American? French?

14 Apr

In our community, parenting feels like a competitive sport. Points are awarded for number of months spent breastfeeding, for co-sleeping, for baby wearing, for using baby sign language, for attending baby movement classes, for attending multiple playgroups, for buying only organic food (bonus points for local organic food), and for number of languages spoken at home.

And as a working mom, it’s hard to compete with the tactical, largely stay at home moms. I don’t have the time to plan and strategize my parenting. I’m shooting from the hip. But this is mommy smackdown and I seem to lose every time.

Thankfully…I finally got my hands on a copy of Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, the book that details the French style of parenting. 

And I’ve come to one conclusion…I’m just not like the other moms in our area.

Why?  Because I’m French. Don’t let my English/Irish/German heritage fool you. Deep down in my core, I’m a Parisian parent.

The reason is this, at least according to Druckerman, the French are laid back parents. They don’t fuss. They don’t obsess. They don’t make a big deal about things. They don’t kill themselves to accommodate their kids. And I LOVE that!

French parents are concerned about only a few things:

1) That their child is polite

2) That their child is patient

3) That their child is self-sufficient

They’re not trying to get their two year old to read. They don’t worry about IQ points or future test scores. They don’t shelter their kids from sadness or frustration. They’re not strategizing, planning, or researching parenting techniques.

And apparently, they have very calm and reasonable kids as a result.

To achieve this, French parents define a structure, or cadre,  for their kids. For example, the kids are on a meal schedule from the time they’re about six months old, three meals a day plus a snack. They don’t get to eat outside of those times and food is never used as a salve for a crying child. Another example, the kids learn that they won’t always get their way. Parents do not feel obligated to accommodate their child’s every whim and accept that their child will be frustrated sometimes.This cadre leads to the development of patience and an awareness of social norms.

But other than a few basic rules, French parents give their kids lots of space. They don’t structure their play time. They let their kids explore on their own. And if kids go to music class, it’s because it’s fun, not because it fosters brain development. Plus, parents don’t rush in when they hear their baby whining. Instead they pause, see if the child self-soothes, and if not, then they comfort their baby. And from this space and room to grow, the kid learns independence.

At the end, what resonated the most with me is the realization that parenting doesn’t have to be so much work. I don’t need to worry so much about Henry’s brain development or socialization or literacy skills. I don’t need to fit baby classes into our already busy schedule. I don’t need to feel guilty for feeding him processed foods or letting him play in the recycling bin.

He’s a kid. His job is to play and explore his world. My job is to love him and care for him.

By design or by sheer luck, we’ve stumbled upon a parenting approach that is very similar to the French way. And we have a happy, healthy, sweet, and charming little boy. I guess I can just sit back and enjoy this time and stop worrying so much.



2 Responses to “American? French?”

  1. jbleakly April 14, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I have to say that the French way sounds just like midwestern Minnesota style child raising…or at least what it USED to be. It is kind of sad today to see even infants toted off to “Music Appreciation” class, Baby Yoga, “play dates”, etc. Children are way over scheduled and when I see a dad boasting that his two year old excels at soccer….I DO wonder if “little Johnny” knows his dad is already keeping score on his sports agility. Johnny would likely have a lot more fun kicking a beach ball around in the yard or park with dad. So I say…” follow the French or Midwestern thinking” and Henry and his little bro will have a memorable childhood…..Your thinking is right on track… my book!

    • rleadem April 16, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      Hallelujah Grandma! Thanks for the support.

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