Friday, March 9, 2012

bringing up bebe.

there is some controversy over bringing up bebe. i mean, how could the french know more than americans how to raise a child?

that said, i must say this book has changed my life.

being the over-parenter worry-wart that i am, this book awakened me to some ideas that were completely revolutionary.

i don't know where to begin. as an american parent, i have been programmed to believe that our children need to achieve, develop as quickly as possible, compete with others, and be constantly stimulated and praised in order to thrive, thus serving as the center of the family's universe.

the mother wears as a badge of honor her grey hairs, sleep-deprivation, eye-bags and chauffeur status in the family.

the french, however (according to the book), believe the child should be taught very early on how to adapt to the family's existing rhythms, including mealtimes and bedtimes, and serve as an important component of the family, but not its epicenter.

the book puts forth that co-dependent hovering and bowing to his every wish hurts the child more than helps, and that it's important to let the child (even as an infant) to learn to manage waiting, frustration and alone time in order to become a healthy individual.

toddlers, the author puts forth, may act like they want to run the house with their demands, but they are ultimately less secure and happy when you allow it.

each child should have her own responsibilities, should speak respectfully to adults, and be fully able to sit quietly and patiently in public (and when mommy's on the phone). this can be achieved by building a simple structure of rules that contains a measure of freedom and flexibility.

in other words, it's exactly how my parents brought us up, except that we didn't eat baguette and brie. so how did i get so far off track?

somewhere along the line i came to believe that children aren't capable of such things as sitting still, putting themselves to bed or picking up their dirty clothes. after all, how often do you see well behaved american children in restaurants? (never)

all of us moms are so worn out and beaten down by every tantrum and demand. we're resigned to living at our wits' end as a badge of honor that we're good mothers, willing to sacrifice everything for our child. however, the book says that's not a healthy example for the child.

using a consistent approach and a firm "no," a child can do much, much more than we ever imagine (even sitting still in a restaurant), and be much happier for it.

in other words: balance, consistency, forward thinking, love, common sense.

my job as mother, the book says, isn't to micromange my child, and it's not to be his muse. it's to educate him. to introduce him to the world: to tastes, sounds and experiences that awaken his own ability to interact with the world around him. that includes waiting, disappointment, having to entertain himself and consequences.

most important, my job is to model being an emotionally healthy and balanced person, so that he can become one as well.

how can he – if all he sees is an over-involved, crazy-eyed, exhausted mother who caves to his every wish, treats him as a fragile incapable being, and never takes time to exist as a human being outside the role of motherhood?

anyway - read it - it's a wonderful yin to balance out the american parent's yang. i found it thoroughly enjoyable and helpful.

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