CQ – How are we different? Part Eight – Indulgence

Indulgence is the extent to which a culture will be quick to satisfy the wants of its people/children versus being willing to teach restraint.

Dictionary.com describes indulgence as the gratification of desire, allowance, tolerance, the state of being indulgent. Indulgent is being benignly lenient or permissive. The US and the Netherlands are both highly indulgent cultures.

Conversely, restraint is described by Dictionary.com as a “restraining action or influence;” “the act of restraining, holding back, controlling, or checking;” “deprivation of liberty, confinement.”

These two ideas of indulgence and restraint are found at the heart of parenting and working with children. What is your culture like? Do parents give children whatever they want, no matter what? Or do they teach the kids how to wait, to hold back?

When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, restraint was much more popular in the US than it is now. I remember being taught that anything good is worth waiting for. Now in the US, I have been a bit saddened by the indulgence parents give their kids. It seems that parents might even be afraid of saying “no” to their children.

French parents are known for their ability to teach restraint. Rather than fearing to say “no” to their children, they expect their “no” to be firm and accepted, not up for any debate.[1]

Pamela Druckerman is “an American mom who chronicled her experience raising children in France in her book Bringing Up Bébé and the follow-up Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting. … Druckerman explains how she watched the young daughter of a friend take an offered treat and then put it away for later instead of immediately diving in. She’d learned this because her French mother insisted on only eating treats with a meal and not allowing perpetual snacking.”[2] That French mom had been teaching restraint.

How do you fit in with indulgence versus restraint? Do you have any conflicts with people that might be explained by this different cultural dimension?


Restraint                                                                                            Indulgent

Look at the graphs here. The lower the number, the more restraint a culture shows. China’s number (blue) is 24, Hungary’s (purple) is 31, and the US (green) is 68. Quite a difference.

As I observe the celebration of the Christmas season in American culture this year, I am struck by the indulgence not only to our children and their every wish, but to ourselves. Have you noticed the advertisements where people are gifting themselves? It is lauded to get yourself a big, expensive gift. Maybe our indulgent culture is going a bit too far? What happened to the idea that it is better to give than receive? Just a thought for your week ahead.

If you have ideas or questions or stories about cultures of indulgence or restraint, or have an example of a culture clash you wonder about, please write me at lesliepjohnson@lesliepjohnson.com and I will try to address that issue at some point in this blog.

Have a Merry Christmas!

[1]  https://www.rd.com/advice/parenting/french-parenting/

[2] https://www.rd.com/advice/parenting/french-parenting/


Author: Leslie P Johnson

Christ follower, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, love children, dogs, and horses and love to hike, and I am helping develop Culturally Intelligent Communities (CIC)

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