A parenting practice is a specific behavior that a parent uses in raising a child. For example, a common parent practice intended to promote academic success is reading books to the child. Storytelling is an important parenting practice for children in many Indigenous American communities.
Parenting practices reflect the cultural understanding of children. Parents in individualistic countries like Germany spend more time engaged in face-to-face interaction with babies and more time talking to the baby about the baby. Parents in more communal cultures, such as West African cultures, spend more time talking to the baby about other people, and more time with the baby facing outwards, so that the baby sees what the mother sees.
Children develop skills at different rates as a result of differences in these culturally driven parenting practices. Children in individualistic cultures learn to act independently and to recognize themselves in a mirror test at a younger age than children whose cultures promote communal values. However, these independent children learn self-regulation and cooperation later than children in communal cultures.
Parenting styles are only a small piece of what it takes to be a “good parent”. Parenting takes a lot of skill and patience and is constant work and growth. Research shows that children benefit most when their parents:
- communicate honestly about events or discussions that have happened
- stay consistent, as children need structure
- utilize resources available to them, reaching out into the community
- take more interest in their child’s educational needs and early development
In practice, this means that a child in an independent culture will happily play by herself, but a child in a communal culture is more likely to follow his mother’s instruction to pick up his toys. Children that grow up in communities with a collaborative orientation to social interaction, such as some Indigenous American communities, are also able to self-regulate and become very self-confident, while remaining involved in the community.