Perhaps you’ve heard, lately, that French children behave better than Americans, because their folks use superior parenting techniques?
Since it’s the French, the new book about this comes to us as “wisdom” and not a “battle hymn” (Chinese parenting styles are so last year). And since folks are apparently more comfortable making fun of the French than the Chinese, the response to this has been more humor and less angst than responses when the Tiger Mom book came out, as in this Guardian review which totally made me giggle:
American mothers are taught to respond immediately to their child’s demands. ‘Why would you vouloir to faire that?’ said Agathe. ‘It is obvious que all bébés are un morceau d’un fuckwit and haven’t un clue what they wanter. That is why all enfants are made to stander for une heure chaque jour with an ashtray strapped to their têtes.’ … .
a French maman will dire, ‘Vie est un bitch, et puis you die’ and as a result French children are extremely well-adjusted to existential ennui.
Funny reviews aside, though, Americans love to read parenting books that tell them everything they do is stupid, and that other people in other parts of the world are superior (why is that?). But here are a few truths you should know:
1. French toddlers throw food. Toddlers are toddlers; they aren’t developmentally different from American toddlers.
2. Their parents may react differently when it happens. That is about the parents, not the toddlers. There is no parenting style that can make an 18 month old act like an 8 year old.
3. You can’t really ever divorce yourself entirely from your culture, so there’s a limit to how much of a non-native approach you can suddenly morph into.
4. On the other hand, it’s almost always a good idea to observe what others do and see whether you can learn from them.
Instead of bemoaning our culture and trying to become French, Chinese or whatever it is this year, there are plenty of things you can do and still be you, to guide how you react to normal toddler behavior, and cultivate a decent, enjoyable, appropriate, non-frantic life, yes, even with young children.
Earlier this month I held a Toddler Parenting Workshop where we covered the Four Basic Principles of living with a toddler. The ideas are not French, or Chinese. If we have to name it, I’d say it’s Pragmatic Parenting, but we can also call it American if you’d like, because I do very much believe that parents don’t need to suspend the Pursuit of Happiness just because they’ve had kids. They do, however, need to make adjustments, because Happiness with small children isn’t exactly like Happiness when you’re childless.
Next month there will be another workshop focussed on hand-on practice.
We will apply the four principles and role-play specific parenting scenarios (like: how to respond when your kid throws food. Which they do. World-wide.).
If you missed the first Workshop, don’t worry — we’ll have a review of the basics at the beginning. <But I’m not going to read Frog & Toad again, you’ll have to ask the other students to give you a summary :-)>
TODDLER WORKSHOP II: Hands-On Problem-Solving for Real Parents
Saturday, March 31, 2012, 10-noon, Kinected, 151 W. 19th Street 2nd Fl.
$50 per person or $60 per couple (use paypal button at left). If you are a former student of mine, you can come for half-price if you bring a full-paying new student or couple — contact me to arrange this, at meredith (at) amotherisborn (dot) com.