It’s all in priorities. Don’t tolerate whiny, screaming, demanding kids. Expect better of them. Do you want an independent or dependent child?
From the WSJ, an article penned by American ex-pat Pamela Druckerman explains the difference between American and French parenting styles. It’s rather illuminating. She writes:
And once I started thinking about French parenting, I realized it wasn’t just mealtime that was different. I suddenly had lots of questions. Why was it, for example, that in the hundreds of hours I’d clocked at French playgrounds, I’d never seen a child (except my own) throw a temper tantrum? Why didn’t my French friends ever need to rush off the phone because their kids were demanding something? Why hadn’t their living rooms been taken over by teepees and toy kitchens, the way ours had?
Soon it became clear to me that quietly and en masse, French parents were achieving outcomes that created a whole different atmosphere for family life. When American families visited our home, the parents usually spent much of the visit refereeing their kids’ spats, helping their toddlers do laps around the kitchen island, or getting down on the floor to build Lego villages. When French friends visited, by contrast, the grownups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves.
Before you chide the French for not involving themselves in child-rearing, think again:
But for all its problems, France is the perfect foil for the current problems in American parenting. Middle-class French parents (I didn’t follow the very rich or poor) have values that look familiar to me. They are zealous about talking to their kids, showing them nature and reading them lots of books. They take them to tennis lessons, painting classes and interactive science museums.
Yet the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. “For me, the evenings are for the parents,” one Parisian mother told me. “My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it’s adult time.” French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are—by design—toddling around by themselves.
Fostering independence is a primary goal–or should be–of parenting. If, after all, you’re preparing your kids to go off into the world alone, should they not be able to care for themselves? If nothing else, decades of helicopter parenting reveals overly sheltered kids who are ill-prepared to enter the world, by failure of the parents. No wonder the “youth vote” breaks so heavily for Democrats: they need Big Brother since they are unable to care for themselves.
Druckerman highlights myriad facets of “French parenting” she hails as highly successful. Read the rest. I plan on downloading her new book.