Do As the French Do

I just read an article about the differences between French children and American children, and I am very intrigued. As a mother I am constantly looking for ways to improve my parenting abilities and help my daughter grow up to be the best woman she can be. As soon as her first birthday rolled around my baby immediately transformed into a toddler. Every day she learns to do something new, and usually something that she should not be doing. First it was learning where the cat food was and how fun it is to eat it, and then it was ripping the magazines to pieces and climbing into the bath tub with all of her clothes on. Every time I pick up the pile of scattered coasters I turn around to find a pile of DVDs all over the livingroom covered in coffee. As a working mother, student, and wife there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done, and as my toddler becomes more mobile there seems to be more to do. So how is it that French parents get their toddlers to be patient, polite, and independent? Pamela Druckerman seems to know the answer to that question. Though American parents say “no”, we apparently aren’t say it correctly.

“I pointed out that I’d been scolding Leo for the last 20 minutes. Frédérique smiled. She said that I needed to make my “no” stronger and to really believe in it. The next time Leo tried to run outside the gate, I said “no” more sharply than usual. He left anyway. I followed and dragged him back. “You see?” I said. “It’s not possible.” Frédérique smiled again and told me not to shout but rather to speak with more conviction. I was scared that I would terrify him. “Don’t worry,” Frederique said, urging me on. Leo didn’t listen the next time either. But I gradually felt my “nos” coming from a more convincing place. They weren’t louder, but they were more self-assured. By the fourth try, when I was finally brimming with conviction, Leo approached the gate but—miraculously—didn’t open it. He looked back and eyed me warily. I widened my eyes and tried to look disapproving. After about 10 minutes, Leo stopped trying to leave altogether. He seemed to forget about the gate and just played in the sandbox with the other kids. Soon Frédérique and I were chatting, with our legs stretched out in front of us. I was shocked that Leo suddenly viewed me as an authority figure.”

While I work on my “nos” I intend to buy Druckerman’s book, “Bringing Up Bebe” so I can pick up a few more pointers. Hopefully by the time Lily Noelle is two she will be acting a little more French (after all, my maiden name is Salgot).



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