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How to parent like a Greek

1. Mealtimes are to be respected.

Greek parents insist on their children eating as much as possible, and maintain that if kids leave even one morsel of food on the plate, “αφἠνουν την δυναμἠ τους,” they are “leaving their strength behind.” Parents also teach their children that mealtimes are almost always a social event with the whole family and plenty of conversation. Even if Greek kids are out all day, it is normal for them to tell their friends they are going back home for dinner and will be back out later.

2. Remember that it is always cold. Even when it’s not.

Your child will always need a jacket, and you will remind them of this right before they walk out the door, every single time, even as they desperately try to pretend they can’t hear you. Even if it’s an 85 degree night in August, you never know, there might be a draft. According to Greek mothers, drafts are everywhere, in all seasons, at all times, and their sole purpose is to sneak up on their children and make them sick.

3. Impress the importance of family and extended family upon your kids.

Their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will be a major part of their life, and Greek children maintain much closer ties with these relatives than children in the US. Greek kids may dread holidays, because they will have to call every second cousin they have to wish them a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter, but in the end, they will appreciate the network of loved ones around them.

4. Make sure your kids know how to be a good guest.

Most Greek parents would die of shame if they heard their kids behaved like brats at a family friend or relative’s house. Greek kids learn from a young age that they should bring something to a friend’s house if invited for an event (usually baklava or mini ice creams), and always offer to help, multiple times if necessary.

5. Keep your children close, but don’t shut them inside the house with you.

Some Greek parents may be protective with their children and like to stay close to them, but pretty much all parents will let their children roam around the neighborhood, beach, or local town square (plateia) with friends from a very young age. Go to any plateia and you will see children from ages 7 and above playing with or talking to their friends well into the night. To a Greek parent, a skinned knee or a sprained ankle as a result of playing outside is not a big deal; it’s just kids being kids, and a part of growing up.

6. Your social life doesn’t end when you have children.

Greek parents consider being part of your community and having a good social life as essential, so having a child doesn’t mean you stop seeing friends and going out at night to a nice restaurant or upscale bar. Besides, it’s not unusual for the parents of your child’s friends to become your friends as well, or vice versa, so entire families will know each other quite well and often head out to dinners or events all together.

7. Babysitters are rarely necessary.

Babysitters in Greece are usually for the rich or elite; most parents don’t really use babysitters, because if you need someone to take care of your child, you can call grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, or friends to look after them for a couple of hours. Closer social ties means there is always someone available to help out; just be willing to return the favor in the future.

8. Loosen up on alcohol and bedtimes.

Children in Greece will start heading to bars around the time they’re 13 or 14, and as the years go on will stay out later and later. Parents will give their children wine and beer from a really young age, and have no qualms about going out to a restaurant with children as young as 8 and staying there until 1am. Greece operates on a later schedule than the US in general, so your child might as well get used to this from early on.

Photo: Nimrod Bar 

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