Wednesday, February 8, 2012

French Methods

I read a very long blog post about parenting the other day, in which a mother talked about the difference betwixt American-style parenting and French-style parenting. What she said roused questions in my little brain - questions that I think it would be beneficial for girls to find answers for. So I'm opening a conversation (in the comments) about the questions that I'm listing - Biblical moms, your wisdom is appreciated here!

(PS. I already went to my mom with these questions, but I thought, like I already mentioned, that it would be good for young women to find them out as well.)

In her post, the mother implied that the reason her (American) child wouldn't listen to her was because she (the mother) wasn't firm or confidant enough in her manner of speaking. Her child had found a gate at the border of an outdoor playground and, while the mother was talking to a (French) friend of hers, the child continued, time after time, rebuke after rebuke,to walk through the gate. The mother's (French) friend told her something like: "If your child continues to disobey and walk through that gate, we aren't going to have a very good conversation." The mother asked what her friend suggested - she had already told the child "No" half a dozen times. The friend said that she needed to be confident and more stern in her rebuke. So, the next time the child went through the gate, the mother got up, and said "No" more firmly - but not very confidently. The child went through again. The second time that she had to get up and get him, the mother was "brimming with self-confidence" and sternly told her not to go through the gate. And the child stopped.

I think I agree with this part. Parents are, in my opinion, to be respected, and the Bible clearly says to "Obey your parents..."

Something that knew I didn't agree with, though, was leaving kids to cry in the crib. The post claimed that doing this (instead of getting up in the middle of the night and rocking them back to sleep, etc.) would train them to sleep through the night. I really think that leaving little ones to cry in the crib produces children that are depressed and think they "aren't worth it." These kinds of children can grow into juvenile delinquents and suicide cases. I don't think "a good night's sleep" is worth all that.

Something that I wasn't sure about was this: The woman noticed that the French parents (who, as you've probably guessed, at least in this woman's eyes, have better behaved children than average American parents do) let their children play by themselves, teaching them to look for ways to entertain themselves instead of sitting like bumps on a log unless someone gives them something to do.

I agree with not doing EVERYTHING with them all the time and I'm all for wholesome exercise of the imagination, but I think parents should spend time with their children, playing games, teaching Bible stories, talking about the Lord. "When you rise up, when you lay down, when you sit by the wayside, etc." (I'm paraphrasing.) I think the key here is in "the middle of the road" - but exactly, what is the "middle?"

And so...let the conversation begin!


Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog post! I thought the author's viewpoint on French mothers' vs. American mothers' attitudes toward children played a very significant role in the equation. According to her, French mothers view children as a blessing...something to be desired, and good; wheras too many American mothers view their children as nuisances, pests, or something to be endured. I think children can "feel" our attitudes and respond accordingly.

As far as the issue of the child not going out the me that would imply that more training needed to take place at home, before the mother could expect her child to obey in public. For training, the mother should make eye contact, call the child's name in a calm tone of voice, give the command and expect to be obeyed. If the child chose not to come (as in this case), she should take the child by the hand and bring him to where she originally gave the command. After doing this until she was sure the child understood what was expected, she should call the child again and begin giving either a reward (chocolate chip) or a consequence (swat). If the mother is consistent to ALWAYS expect obedience, the child will know that he can obey or choose the consequence. He will still test you to make sure you mean it, but will be much more secure and obedient.

As for letting the baby cry himself back to sleep, I'm with you. I believe that crying is a baby's primary means of communication and when we allow children to cry themselves to sleep, we are sending the message that their needs are not important. There have been studies suggesting that many teenage delinquents were raised by unresponsive, uncaring parents. As mothers, we need to realize that "This too shall pass"...far too quickly. My mom always told me she loved the middle of the night feedings and diaper changes (she had 8 children) because that was the one time she could be totally alone with that child and give the baby her undivided attention.

When it comes to doing things with your children, we should lean to doing everything with them when they are babies, which will give them the security to develop into independent toddlers and children. You cried everytime I left the room without you, but by the time you were two, people were amazed at how independent you were. I did not play with you all day. But you helped me with the household chores & meal preparations from the time you could climb up on a chair. We worked together, I read to you and sometimes played with you. But we always did our work first.

Children are a reward from God! They are a blessing! They will cause you to become VERY close with the Heavenly Father who created them and is the true source of wisdom and guidance in their upbringing. There is great joy and contentment in children who have been well trained, but on the flip side, "a child left to himself, bringeth his mother shame."

Bailey said...

Interesting. I personally have little experience with French children, so I cannot immediately compare the two. :o)

I think consistency and firmness, coupled with grace and love, is absolutely essential to teaching a child respect. I've had my own experiences with babysitting and preschooling where the key to obedience was being firm (but not authoritarian) and following through with consequences. So I agree with the French mother.

I totally disagree with leaving a child to cry in his crib. I would note, though, that there is a parenting style that does employ this method, and it does not necessarily lead to hands-off parenting or juvenile delinquents. I've witnessed enough mommy wars on the internet to be careful with my opinion there! ;o)

On the last point...hmmm. I guess with America, everything is so insitutionalized that some kids don't even know how to play. If they're not in organized sports or school or after-school activities, they're playing video and computer games or watching educational TV or spending time at a friend's house. I think it's good for children to learn to occupy themselves -- to have a rest time -- to explore alone (good for mommy, too!). Maybe the middle of the road would be to just include a child into the routine of the household, with occasional special times of concentrated play. The natural course of the day will lend plenty of time for togetherness and individual exploration.

Elisabeth said...

Well, I guess I'll just weigh in with my experience of letting a child cry through the night. I've had 6 kids and each one I trained a bit differently. But my oldest, I let cry.

Let me explain. Unless a child has health problems, there is no reason why they cannot sleep through the night. Habits are very easily established of waking up at night, which makes for a tired mother. This can go on for years. I've seen it. A baby wakes up for about 20-30 minutes, mother changes it diaper and then feeds it. (By this time, it would seem the mother would be fully awake.)

How I taught my son to sleep through the night was to give him a bottle of warm water when he woke up. This taught him that waking up was not worth it. It took only one night of him crying and he slept through the night. When I say one night I don't mean he cried all night. Just for a little while.

Children do not need that extra feeding in the night to stay healthy. They will grow healthy and strong in spite of the missed feeding.

This is a very controversial topic and maybe I'm wrong but at some point don't mothers have to teach their babies to sleep through the night or did they all just start doing it?

I know of someone whose child woke up for YEARS and they would always get up with them. I'm afraid I don't have that much stamina.

Disclaimer: Even though I let my children cry, I don't say it's the only way. It's just when I see parents being worn down by getting up several times in the night with their child that I wish they could try this.

P.S. No delinquents or neurotics here in this house. :D