Sunday, February 3, 2013

French Musings

"A person's wisdom yields patience..." (Proverbs 19:11, NIV).

I reread an article about French verses American parenting recently.  Apparently, French parenting embodies a certain mystic that has propelled it to the fore in the American child rearing debate.  As a hot topic in The Wall Street Journal, I was curious to weigh in on the subject.  Who doesn't love a good debate?

The article is an adaptation from the book, Bringing Up Bebe.  Author Pamela Druckerman summarizes her book and includes some interesting vignettes in the article.  As an American Mom who has lived in France, she is intent on parsing out the cultural differences in parenting styles after being impressed.

Keeping in mind that the differences she notes are generalizations, we learn that they include the fact that French parents cultivate patience in their children, they encourage their children to spend time playing by themselves, and they say no with authority.

These are growing edges in American parenting she posits, for American children are subject to a culture of instant gratification.  American parents do not intentionally cultivate patience as a skill and can sometimes live in constant service to their children's demands.  A natural extension of this is a lack of firm parental boundaries.

What transpires is a fast-paced society of constant demands that is draining, and a parenting problem that has been termed "overparenting, hyperparenting, helicopter parenting, and...kindergarchy" according to Druckerman.  Parents are tired and children are prone to crack under stress because of a low threshold.

Whether or not you agree with her article, I found a couple of points worth taking away.  First, I do believe there is a high baseline of anxiety in our global consumerist culture.  Although I do not think this is limited to America, it is important to teach patience to our children.  Delayed gratification has many resonances in a life of faith as we look critically at what desire we are looking to satiate.

Further, I appreciate Druckerman's echo of French parents' desire to carve out adult time away from their children.  Time to connect with our spouses or other primary support relationships is foundational to our own healthy functioning.  And this includes time to nurture our relationship with Christ.  Protecting it takes intentionality and the ability to sometimes say "no."

Prayer:  Dear God, Grant me your wisdom and a heart to think critically in our culture, so that I can continue to grow as a mother and draw closer to you.  Help me as I seek to establish balance in my family and cultivate spiritual virtues.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

You can read the article, "Why French Parents Are Superior," in The Wall Street Journal by clicking here:

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