Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Raising Up Bebe": Parenting 101

Have you seen the new book "Raising Up Bebe" on like every show on TV lately? The author is Pamela Druckerman, an American journalist who moved to France and is raising her children there. She wrote the book to contrast the differences between French and American parenting. She, herself, has taken lessons from the French in the ways that they raise their children. In her television interviews, she has mentioned two of the most important lessons she has learned so far.
One of them was getting your child to try new foods and eat a variety of foods. She said the French motto is:
You don’t have to eat everything, you just have to taste it.

This seems like common sense, right? I know Bailey would probably prefer to just eat junk food, but we don't give her the choice {Because we are the parents and we buy the food...}. So in turn, she loves fruit and generally likes vegetables. With new foods, we offer her a bite. We don't chastise her if she spits it out the first few times she tries it. Is this really a French thing? If you only fed your kids what they prefer at the age of 2, wouldn't everyone grow up eating only pasta and chicken nuggets?

The next teachable idea is that of babies and sleep. According to Druckerman, French babies are sleeping through the night by 2-3 months of age. The French believe you can teach your baby to trust its own sleep cycles and begin to soothe itself. Druckerman said that the French were horrified by the idea of American parents sleep training their children at 9 months by letting them "cry it out."   

The subject of babies and sleep seems a bit touchy with American moms. I have been told many times over that we must be "lucky" because our kids slept through the night at a young age. {Bailey was sleeping through the night at 11 weeks, and Avery even sooner at 8 weeks.}

Now I know every baby is different, and some kids are just plain challenging - some parents have one child that slept well and the other that won't, but is it really just luck? So many people have told us about their 10, 11, 12 month-old kids that are still waking up frequently during the night. Someone was even explaining to Jared that she gets up and feeds her 18 month-old two or more times every night! I am sorry, that is just ridiculous. No perfectly healthy 18 month-old is truly hungry at midnight and again at 3 AM.... unless you made him that way. 

And maybe that is the key.

Everyone knows that babies are smart, manipulative little beings. They cry to communicate and eventually, when they are older, to get what they want. They like routine. If you always run in right away to get your child the second they make a peep, they aren't just going to stop doing it out of the blue once they hit a certain age. It's their routine: I wake up, I cry, Mom gets out of bed to pick me up, I get a bottle, I go back to sleep. It's not about whether they need it or not, it's what they have come to expect. If your baby has had a chance to figure it out on their own, it might be more like this: I wake up, it's still night-time, I go back to sleep. (Obviously not applying to newborns.)

And before anyone points it out, I am not parenting expert.

But it makes sense, right? I don't think it is so much a French thing - it's a common sense thing. You see it everyday in the grocery store: some 4 year old is telling his mom what he will or won't eat. He is throwing a fit for something and his mom finally just gives in.  Who is in charge again? I think most people can agree that they see this over and over: children calling the shots. And the reason kids are doing this is because they are allowed to. Because in a child's mind if a tantrum worked once, it will probably work again, and again, and again....

When we grew up, I knew who was in charge (the wooden spoon was my mom was.) When we went to the store (which was hardly ever if she could help it), we didn't each get a toy for being good; we were expected to be good. We didn't get to go to bed whenever we felt like it; we had a bedtime and it was enforced. We didn't get paid to do chores around the house; they were expected of us as a member of the family. My parents weren't really strict, they just had rules and we knew they were to be followed.

And my point is that rules are good. Kids know how to act when they know what the rules are. And just because your household has rules doesn't mean your kids aren't having any fun or are having less of a childhood. It just means less tantrums, more mental stability for Mommy, and less of a need to fill that Xanax prescription.

So is it that the French have developed some new parenting techniques or is it that we just forgot them along the way?

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