A couple of weeks ago, my friend posted an article from the Wall Street Journal on Facebook. This article discussed the differences between French and American parenting. One of the most interesting concepts is that of “educating” as opposed to “disciplining”. It’s such an interesting idea because children don’t know how to act until you show them. If you teach them what it means to behave, then they’re more likely to behave. We, as Americans, are very quick to think about “fixing” a problem and punishing a child for misbehaving. If, however, we consider the fact that children are not born knowing how to act, it makes sense that we need to show them how to be good citizens.
Another important lesson I would like to impart upon Ben is the idea of the differences between adults and children. The French are very good at making distinctions between who is a parent and who is a child. American parents are very quick to make children their friends. This is unacceptable. The author talks about how American children interrupt adults “n’importe quoi” or “regardless” or “willy nilly”. I see this every day with my students. They see nothing wrong with interrupting teachers, arguing with them, and generally disregarding the differences between someone in authority and themselves. I constantly have to tell my students that they may not agree with a policy, but they have to follow it and that they have to listen to what I say because I am in charge of them. I understand rebellion in teenagers. I really do. However, there is a boundary between adults and children that needs to be firm. Too many parents allow their children to run the show. Again, I understand parents who work and allow children to have more liberties. I understand feeling guilty, so allowing them to do a lot more than would be normal. However, you are not their friend. You are their parent.
Finally, there is the art of self-sufficiency. This is an area where I struggle. Ben is almost 7 months old, and I still rush to give him his pacifier if he cries in the night. This would be a no-no in a French family. French parents teach their children to be able to manage themselves. They are able to play by themselves and be children. American children are needy. I fall into the trap, but I want Ben to be a lot more independent. When I was little, I was able to play in my room for hours by myself. While I LOVE hanging out with Ben, I want him to be able to do activities by himself that don’t involve video games.
French parents aren’t perfect and American parents aren’t horrible. There are just many different ideas to incorporate into my parenting style as Ben ages.