I recently read a parenting novel (book?) entitled Bringing up bébé, by Pamela Druckerman, otherwise known as, French children don’t throw food. I had read that this book was funny, but it barely cracked a smile from me. It led me to ask myself, have I become French? The answer, however, is no. Although I’m sure I’ve absorbed some aspects of French culture, I’m sure I haven’t simply « become French », as my mom sometimes says.
What bothered me about the book was what was said about anglophone parenting in general. The author seems to say that anglophone parents let their children walk all over them, that they don’t give their kids any autonomy, and that they generally only live for their offspring. I found this to be absurd and wonder if it’s true. Now I’d almost like go conduct my own research into the topic! Almost, not quite though.
Let me explain. As I embark on my entrepreneurial adventure, I need to be OK with my 4 year old son taking care of himself. I simply can’t entertain him all day. Besides, what good would it do him? A person can’t possibly become autonomous if he or she has never had the chance to try it. A child will never learn to play on his or her own if they’ve never been given the opportunity. Today, my kid regularly plays on his own, even when we’re available to play with him. He invents stories for his toys, kind of like the little boy in Toy Story and finds all sorts of creative ways to alleviate his boredom. I’m not so sure that would have happened had we hovered over him, constantly trying to keep his attention.
At the risk of being called a terrible mother, I’ve generally found it quite boring to play with my son all day, particularly when he was very small. There are only so many peekabu games that I can handle. So, of course we played, we read and we went out; but he also had to learn, from the youngest age, that his parents need their own time. How did we do this? It was quite simply really. As young as a year old, when I noticed he was into an activity, I left him at it. I didn’t interrupt him. He would be playing with rocks or sticks or some other object, and sometimes he’d do it for 30 to 40 minutes. Gradually, this would happen more and more often.
This has come in particularly useful while working from home. Our son can play by himself an entire morning. He does, of course, ask questions or make comments every once in a while, but unless I have a class planned, I don’t need to put him in front of the TV or occupy him any other way, he knows how to « entertain » himself.
What are your thoughts? Have you read this book? Have you had experiences similar to mine? I’d be curious to find out!
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