photo: ThomasLife via Flickr

The maxed-out storage space on your iPhone is proof that parents love to document every amazing milestone, from first steps to first words (not to mention the first time your toddler empties a plate full of spaghetti over his head). But as you focus on developments in motor skills and academic achievement, are you missing some of the more subtle, but possibly more important moments of growth? Read on to learn about some of the milestones other cultures value most.

Learning Responsibility
Christine Gross-Loh, author of Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, explains in the Huffington Post that Americans tend to prioritize cognitive skills and focus on how learning and enrichment benefits those skills when measuring and discussing intelligence. The Dutch, however, emphasize social competence, including responsibility and helpfulness.

Discovering The Importance of Empathy
One study of Japanese and American children, which Gross-Loh cites, asked fourth and fifth graders why they shouldn’t hit others. Ninety-two percent of American kids answered because they would get in trouble, while 90 percent of Japanese kids said because it would hurt others. It doesn’t necessarily mean that American kids aren’t empathetic, but it reflects the idea that they’ve been taught to prioritize rules and rule-breaking because parents celebrate rule-establishing milestones.

Ultimately, Gross-Loh says that American parents put more emphasis on things like learning to read or write, over developmental milestones, like being considerate of others’ feelings and taking on household responsibilities.

What milestones do you think matter the most? Share your thoughts in the comments.