Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Reading

This is what I'm spending about 75% of my time doing at the moment.  The other 25% is split pretty equally between trips to the refrigerator and the bathroom.  I'm calling this my version of nesting since, much to my disappointment, I have felt no urge to mop floors, dust blinds, or do anything else remotely productive.

In my quest for parenting knowledge, I came across an article that someone posted on Facebook (I've tried finding it again but can't) comparing American children to other cultures. My understanding of this article was that our kids are spoiled, disrespectful, self-absorbed, impulsive, and aren't capable of reacting appropriately to hearing "no," while children in many other coutries are well-behaved, responsible, and respectful.  I don't necessarily agree with such broad generalizations and, as a teacher, I have known many kids that do not fit this American characterization...but I have to admit, I've also seen many who fit the description to a T (and I have a parlyzing fear that my child will turn into one of them).  The article also made a reference to French parenting which resulted in googling which resulted in spending $25.95 on this book.
After a little more research I found out I'm about six months behind (story of my life) and this book was "highly anticipated" earlier this year.  So unless you're living under a rock like me, you've probably already heard of it.
I have to say the book fascinated me.  I read it in less than 24 hours and am hoping I have time to go back and read it again.  Not to say that I agree with everything in it by any means, but the French definitely have a few practices that are worth considering.  A few that caught my eye were:
  • Most French babies sleep through the night around 2 or 3 months old.  Say what?!
  • Children are taught how to wait for things.  For example, their parents' attention or dinner at a restaurant.
  • It is important for children to learn to play by themselves.  The parents should not have to constantly provide entertainment.
  • Kids eat what parents cook.  No one will prepare you an extra meal of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. 
But, what I found most intriguing were the differences between children's behavior in our culture and theirs.  The American mom who wrote it lives in Paris and talks about her daughter being the only child she has ever seen throwing a tantrum and how French kids in restaurants would quietly entertain themselves while hers was shredding napkins, throwing food, and running around tables.  Obviously, I know that every child and parent is different.  Certainly there are well-behaved American kids and badly-behaved French kids. 

But reading this did raise a question for me about the overall attitude of the two different cultures when it comes to parenting.  According to the book, the French seem to have a more laid-back yet firm approach that encourages children to be independent at a very young (most Americans would probably say too young) age but leaves no question as to what the child's boundaries are and who is in charge...and, shockingly, everything doesn't revolve around the child.  Yet, it seems to me, many Americans are all about giving our children our undivided attention at all times and providing them with whatever they want when they want it...and then feeling guilty when we find that's impossible.  Again, I'm speaking of my observations of the overall attitude...I know not everyone thinks this way.  But my question is this: Are you viewed as a "selfish parent" if you don't subscribe to this type of American parenting?  Or, do people raise their children this way because it is fulfilling some need to have another person be completely dependent on them?  And isn't that, in a way, selfish also? 

I am not saying one way is right and one is wrong...just very interesting contrasts.  I think this probably confused me more than anything, but like I said, I couldn't put it down.  I would love to know anyone else's opinion on this or thoughts on parenting in general.  I'm sure for the first few months J and I will just be wingin' it!

Now, I'm off to read about breastfeeding...but don't worry...I'm not planning to post about it.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to your new life! I haven't heard of that book, but may have to check it out. Once Hadley got here I threw all books out the window and just did what felt "right." Of course I still have a fifteen month old that doesnt sleep all night....

    I'm so excited for you! You are going to be an awesome Mama!