From potty training to fussy eaters, different cultures around the world have some seriously good parenting tricks up their sleeves, writes Mark Woods


Ever wondered if mums and dads in France are better at getting their kids to eat their greens than we are? What secret tricks do they use to calm a screaming child in America?

Mark Woods, author of new book Planet Parent travelled the world to try to find out the best way to bring up your child. Here are the five top things he discovered:

1. They potty train newborns in China
In parts of China and India parents start toilet training babies in the first few weeks of their lives. They use a low whistle or sheee-sheee or shuuuus sound and hold the baby over the potty, sink or wherever when they judge the infant is ready to go. The tots soon learn the connection between the sound and the sensation and can be dry way before they are one!

2. French kids are better eaters
French parents are very keen on introducing a diverse range of tastes to their children at a very young age. Often they introduce one veg every four days in order to expose their nippers to as many flavours as possible as early as possible.

What’s more they focus on flavour way more than texture – so it’s often no lumps, but purees which can include ingredients like mussels and even foie gras.

From aged three, school lunch is an event in many French schools too. With three or four courses on offer, children are expected to try everything even if don’t eat it all.

3. School starts later in Finland and earlier in Korea
Parents in Finland and South Korea send their children to two of the most celebrated successful education systems in the planet.

But they couldn’t be more different.

The Finns start school at seven when they believe children are ready to learn. Once there they are encouraged to learn through play – often outside. There’s no formalised testing and next to no homework in the early years. Education is seen as giving everyone a level playing field as a start in life.

In Korea it’s all about testing, hard work and academic subjects. Days start at 6.00am and private tutoring in the evenings often till midnight. It’s a system that has transformed the country into an economic powerhouse within a generation or so.

Although both countries are in stark contrast in the way they execute their education systems, what they do have in common is the fact they passionately believe in education and place a high value on teaching as a profession and funding good schools.

4. How much iPad is too much? Parents everywhere are worried
We live in the screen age and our children can’t get enough of them. There was even a recent report which said you are better off giving a baby a tablet than a book to learn from.

In 2013, in the US, as many children (7%) owned their own iPads as adults had just 2 years previously!

It’s a constant quandary for parents right across the globe – but an interesting fact from the US is that some parents at Silicon Valley tech companies send their kids to technology-free schools – in the belief that tech interferes with creativity.

The late Steve Jobs, who brought us the iPad, in fact said in an interview when asked if his kids love the iPad: ‘They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.’

5. Children are staying at home longer across the globe
It doesn’t just feel like it, children really are staying in the nest longer and it’s happening everywhere!

Here in the UK, they’ve been called KIPPers (kids in their parents pockets), in the US they are being called the boomerang generation for obvious reasons, while in Italy where the problem has really gained media and even governmental attention the stay at homers are rather unlatteringly called bamboccioni (big baby).

Driven by the economic crisis of 2007-8 this really is a cross cultural trend with 36% of 18-31 year olds in the US living with their parents and a whopping 48% on average in the EU.

* You can find out more about how the world brings up its children in Mark Woods’ Planet Parent here.