Parenting Around the World: United Kingdom

Given that much of the United States was originally colonized by the British, it’s easy to assume that Americans and Brits share the same culture. But 200 years changes a lot of things, and today’s American culture is a far cry from that of our fellow English-speakers across the Atlantic.

These differences extend to our different parenting styles as well. British parents raise their children differently than American parents do.

There’s certainly a lot we can learn from comparing parenting styles and results from country to country.

Let’s take a look at some significant differences between British and American mums and dads.

Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo, is an American who had her first child in England and raised her there for many years. She learned the following three things from her time there:

Parents tend to be less anxious about the children’s safety.

British parents prefer to view scrapes and cuts as a learning experience rather than something to always prevent. Childproofing a house, which is often done extensively in the States, is not taken as seriously there. Children learn to acclimate themselves to their environment, rather than parents altering it to keep them safe.

(read here 5 Myths About Child Safety)

Parents don’t brag on their children – directly.

In the States, it’s common to hear parents praising their children’s accomplishments to anyone who will listen. It shows you’re proud of them. In the UK, people tend to be more conservative with praise and compliments, even towards their children. They don’t want to raise children with inflated egos.

The culture is more family oriented.

This is something that has caused some backlash in the media lately for the US. They don’t make it easy to have a family and a career. Consequently, many parents are stressed out for lack of vacation time and the expense of childcare. In the UK, employees are given more vacation time to spend with their families, and women on maternity leave are given months instead of weeks to care for their newborn baby.

(read here Why I Won’t Raise my Children in the US)

Spanking is frowned upon.

According to the Expat’s Blog, British parents consider spanking (or smacking) even less appropriate than American parents do. At the most, hardline British parents might give their child a smack on the hand. Talking about spanking your child in the UK might just earn you some dirty looks from the other moms at the park.

Low-stress parenting is the norm.

BBC America has an interesting article regarding the differences between American and British parenting. They give several examples, all of which revolve around the idea of low-anxiety parenting. It’s okay to leave your children alone to entertain themselves. It’s okay for them to eat junk food in moderation. It’s okay to let the doctor do his stuff without feeling the need to intervene with the knowledge you gained on Web M.D.

British parents seem less inclined to worry about controlling every aspect of their children’s lives. They know their kids will be okay, even if they have an extra cookie.

(read here Why It’s Important to Have a Mindset of Success in Parenting)

Outdoor play is prioritized (Anglotopia).

This is something I so wish American schools would get behind. In the UK, outdoor play and education is considered an integral part of learning. Brits value the time their children spend in the fresh air, even though the UK isn’t exactly known for its stellar weather.


These are just a few major differences I came across in my research. I’m sure there are plenty of other distinctions, especially once you get into the education system.

Still, hopefully that was informative and interesting. I certainly found it interesting reading about British parenting culture!

Be on the lookout for more Parenting Around the World posts, coming soon to Mom but not a Mom!

See the introduction to Parenting Around the World here.


Americans, what do you think about British parenting styles? Brits/expats, what did I miss? Let me know in the comments, please!

Learn how British parents raise their children differently than we do in the United States. | Mom but not a Mom

2 thoughts on “Parenting Around the World: United Kingdom

  1. I’d never thought of these differences before. I worked with kids in the US at summer camp for 2 years but it was nearly 20 years before I had my own child. One thing they did teach us at summer camp was to focus on and praise good behaviour and ignore (within reason) bad, which is something i should do more of. A really interesting post I’m off to find out more about you 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by Rachel!
      So you’re a Brit who worked in the US at summer camps for a while? US culture is definitely very compliment and praise focused as a way to connect with other people. It can be a little overboard, but we’re big on boosting confidence in children. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it backfires.

      Now I’m off to find out more about you!

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