In a piece titled Why French Parents are Superior, Pamela Druckerman surmises that the French have some inside knowledge that results in better behaved children and happier, more relaxed parents. I read the posts weeks ago and wanted to share it, but overall, found it too troublesome and frustrating.
It’s not link bait, but the title itself is misleading. I’d suggest that the author has some good observations, but her conclusions are a bit off. It’s not that French parents are better than their American (or Canadian — I’ll lump the US and Canada together here, as our cultures are so similar) counterparts. Not all anyways. France probably has some great parents. So does Germany, South Africa, and Papa New Guinea. As does the US.
She identifies the problem well: parents do not enjoy spending time with their own children. Druckerman points to research to indicate that this is indeed the case for American parents. And while it’s obviously not true en masse, it does show a trend. And if your children are very poorly behaved, then spending time with them is a chore. And not an enjoyable one at that.
My frustration with the post is that there is no depth as to what the cause of the problem is. From my observations in life, it’s simply because so many now treat “having kids” as a hobby. This aspect of life is another notch in the belt. A career, various material items like the right house or car, retirement … kids. These all get lumped into the category of “successful life”.
The analogy makes some sense. If I pick up a hobby like building model planes, even without any prior experience, I can hone skills over time and become successful at creating miniature airplanes. The issue here is that a model airplane doesn’t bite the other model airplanes in the workshop. It won’t throw its food on the floor or raise its voice to get its way.
There are two issues I see with modern parenting that, if addressed, would bring us all a lot closer to the more relaxed, holistic atmosphere that Druckerman observed amongst the French.
One is that we have become a generation of parents who react to the child, rather than having a premeditated, proactive goal in mind. I see so many parents who (like Druckerman, I’m generalizing — there are plenty of good parents, but the overall trend is as described here) have children, put minimal effort into raising them thoughtfully, then simply hope they will turn out in the end. There is no end goal in mind, no vision.
Think of any area of your life where you have no plan, you simply take what comes. In some areas, that’s a fine way to live. But with children, you need a vision that defines your success and spend time thinking how you can achieve that success. That sounds business-y, I know. But it’s simply a way of thinking that applies to child rearing.
Here’s an example. I want to have children who are mindful of how their choices affect other human beings and the creation around them. Children who are thoughtful and considerate. Gentle, and at the same time, childishly enthusiastic. Curious and creative. Loving and compassionate. I cannot encourage all those characteristics if I do not take time to consider my children and their needs.
That’s not to say that your child(ren) won’t choose to ignore your teachings. It also doesn’t mean you plan every step of their day, every activity they’ll partake in. Rather, it means waking up every day with that end goal in mind, looking for opportunities to teach, and being proactive.
The second issue is that we focus on behaviour, rather than character. You can promote, encourage or force good behaviour, but still have impure motives stemming from a poor character. Assisting your child in building character will automatically result in good behaviour. Sadly, too many parents focus on correcting behaviour without getting to the root of the problem.
Understandably so. Digging to the root of the issue is hard, time consuming work. You have to be willing to drop what you’re doing in order to address the issue, to help your child see within themselves where their fault lies. Many parents, in our world of daycare, pre-school, and all day kindergarten, are simply not willing to take the time.
And of course, that is the real issue with poor parenting. The selfishness of the adult.
Raising children is a lifelong commitment. Thankfully, it’s also an extremely rewarding blessing as well. But it takes work to ensure that the (overall) experience is pleasant for everyone, both the parents and the children.
The answer is not in one country as opposed to another, or one culture over another. The answer lies in the parent being willing to make the shaping of the child more important that all their other endeavours. This has to be a daily activity.
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.