I've been on a decidedly non-classics reading kick, starting with this little parenting book about an American mother's experience raising children in France. I'd seen people talking about it since it came out and was always curious about what it had to say since I'd worked with French students both in Arizona and in France. Reading, I saw a lot of similarities between the stories Druckerman recounts and what I experienced living with my host family, especially when it came to the idea of the cadre, a strict framework of set rules with lots of freedom within.
One of the interviewee's explanation for strictness made a lot of sense, and would even work well to explain classroom management to aspiring teachers:
All this springs from [the] belief that having a parent who's confident is reassuring to kids [....] We have a saying in French: it's easier to loosen the screw than to tighten the screw, meaning that you have to be very tough. If you're too tough, you loosen. But if you are too lenient... afterward to tighten, forget about it.
The author talks about how conflicted she felt between American and French parenting at times.
It's very hard to know where the correct limits lie. By forcing Leo to stay in a playpen or in the sandbox, am I preventing him from one day curing cancer? Where does his free expression end and pointless bad behavior begin? When I let my kids stop and study every manhole cover we pass on the sidewalk, are they following their bliss, or turning into brats?
This part reminded me so much of what it was like to work at the international school in Scottsdale. With French teachers and American parents, there was a huge disconnect when it came to discipline and what was acceptable. Even with something as simple as fingerprinting, a child wouldn't be praised for their creative depiction of a rainbow-leaved tree. They would be told that trees are green, or maybe a different, acceptable autumn color depending on the season.
Even though the French do exercise a lot of control over kids, the children in my host family had a lot of freedom. For example, when it was bedtime, they didn't have to go to sleep right away, but they did have to stay in their bedrooms and entertain themselves. Then the parents did little things to build up the kids' independence too, from letting them help with dinner to sending them down the street to pick up a baguette in the morning. I was shocked when the little girl was allowed to go out by herself to run to the bakery, but she was beaming when she came back.
Overall, who knows what kind of parent I'll be someday, but the "French way" seems to have a lot to offer, especially in the section that described how to get an infant to sleep through the night. When the time comes, where do I sign up?
|poster via etsy|