Sunday, February 12, 2012


ok, so by now you've probably heard about that article in the wall street journal about why french parents are superior.  i'd heard about it last week, i think, but didn't actually read it until i read this post on hellobee yesterday.  i thought the hellobee post was really interesting, and since people in the comments related it to the article, i thought i'd check out the article.

i gotta admit, i'm fascinated.  i'm a social worker.  you know this by now.  but my minor in college, and something i've always been interested in, was sociology.  sociology is, by definition, the scientific study of society.  i think the study of social norms and values is so amazing.  so this article really piqued my interest.

anyway, as i read this post, i was reminded of a post i read a month ago on hellobee about benign neglect.  at the time, i remember thinking to myself, "i should blog about this, it's really interesting."  then i forgot.  so i'm back, thinking about it, so here i am.

i believe in benign neglect and executive function.  when i was growing up, my parents would leave me and my sister to our own devices.  sometimes for hours at a time.  sure, they were always around, but i can specifically remember chunks of time when callie and i were in our rooms playing or reading.  there are pictures of us on our beds, playing with our care bears and singing along to our tape recorders.  we used to steal my mom's voice recorder and record stupid skits and messages for her.  we would make up dances.  i remember doing the same thing with our friends, too.  we definitely had nintendo and played it quite a bit, but for the most part, we were outside playing games or inside being creative. 

and, if i do say so myself, i think we turned out pretty damn good.  we are successful adults with steady, important jobs and in happy, stable marriages.  we did well in school and get along well with others.  we have lots of friends and are successfully social beings.  but we can also be perfectly content to sit at home and read or watch movies by ourselves.

as i read the article about french parents, all i could think was, "i hope i can raise our children like that."  i hope that our kids show restraint and don't demand immediate gratification. i hope to teach our children that, while they are important, they are not the only thing in our lives that deserve/demand attention.  so does our marriage.  so do our jobs, our friends, our families...plenty of other things.  i hope to be that french mother that tells her interrupting child "just wait, mommy will be with you in 2 minutes, she's busy talking to her friend right now."  and i hope our child waits patiently.

i like the idea of buying snacks for children, but making them wait to eat until it's snack time.  children who have free reign to the fridge end up being children who are obese.  maybe that's a gross generalization, but...honestly.  if i exhibited no self-control and ate whatever i felt like whenever i felt like it, i'd be much heavier than i am.  no matter how much i exercised. children should be taught self-control and delayed gratification.  that hershey kiss will not taste any better right now than it will in 30 minutes when it's snack time.

so many of our friends' children do not know how to do this.  they interrupt and nag and pull on sweaters and poke and hit until they get what they want.  and their parents let them.  i think that does the children a disservice.  this leads them to believe that their needs are more important than anyone else's, and they grow up expecting that from life.  that's not a fair lesson to teach our children, because, as we all know, life doesn't work that way.

matt and i have already discussed the fact that we are not going to buy cars with dvd players in them.  my sister and i went on 10-hour road trips every year of our lives, and we didn't have dvd players.  we sang songs, we played "i spy," and we read.  we entertained ourselves.  and i plan to encourage my children to do the same.

i don't know how my parents taught us this.  maybe they just left us alone and forced us to figure out our own entertainment.  maybe they got us started coloring and then left us alone to keep going.  i don't know.  but i hope that i can figure it out.  i intend to practice benign neglect.  i hope to encourage executive function.  and i hope to be a french parent rather than an american one.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I love this! I started letting my kids play alone at a very young age so now they are totally fine with it. My three year old will play with his trains by himself for almost an hour! I'm always listening nearby and I’m fascinated by his imagination and dialog between the trains. There is no reason why I have to be involved in everything they do. They truly are the center of my world, but they don’t have to know that they are at all times. :)