Italian Parenting Styles: A Look at Raising Kids In Italy
Parenthood doesn’t come with a rule book no matter where in the world you are raising your children. But it does have some clear norms that vary from country to country. For Americans who pursue Italian citizenship, adjusting to Italian parenting styles can be a significant shift. The two nations have very different attitudes toward raising children.
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Wide Range of Parenting Beliefs
Social scientists, psychologists, and anthropologists love to study parenthood around the globe. It’s fascinating to see what a vast difference there can be from one nation to the next.
Sometimes our modern globalized world can feel like it’s moving toward sameness. But as parenting styles show, family groups still have a lot of unique attributes.
Ranging from permissive to authoritarian and everywhere in between, parenthood expectations can say a lot about a culture. And for anyone raising children in a new country, there is much to learn.
A Primer on Italian Parenting Styles
Anyone raising children in the United States knows that there is an abundance of available data for parents to access about child development. It seems that every week there is another new study that tells parents how they should be with their kids.
And many of those parents will tell you that it’s exhausting. Keeping up with the American parenthood “shoulds” is a full-time job. And some experts worry that it removes reliance on instinct and intuition about what is right for your family.
Italian parents couldn’t be more different. Raising children in Italy may feel like night and day to parents coming from the US.
Here are four key ways that Italian parenting beliefs differ from the current American style of parenting.
1. Breastfeeding Everywhere
In the United States, it took until 2018 for public breastfeeding to be legal in all 50 states. Our Italian parenting counterparts likely would be bewildered or even horrified that this required legal protection is necessary.
Breastfeeding in public in Italy is entirely normal, expected, and barely even noticed. Except for an occasional smiling nod from a passing nonna, no one will pay any attention. Unlike in America, people in Italy do not find it offensive for mothers to nurse their babies in public.
Although the US has made great strides in this area in recent years, it is not yet up to Italian standards. For that matter, much of Europe has the same mentality as Italy. So if you live in Italy and travel throughout the continent, you’ll find this to be the way of life.
2. Tantrums Are No Big Thing for Italian Parents
For the most part, American parents seem to believe that they must intervene and stop a temper tantrum as quickly as possible. This underlying thought is that we are rude by allowing our kids to cry and yell in public.
If they are frustrated or mad or overwhelmed and start throwing a fit, we feel compelled to fix it somehow. Have you ever found yourself trying to wrangle a screaming toddler out of Target? You probably had people staring at you, you were sweating, and just wanted to get out of there!
Parents in Italy do not feel this obligation. They rarely, if ever, step in during a child’s tantrum, and they aren’t embarrassed by it. The reason it isn’t embarrassing is that no one else cares, either!
Italian children are allowed to be children without parents needing to explain their behavior or make excuses. Children simply are. They are not an imposition, and they are not in the way. When tempers flare, and they do, parents generally go about their business without giving the tantrum a second thought.
This attitude can be one of the hardest differences for American parents to accept. It is ingrained in most parents here that they should control their children’s behavior so that it doesn’t bother anyone else. If you move to Italy, you will experience a completely different attitude.
3. What’s Bedtime?
If you type “sleep training a baby” into Google, you get about 581 million results. It’s a safe bet that it is not Italian parents who are Googling that.
The notion of strict sleep schedules and routines does not exist in Italy. It seems to be mostly an American and British invention. When raising a family in Italy, you can forget about bedtimes, because they are not part of the Italian parenting culture.
It is completely normal in Italy to see babies, toddlers, and older children at restaurants with parents late into the evening. Do you have a date night planned? Your children will go with you! Even though meals can take two or three hours, children are part of the experience.
Parents don’t have to worry about getting dirty looks from others for keeping children up past their bedtime. Italian families do not fret over this.
It’s not uncommon to see kids asleep at the table or in their parent’s lap while the adults linger over wine and conversation. And a child who is bored with being in a high chair will be allowed to wander around the restaurant to explore. They may climb up on a stranger’s lap and hang out for a while, and that person probably won’t care.
4. Everyone Loves Babies and Children
The overarching theme in Italian parenting styles is that this country loves kids. Although they raise their children to respect their parents and grandparents, Italians thoroughly welcome childhood.
Italians do not worry about their children making a scene or behaving in a way that is, well, childish. They expect and embrace it. It’s remarkably refreshing to many American parents who are raising kids in Italy.
Ready to Be an Italian Parent?
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I loved reading this article! So interesting.
Exactly the same can be applied to Spain.