“Get they weans tae bed” – A Brazilian Approach to Child Rearing

As you might imagine, there are several differences in the way Brazilians and Brits raise their children. Of course, the differences are very general and not all families are the same. But one thing that is quite obvious and somewhat startling to some Brits is the lack of routine. Kids tend to nap in the afternoon and stay up late, often until 10 or 11 at night. I believe the logic behind it is that parents like to have family time at the end of the day when they are back from work and, of course, it’s very hot here so people make the most of sundown to go out and about. In many ways it makes sense to rest at the hottest point of the day and many shops and businesses close for 2 hours in the afternoon on this account. Most important events including birthdays and weddings are in the evenings over here and never start in time either! But rather than put the kids to bed, it’s seen as more important to go to the cousin’s party rather than get those hours of sleep….here’s that whole concept that people are more important than routines. The cousin is more important than a late night. People before processes.

Many articles show that it doesn’t actually matter when kids sleep as long as they get enough hours. Other experts say that kids will be negatively affected if not in bed by 7pm sleeping 12 hours. I am certainly no expert to say which method is right but I know I am a selfish human being who enjoys the last couple of hours of the day without a small person shouting “mummy”. Having said that, Antonio probably does go to bed a bit later here than he would have in the UK. We’ve found a way to make it work though and it has not caused much stress, something I had been a bit worried about before we arrived!

I notice, too, that there is less emphasis on healthy eating and eating at the “right times”. Brazilians in general have a very healthy diet and eat less processed, fast and snack foods than in the UK. But when it comes to children, there downloadseems to be a bit of “anything goes”. When we were here with Antonio when he was 6 months, everyone seemed to find the food I was making for him very interesting and healthy. It was the usual blended stuff we’d expect- veg, chicken, pasta etc. I was not adding any salt and sugar which was is not the norm here and I think babies stay on porridge type stuff longer here or very basic food. They also tend to breastfeed more for longer. The WHO recommendation for breastfeeding is until age 2 and many Brazilian women go with that and then some! Rather them than me. People have also been surprised that we don’t give Antonio fizzy juice and avoid sweets (though they do come out when necessary!). I am often concerned when I see tiny tots eating crisps and lollipops when I see it as dinnertime. Indeed, one of Daniel’s sisters is a dental nurse and was impressed at my lack of fillings. Apparently that’s difficult to see here. Thanks for the good dental hygiene, ma.

One thing I admire the Brazilians for is their emphasis on respect, especially for family a-benca-1members and their elders. There is a custom here to “take a blessing” from older relatives in the family, and historically, even older people you saw on the street. The younger member takes the older member’s hand, kisses it, and asks for a blessing. The older person kisses the person’s hand back and says a few simple words like “May God bless you”. The simple act has biblical traditions and is quite sweet but I do find it a bit odd in that Daniel’s ever growing nieces and nephews do this with us every time when we/they arrive and when we/they depart. I’m not sure I can bless them any more than they bless me but the sentiment is good.

I am always impressed with the respect shown by the younger members of the family. Without having to be asked, they arrive at my side to help carry bags and are quick to help out. In fact, quite a lot is asked of kids here in terms of responsibilities in the house, whether cleaning or looking after younger siblings. We’ve lost a bit of that in the UK, I’d say.

Discipline methods vary and smacking is certainly still common here and my personal feeling is that children are a bit better behaved than in the UK. Whenever I’ve done a talk or watched someone else give talk (just to prove it’s not the foreign factor), the children are quiet and still, even when the subject matter or delivery is a bit dull.

There’s more I can say on this subject but that’s enough for now. Now, childbearing is a whole other, belly-prodding, baby-showering, bikini photos of giant bellies world in which I am entering and will share about another time! Proper project news also coming soon.

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