French Parenting

I was listening to an interview on PBS the other morning of a woman who studied and then wrote about how the French raise their children. There are several ideas that struck me. The one I want to comment on here is the concept of waiting.

The French believe that waiting is a learned skill and children can begin to learn at a very early stage. Actually, at birth, but I don’t want to get into their infant methods here.

When I was selecting topics for my parenting classes child development was always a must. It was important to for parents to understand typical behaviors and appropriate parent responses for their child at whatever stage they were. Toddlers, I told them, find it difficult to wait.  “They don’t have the concept of  time; nor do they understand words like ‘later’, or ‘in a little while’.”  This was the explanation for most tantrums. One way to deal with it is to anticipate their needs before they actually have them. For example, parents were encouraged to bring snacks along when they travel rather than expect a child to wait until the next meal, or the next exit ramp. It is a very convincing idea because the fish crackers do stop the yelling in the car. Never mind that when you finally do stop for lunch, the child is not hungry.

That leads to the fact that the French claim that their children are good eaters. Parents serve them in courses, typical of the French. So they first  get their vegetables, then their meat or main course, then, for desert, they get fruit and cheese. Because they haven’t been stuffed with cookies and chips, French children come to the table hungry and eager to eat the first thing in front of them. No arguing about broccili in France! Also,  children are expected to stay at the table for the duration of the meal. Their skill of waiting applies to the waiting to play with their toys while the family finishes their meal together.

I wonder how learning the  skill of waiting effect adults life in France. Perhaps road rage is less of a problem in Paris than in Pittsburg.