I recently read the book, “Bringing up Bèbè,” by Pamela Druckerman. The book is the latest in the genre of multicultural parenting. This seems to be the answer to everyone’s parenting problems: Find a culture, glean the good and move on to the next part of the world.
Druckerman lives in France and talks about the differences between parenting in the U.S. and France. French parents seem to realize that there is no perfect parent. They understand that everyone makes mistakes and to not overwhelm themselves with guilt.
I have come to embrace this idea. How many of us out there are constantly worrying about being the perfect mother to our children? I know I do. The French realize it is never going to happen, so why worry about it? They seem to live a less stressed, children-obsessed world.
The French also expect their children to behave in a more adult-like fashion. Snaking by French children is almost non-existent. In America, I would think twice before leaving the home without half of my fridge in my purse. I don’t want to be the mother at the playground whose child is screaming for food. I would look like a deadbeat parent or even a cruel monster.
There are also no “children’s” foods. Their youth are expected to eat the same as adults. There simply is not the whole American-style industry that markets crappy food to youngsters. Why do we think they need all the extra salt and sugar? More sugar might taste better, but it also makes it tougher to parent when they are running around trying to duct tape the dog to the wall.
No more kiddie food for my child, I have learned, thanks to this book. Another ideal that I will take to my home is a stricter household.
Druckerman said even the most Bohemian households in France would be considered quite austere in America. They error on the side of being authoritarian because it is “easier to tighten a screw than it is to loosen it.” The French don’t rationalize to their children why they can’t have another board game. It is a simple “no” and that is it. No dramatic scenes, “no” is the end of the conversation.
I myself find that I cave in to my son’s demands because it is easier or I don’t want to make a scene at the store. I really need to stop this kind of behavior. After all, it I don’t start it when he is almost three, when will it end?
S.H.E. is a monthly publication for local women, published every third Saturday of the month in The Daily News.