Today we’re taking a look at Italian parenting.
Let’s take a moment to orient ourselves – think about old cobblestone streets, beautiful ancient architecture, and crazy delicious food.
I’ve spent about a month and a half in Italy. You’d think that would help me write this post, but let’s be honest… I wasn’t checking out how Italian parenting worked. I was busy enjoying this:
Okay, now that that’s out of the way (I already had two breakfasts, not sure why this still makes me hungry)
I don’t have the benefit of my own experience regarding Italian parenting, so instead I looked to those who did.
Here is the list of things I learned about how parenting works in Italy.
While American family culture specifically makes room for children, Italian culture is one size fits all. They expect children to adapt to their environment.
If the adults are out to dinner until 11 pm, the children will be there as well. They can choose to be eating, playing, or sleeping in their parents laps. But the adults don’t feel the need to leave their social time just to get the kids to bed early.
Italian culture is family oriented, so there is a level of interdependency that continues even into adulthood for many. Independence is not as valued there as it is in other Western cultures.
As a whole, Italian culture is pleasure-focused, as opposed to work focused. It’s more important to enjoy one’s life than to spend it working away.
Children are brought up with the knowledge that they are treasured and valued. Their happiness is important.
As a whole, Italians love children and go out of their way to show it by talking to them at the store or the marketplace, bringing them special treats or makeshift toys while they wait at a restaurant, and generally including them in adult conversations and activities.
Children eat the same food adults eat. They are not given chicken nuggets or mac n cheese. They eat real, healthy food, even at school. In preschool, Italian children eat things like fish and vegetables for lunch. No tater tots or string cheese.
Consequently, they’re not brought up picky eaters. They are expected to eat like adults, and be polite about it.
While I’m sure there’s variation from family to family, Italian parenting is not as strict as other Western parenting styles. Spanking is a no-no. There’s more emphasis on children enjoying themselves and having fun than on them learning exactly how to behave.
However, just because children are not firmly disciplined does not mean that they don’t learn what is expected of them.
Socialization is a big part of Italian parenting culture. They constantly have good behavior modeled for them by the many adults they interact with on a daily basis. Children are shown how they should act.
Italian parents tend to be a little paranoid about children getting or catching cold (we already know from my 5 Healthy Tips for Children that the two are less related than we think). Still, children are bundled up and kept warm.
I find this particularly amusing seeing as Italy has one of the mildest climates on the European continent.
On the flip side, I hate being cold, so I probably would have enjoyed life as an Italian child.
Besides breast milk, which apparently is the only choice for any good Italian mother (read here about breast milk vs formula), the only two things you should be giving an infant are chamomile tea and pastina. Chamomile is for any time the baby is getting too worked up. Pastina is for a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night.
Does it work? Who knows. But the Italian parents will keep on swearing by it.