As a bit of a Francophile myself, Pamela Druckerman picqued my interest in a recent NPR talk about her new book, Bringing up Bébé. I sat in my car, riveted, until it was over. She told wild tales about how French children sit through several course meals and eat green foods when prompted to do so. She explained how French children sit on beach blankets and amuse themselves for hours on end while their parents hold adult conversations.
Needless to say, I immediately ordered the book.
This isn’t to say my little Lizzy isn’t an angel, which she is. But there are times when I’d like a little of the French spirit of autonomy and independence infused into her.
Of course, the French don’t have all the answers to every parenting problem, but it’s fascinating to see the cultural mindsets that go into child rearing, especially when compared to the American ones. It also helps that Druckerman is a bit of a comedian. I found myself laughing out loud a lot and reading excerpts to Dan.
Briefly, the French focus on educating one’s child to become independent, just about from the moment the children come out of the womb, is fascinating in comparison to our culture where it seems like mothers are continually finding ways to make themselves more attached to their children (i.e. attachment parenting). I’m not saying all attachment parenting ideas are wrong (I wore Lizzy around during fits of colic for months on end), but the French might have a better approach to helping the kids help themselves.
While I don’t necessarily like their attitude toward institutionalized childcare from a very early age, I certainly can appreciate their focus on giving children a chance to try things for themselves (instead of always rushing to their assistance when they merely want comfort or a distraction). It’s tough, as it goes against all our motherly instincts to run to the child at any sign of distress. But there’s wisdom in letting the child have a moment to figure out how to entertain himself/herself or soothe himself/herself.
Lots of food for thought here. And while I don’t plan on raising Lizzy to be French, I think I have a lot to learn from a different culture’s child rearing perspective, one where public tantrums are rare and meals aren’t stressful events.
Here’s a link to the radio program that prompted me to read the book.