A blog entry by a Russian mum who moved to the USA's Harvard from Russia with her husband and two children. The people who're interested in cultural differences might like this text. @Janjard
, I have the impession that once you said that you were one.
Translated from Russian.
When we came to the USA I immediately took notice that the US children were very different from ours and that wasn’t just about that there were some black children. It was about their behavior, speaking and almost everything. My children, in turn, became objects of curiosity for my new American female friends and the school teachers. They took every chance to ask me questions about our country’s habits and principles, and the parenting issue wasn’t left out either. What was so uncustomary about our children for Americans?Obedience
Comparing to American children mine were exemplary obedient (though they actually weren’t so good at that). After they had lived here a half of year and got assimilated they still remained obedient. My oldest daughter avoided dirtying her clothes, asked permissions, such as to go to another playground with other children, and she immediately came over when she was called. “What do you do to them?” the American women said in surprise. “Russian parenting secrets?” asked the mums who couldn’t get themselves heard. My daughter’s American friends sometimes didn’t pay attention at all on what they were told by their parents, torn and stained their clothes as they liked and coming back to ask for permission was out of question. Their motto seemed to be “I want it and that’s all what matters”.Punishments
On hearing that Russian children may be smacked made American mums’ eyes pop out. I don’t know what dreadful images they were imagining (battered half to death children?) since any sort of corporal punishment to kids is illegal in the US. Preschool and school teachers watch any bruises or grazes and immediately report them to the social services.
Well, I’m an opponent to the corporal punishment too. We mostly talked with our eldest daughter and the naughty corner was left for outstanding cases as the most severe punishment. To say the truth, she got smacked on the buttocks for a couple of times (being 3 or 4 years old) in the heat of the especially severe tantrums just for her to regain the self-control. Those two cases were enough to learn at an early age the borders of what is allowed, and that she could expect something more than talking from the parents. The older she grew, the easier coming to terms with her became. The youngest has been following her example in everything and therefore she’s no problem at all. On the contrary, the American children are. No borders, no leverage, smacking is a dreadful crime, the “labour therapy” is prohibited, and naughty corners are out of use. All the tools left in the parental inventory here are passionate speeches calling to the reason and the master stroke: “you did badly, go away to your room”. Can you imagine such a punishment? To send children to their rooms with toys hoping that the reason will flash through their mind by itself. The consequences of that “go away to your room” I watch every day in supermarkets, restaurants and playgrounds, when children throw tantrums in toy shops, French fries in McDonalds or ignore their parents when tell them that it’s time to drive home. I feel really sorry for American mums!Helping with household chores
An American friend of mine once had a look at our family life when she was visiting in our house. I called my eldest and said that the pile of dishes left from the lunch and cooking for the week was waiting for her. A rule of this house is that chores are distributed: I cook, my eldest daughter washes up. Masha wasn’t particularly happy, of course, but having snatched a cooling off curd croquette from the plate went away to put on the apron. At a glance at the face of my friend I got something was wrong. “That’s an abuse” she whispered and looked back. Yelena was one of us but she had come to the US when she was 7 years old and at her 37 she was quite an American and had two kids too. She explained to me that American children weren’t made to do anything about the house. The maximum that they could be assigned was keeping their rooms clean. As for other household chores, they did them only if they wanted. On that occasion I should have asked the daughter: “Mary, dear, wouldn’t you want to help Mum and do that heap of dishes?” Ha, I can guess her answer, so I would have done that dishes myself, but something else was more important. Had another good member of the American society been in the Yelena’s place, that person would have telephoned the social service at the first step away from the front door, and the outcome of all this would have been a matter of doubt. Yelena didn’t call anyone, of course, instead she gave me a lecture (lecturing people is very American) that my parenting style was child abuse and something to not afford here.
By the way, in several months from that situation Masha, having returned home from school, came up to me with a remarkable talk: “mum, they at school told us about the children’s rights and said, among other things, that I wasn’t to do anything I don’t want (that was the 5th form). It implies that I needn’t do the dishes (I thought: “those buggers have finally brainwashed the child”), because that’s abuse”. I don’t remember exactly how I wriggled out and persuaded her to go on helping me in the kitchen, but still you can’t just set your children to help with the chores, but if they take them up themselves.Pocket money
My American friend was stunned to learn that my eldest daughter (we moved to the US when she was ten) didn’t get any pocket money. When I confessed that I hadn’t got any when I was a child myself, she enigmatically uttered that it explained everything. American youngsters start to receive their pocket money on a regular basis when they have turned five or six. They can spend them on sweets, cheap toys or stationary. But after that their childish wishes and desires aren’t to be catered for by the parents, the children are expected to use their pocket money instead. So they learn to save if they want more valuable things rather than to splash out impetuously. There’s no a universally accepted sum, it may be $5 a week or $15 a month, as the parents see fit. The American psychologists claim that it’s not the sum what matters, but sticking to the rules such as to not pay in advance, to keep the sum the same for a set period of time and being never late. The childhood pocket money is an important exercise to build a child’s money management skills for his or her adult life. You basically simulate paying wages and the child task is running the personal finances, to spend, to save, to gift and to be aware that that the next payment will come about exactly when scheduled.
I know about myself that I struggle to plan my finances and I’m very spontaneous in spending. I presume the reason of it that in my childhood I had neither pocket money nor the practice of buying sweets.