Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bringing up bêbe - part 2

I see you all agree with me on part 1 of this Book Review… I got no comments, so I assume you must all agree with French child rearing? How wonderful for US/French relations and for the author Pamela Druckerman! Are the French right again? Or perhaps people are content with their styles and not bothering with the latest parenting fad?   Either way, I found it an interesting read and worth considering, at the very least.

No mother is perfect. We logically know this is true, but do we really follow this principal? Of course not we hope this is true and acceptable, but just in case, we go the extra mile. If we burn out, then perhaps we will be sainted? The French are more realistic, assume they won't achieve sainthood, and try not to burn themselves out. After all, there are no perfect Moms.

Parenting involves a framework.  There is a framework called “cadre” that is central to French parenting philosophy. The French enforce a few important rules strictly and ignore the rest (the “naughty” things).

Another concept is that the child inherently will do dumb/naughty things (bêtises) throughout their childhood, which are therefore accepted and ignored. This is most likely why the French are rarely heard yelling at their kids. Americans often assume the kid’s naughtiness is a factor of how well they have taught them, assuming again that kids are blank slates and we imbed everything in them. Therefore, if a kid does something naughty, then perhaps we weren't clear about the rules with them?

Kids are people too, and they speak to them as if they understand from newborns.  Hence, they are expected to say Hello, Goodbye, Please and Thank you to all other people they meet on all occasions (not babies of course, but starting from when they can speak).  Even if they are shy, they must say these things, and to people young or old. American kids may or may not, depending on their mood, which does not enamor them to people (French folk in particular, I guess).  I used to force my kids to do this but my US hubby doesn’t feel pressured to do this, so it fell by the wayside in our house [not true].

Kids are expected to reject a food a dozen times or so, and parents will keep serving a dish a couple dozen times until the child gets used to a taste.  Also, during meals kids aren’t given any snacks or dessert (only during afternoon snack), so a child is encouraged to taste everything.  Parents will also not serve mono diets (diets of only a couple of dishes or ingredients) and will mix diets so much that some foods are served only once a year.  Also, kids often eat separately from the parents. Parents will also feed their children in courses, giving veggies first to take advantage of when they are starving. Parents will cook snacks (gouters) together with the kids, so kids get used to respecting ingredients and foods as well as get used to cooking.

Parents do not accompany kids to play dates or birthdays.  I kind of like this rule.  You get some ‘me’ time during the play date and learn to let go of any parental anxieties of kid’s behavior.  Also it is cheaper for birthday parties (US parties often cost $200-400 per party and include costs for parents). This is a part of fostering independence in the child but is also somewhat in a monitored situation till they are adults.

They also live more for the moment, enjoying the finer but simpler things in life that surely is ‘French’. They will do things like sign their kids up for sleep away camps from 5 yrs old. Americans won't do this until the kids are in middle school or above.  They will encourage independence from a young age and assume the child will have his own life and privacy.  This allows for more ‘Adult time’.  Adult time seems to occur every day in the evening.  The kids are put in their rooms (not necessarily to sleep) and the parents are left alone.  Kids can do what they want but should be sleeping; otherwise they will be tired the next day.  Parents don’t enforce this, as the child will learn this.  (I wish my kids and husband will learn this J).

As a last resort French parents fall on the adage of “it’s me who decides”. Kids get a lot of freedom and are allowed bêtises, but the parent decides at the end of the day any issue (usually within a cadre). In particular, the French cadre includes things about kid’s appearance, kid’s meals, respecting others and so on.  Americans parents get so involved that they almost live their kid’s lives. The French will parent according to the cadre and they will let the kid live his life. I.e., don't interfere in the child’s experiences and try to save them from life experiences and growth.

Again I am not sure I agree with all of the points in this book, but it is interesting to compare the parenting cultures and read someone who studied what the differences might be. I think there is much more to parenting differences than just those in this book, but it is a starting point.


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