Over the past few days I've been reading Bringing Up Bebe and it has my mom wheels turning so much. The book is based on the differences in child rearing between France and America. It talks about how French children are patient, sleep through the night, and play independently while American children often have issues with those things. Reading through the book made me realize a lot about my own parenting techniques- where I'm lacking, what I could improve upon, and maybe some tips on how to get there.
I don't want to pat my own back here, but I tend to think I'm doing okay at my first shot of being a mom. Henry is happy and healthy and in general a very well mannered little boy. We're teaching him to say please and thank you, to shake hands (this might be more out of cuteness than anything), and to address people as Miss and Mr. But he's now at the age where he is beginning to throw tantrums, say "no", and generally act in the way that I've always just thought toddlers act.
Apparently, this isn't so. In the book, the French children are taught from a very young age that they WILL wait, they WILL be patient, they will NOT act crazy when things don't go their ways. And in general, they're appalled by the way we parent. One of my biggest fears is to be somewhere with Henry and when we leave, for the people to say "can you believe he acted like that and she just LET him?" I've found myself saying (on more than one occasion), "that's just how toddlers are" when Henry gets a bit out of hand. And I say it to B most often. I guess I'm the one that is wrong in this situation. (Can we not tell him I said that?)
Bringing Up Bebe talks about French parents teaching not only patience from a young age (as in 3-6 months old!), but also sleep habits from a nearly newborn state. The main tactic they use to get their child to sleep (without realizing they use it) is what the author calls The Pause. French parents do not immediately respond to their children when they begin whining, no matter what the age. They take The Pause (usually between 5-10 minutes) to determine if the child is just waking up on their usual sleep cycle and will soon put themselves back to sleep, or if they actually need something. French parents train themselves to be incredibly in tune with the needs of their babies so that they can respond appropriately. Nearly all French babies are "doing their nights" (sleeping through the night) by 2-3 months old. Can you imagine?! We've been so trained to believe that we just have a child that doesn't sleep well. It is with this Pause that French parents also help to teach patience. By not responding immediately or giving the child what they want right away, they teach the child to wait and respect what their parents have said.
Another thing mentioned in the book is the concept of explaining things to their children. Here I will give myself a pat on the back because I do this and have been for awhile now. Babies are MUCH smarter than we give them credit for. Even if they can't respond to what we say, chances are good that they understand it. By talking things through you start to give a child the means to be rational. Now, will they still throw fits on occasion? Yes, of course. But it begins to lay the foundation. Henry is a very smart little boy, so when things don't go his way, we try to talk to him calmly before he explodes. Or, for instance, when we're playing outside and it's almost time for bed. We'll tell him "You can play for a couple more minutes and then it's time to go inside, take your bath, read a book, and go to bed". It's such a simple phrase but we're putting it in his mind early that he is to follow our rules. It also prepares him for what is going to happen as babies like structure. Again, does it work all the time? No. But we're still trying.
I'm not through all of the book yet, but I plan on instilling some of their tips and practices with Henry, and if we have a second baby, the sleep tips will definitely come in handy. If you have young children, I definitely recommend picking up the book.