They’re allowed to do difficult things themselves
“Me do it!” is a favourite toddler phrase and for good reason – the early years are when children discover all the cool ways their new body works and how to use it. But a well-meaning parent can too-easily squelch this budding autonomy. How? By doing everything for the child. French parenting counteracts that philosophy by treating children more like adults-in-training than helpless babes.
“The French believe that kids feel confident when they’re able to do things for themselves, and do those things well,” writes Pamela Druckerman, an American mother who chronicled her experience raising children in France in her book Bringing Up Bébé and the follow-up Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting. “The de’clic (DEH-kleek) is an aha moment when a child figures out how to do something important on his own… It’s a welcome sign of maturity and autonomy.”
Sure, you can do (fill in the blank) better and faster than your kid – you have a lifetime of training, after all – but that won’t help them learn how to do it and feel the self-confidence that comes with doing something yourself. Plus, it teaches grit, and grit is one of the personality traits most associated with future success in life.
They are praised sparingly
Many of us, fairly or not, have gotten a reputation for the “everyone gets a trophy” style of parenting. Fearful of hurting tender feelings, parents praise every child for everything. But while it might save tears in the short term, in the long run all that praise becomes diluted and meaningless. Instead, Druckerman notes, “After children have learned to talk, [French] adults don’t praise them for saying just anything. French parenting is about praising kids for saying interesting things, and for speaking well.”
When children truly earn your praise, they will feel a true sense of accomplishment and take pride in what they learn.
That being said, here are 10 compliments your kids really need to hear.
They understand adults-only time
Kids are kids and grown-ups are grown-ups, with all the differences in development and maturity that implies. So why do so many parents insist on having their kids with them all the time? Perhaps it’s guilt about being away from them at work or the misguided notion that parents have to be everything to their children, but it makes mums and dads feel burned out and often requires more of children than they are able. The solution, according to Druckerman, is to have dedicated adult time (and we don’t just mean sex).
“In French parenting, the parents have managed to be involved without becoming obsessive,” she writes. “They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there’s no need to feel guilty about this. ‘Evenings are for the parents,’ one Parisian mother tells me.”