Gross-Log spent five years raising four kids in Japan. Her parenting research has taken her to France, Sweden, Italy and Finland where she has interviewed dozens of parents, teens and children. Her resulting new book, "Parenting Without Borders" provides an intriguing look at parenting paradigms across the globe.

In four parts, Gross-Loh patiently examines how different cultures teach their children to sleep, eat, play, build self-esteem and become responsible adults. Her grounded explications and engaging personal anecdotes make this a positive contribution to the genre of parenting books. Occasionally, the author's repetitive idealization of certain overseas child-rearing practices wears thin. But at least she acknowledges the challenges of adopting approaches like France’s two-hour multicourse school lunch, Japan’s emphasis on running family errands as a means of developing self-reliance or Finland’s individualized education plan for each student.

Offering practical strategies that American families could use immediately would strengthen the book; nevertheless, this strong survey persuasively shows that American parents, who experience more angst and judgment than those abroad, provide their children with plenty of individualism and tolerance but not enough empathy or autonomy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9884df84) out of 5 stars 70 reviews
70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98864b1c) out of 5 stars Eye Opening July 6 2013
By Nellie Barker - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a stay at home mom (formerly a teacher) with a 3 year old boy and I've come to a point where his behavior is not only driving me crazy, but starting to think that it's really not normal and we have a problem at our hands developing into something even more. We are a calm home (that was getting more and more tense) that really revolves around our son. We bring him to museums, playgrounds, etc., have educational toys, and do everything for him that we think we're supposed to. When he started randomly hitting kids for no reason, constantly screaming out loud noises, and being disrespectful in many other ways we tried all kinds of discipline, including time outs, ignoring, taking away toys, leaving the situation (as in leaving Target with a cart full of items)...everything that his pediatrician said to do. Nothing seemed to work and his bad behavior continued to increase.

Parenting Without Borders was really eye opening. While it's not a manual to raising your child, it gives several concrete examples in which other cultures use to raise calm, respectful children. It was perfect for what I was looking for. I learned that a major part of the parenting my husband and I have been doing is giving my son TOO much attention (playing with him all the time, having tons of educational toys all over the place, constantly interacting with him - all of what I thought was the right thing to do). According to this book other cultures, such as Japan, let the kids figure it out, without a lot of adult interruption. I immediately started to encourage my son to play alone for much of the day and being more responsible and independent. It wasn't easy at first, sometimes he was screaming at me. So in that case I just calmly walked out of the room (being calm is another important thing I learned in this book), and quietly read a book - not to draw attention to his bad behavior. Not only does this force him to use his imagination; it has improved his behavior much of the day because of delayed gratification (that key component that Gross-Loh and other researches point to being the key of long-term happiness). He is able to handle situations much better, even in a short two week span of implementing this different parenting style.

Gross-Loh also discusses the importance of food in other cultures. A lot of the hands-on time I spend with our son is preparing food together. I have him cut up simple foods or arrange colorful fruit on our plates. I'm not afraid to let him use a knife anymore either after this book. By showing my trust in him, and by having him take an active part in preparing food, folding laundry, taking dishes to the sink, etc., he is taking pride in helping and causing less trouble.

I could honestly write a lot more in this review, but overall this has been the best parenting book I have read. A variety of cultures are explored and all add to the main idea of the book or having kids be more independent, calm, and overall respectful and kind kids. While it's not a "how to" book, it's a book to take a look at how other cultures raise their kids. Gross-Loh gives several examples that you can certainly try in your own household like I've done, and although somethings might be questioned by our peers/culture in America, I've noticed an amazing improvement in our son's behavior and also in the way I approach the problem times. I'm much more calm, confident and can handle his behavior a lot easier. After reading this book, I immediately read Bringing up Bebe, about how the French raise such calm babies. Also, a fantastic read.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98864d68) out of 5 stars A journey of discovery May 7 2013
By Thisbe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When my daughter was small I read a lot of parenting books, joined parenting email lists and talked parenting with friends and family. Now she's a teenager, I don't generally feel as much need for all of that - it's all about keeping on top of our busy schedules! But this book appealed because it's not a "how to" guide, but one that gets you to think about the impact of the choices you make - *especially* when you don't even realize you're making a choice! I think back on all my carefully considered parenting decisions (cloth diapers or disposable? how strict to be about only serving healthy snacks? how much screen time? etc.) and realize they were all pretty inconsequential compared to the really BIG decisions I wasn't even aware I was making because they're such an invisible part of the mainstream US culture I live in. But this isn't the kind of parenting book that leaves you feel inadequate or defensive - heaven knows parents don't need more of those. Reading it was more of an "aha" experience as you connect the dots between parenting cultures and outcomes. It really got me thinking about my own mom and dad (who didn't bother with parenting books at all, like many of their generation!) and I began to perceive in a new way many episodes from our family lives. Highly recommended for anyone who has a child or was a child!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98864fa8) out of 5 stars A book for thinking parents and educators! May 3 2013
By School Librarian - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reminds me of my other favorite "parenting" book (that term doesn't do them justice!), Cornell anthropologist Meredith Small's "Our Babies, Ourselves." Both books avoid the simplistic, formulaic approach that assumes that if you do X, you'll get result Y. Anyone who has spent time with children knows it's never that easy! Instead, Gross-Loh takes a similarly accessible approach that is based on a solid foundation of scholarship and shows us what is possible... So many of the obvious truths about parenting - based on what we see around us - are actually cultural practices that aren't based on any real evidence. This is the kind of book that gives us, as parents and teachers, the confidence to ask questions, challenge norms, and try to do better for the sakes of the children who depend on us. For those who are not directly raising or working with children, it offers probing commentary on our notions of community, public policy, consumer culture and more - but it also helps us understand why our strengths are worth holding onto. Ironically, many of the "foreign" cultural practices she describes that promote healthy development will be nostalgically familiar to older American readers from their own childhoods.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98779168) out of 5 stars Wonderfully eye opening, optimistic, interesting and smart! May 5 2013
By FatherofTwo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gross-Loh's book is a very well written and thoroughly researched look at the most basic (and innate) parenting assumptions we have and how they differ across cultures. Unlike so many other parenting books, Parenting Without Borders does not force an agenda but rather shares a journey, one that is fascinating and thought-provoking. Gross-Loh's open and intelligent approach enabled me to begin reconsidering and analyzing my most deeply held assumptions (some I did not even know I had!) without challenging me to do so. Parenting Across Borders has started me on an interesting path of self-reflection without any of the guilt, despair, or anger often associated with parenting books. Gross-Loh serves as a wonderful guide and partner who takes a critical but non-judgmental look at her own choices.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9877903c) out of 5 stars A fun read for anthropologically-inclined parents March 20 2015
By LovesDogs - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished Parenting Without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh. No less than fifteen people independently heard about this book -- it was reviewed in the NYT -- and said, "Ooh LovesDogs! Anthropology! Parenting! You should read this!" I am an anthropologist (just finishing my PhD) so this was a natural fit. It is very well written, has a good review of the literature and is accessible, so I was able to quickly get over my frustration that Christine Gross-Loh is not an anthropologist and that an anthropologist should have written this book (okay, I'm mostly jealous that I didn't write this book!) I think of this book as a really long literature review with lots of stories interspersed to make a point. In a result that surprise exactly no one, who recommended it to me, I really liked this book!

One caveat -- this book had the unintended effect of making me feel depressed about raising kids in America (I have one-year old twins). The biggest message of the book is that in the US we expect parents and kids to be little atomic units, floating through the world figuring everything out on their own, and that's really hard and sort of ridiculous when you stop to think about it. Part of the reason other cultures are able to achieve things that seem insane to us (letting five year olds commute alone to school on the Tokyo subway for example) is because the entire society values the raising of children and the entire society is set up to make that happen. One revealing quote about four year olds walking alone in Switzerland, "There's a general consensus that the public sphere is for everyone, including children, even small ones, even on their own." And Gross-Loh even says explicitly, "The reason that children like Taka and Mari know what they are expected to do [in terms of chores] and don't mind, is that these clear expectations are reinforced by everyone -- teachers, other parents, other friends -- and aren't just left up to parents swimming against a societal tide." In the US we're all supposed to figure it out on our own, so we're all swimming against a larger societal tide (e.g., "Don't let your kids out of your sight until they are 16!") and it also means we're all swimming against each other (e.g., people calling CPS on you when you leave your kid in the car for 45 seconds to drop something in a mail box) and we're not well supported -- which is utterly exhausting.

This book is jam-packed full of fun vignettes that show how other countries do things differently. Whether or not you agree with practices in other countries (and the author herself doesn't always agree) I think there's a lot of value in taking the time to step outside of our "invisible cultural boxes", as Gross-Loh puts it, and to consider that the way we parent is not necessarily the natural way or the right way or the best way because it is certainly not the only way.

The chapters are broken out into themes, so for example the first part of the book is about the care and feeding of children. Ex: Co-sleeping until age 8 or 9 is the norm in Sweden -- there is no "children's food" in Japan.

The second section is "The Raising of Children" how different countries tackle issues like self-esteem, (Narcissism is on the rise among US children and this rise is not seen elsewhere), US Children average 4-7 minutes (MINUTES!!!) of unstructured outdoor play. Finnish children get a minimum of 75minutes of outdoor, unstructured recess in each school day. The American five year-old today is as emotionally & bodily self-regulated as American three-year olds tested in the 1940s.

Part three of the book is about how different cultures teach differently -- how children in Japan aren't taught to read until they turn 6, Finnish children do not get homework until they are 11. I found the section on Chinese education (which I think most of us think of as rigid and overly-pressurized) really interesting. Apparently the Tiger Mom book caused a huge scandal in China, with many Chinese parents feeling that Amy Chua completely misrepresented Chinese culture. (No surprise there).

The last part is about the character of children -- about how the US emphasis on not being authoritarian with respect to manners has led to a civility problem among American young adults, teenagers and children. This section also gets into chores. North America and Britain are pretty unique in expecting basically nothing from children at home. This leads to a huge gap in responsibility where eleven year olds aren't trusted to walk to school on their own and nine year olds can't butter their own bread because they aren't allowed to handle knives. Contrast to Japan where five year olds prepare soup for the whole class using chef's knives.

As you might have guessed from the anecdotes I dropped into this review, the book focuses heavily on Japan because that is where the author lived for a few years with her family, so it is where she had the bulk of her parental culture shock. However, there's really good information about Finland, Sweden, Germany, France and China. Other countries make here-and-there appearances. My one critique might be that she singles out the US as exceptionally bad at ... well, most things -- but Canada, Britain and Australia are fairly similar in many of the dismal ways. She does point out the things that are good about the US, we are great (supposedly) at teaching tolerance, etc, but the focus of this book is mostly to challenge certain "matter-of-course" parenting practices in the US. Asia (Pakistan, India etc) is completely absent. However, I can't fault her for that -- she wasn't setting out to be encyclopedic.

Over all this book get's an A+ from me. If you are interested in learning about how other parents do things and what other cultures see as natural and normative then you'll enjoy this. It is a fast and compelling read, I plan on assigning chapters of it to my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology students since this is a good way to see how our culture colors so much of what we take for granted, for example in the US we think: "Of course babies sleep in cribs/toddlers need frequent snacks/ten-year olds are not responsible enough to go grocery shopping/teenagers will hate their parents" . The references are thorough and the bibliography is good for anyone who wants to follow up on the science that she uses to support her analysis.