Parenting Styles

Okay. So a friend sent me this link a while back and I'm only just getting a chance to blog about it. It's all about the observations of an American mother who moved to Paris and noticed that French mums had a certain je ne sais quoi that allowed them to mother differently from what she was used to. So I figured'd be fun to compare the French way to the West Indian here goes:

The Food Thing

Apparently, French parents "educate their child...that appreciation for different food is something you cultivate over time". Hence the reason you see French enfants eating their vegetables without throwing a tantrum. I have to say that West Indian parents are pretty much the same way...although I do notice some children's eating habits going the way of the U.S. of A. thanks to an influx of foreign food items and fast food chains (and, I'd wager, a lack of knowledge about healthy eating).

But in our house, again thanks to the advice of Marilyn Stollmeyer - and my aversion to the idea of actually pureeing food or (worse still) buying bottled baby food - we followed the method of baby led weaning. It's been an integral part of why our son has a healthy appetite and why he will choose to eat fruit over candy. Adults are routinely open-mouthed when they see the kid chow down on a broccoli floret. The other part of this equation is that we've never had a big reaction to his decision to sometimes throw food or his penchant for walking about in the middle of a meal. The absence of a litany of "don'ts" means that he gets no attention for "unacceptable" behaviour, so he's more likely to finish his dinner without a fuss. Tantrums and food? I don't think so. The child loves to eat and a dish that he's not crazy about this week is something that he'll eat with gusto the next. What we eat, he eats. I'm not cooking dinner twice. (Well, truth be told, I'm not even cooking dinner once these days, thanks to the wonderful hubby).

The Entertainment Thing

According to the author, American parents go everywhere with a bag of goodies to keep their children occupied, whereas French mothers would maybe walk with one item for the child to entertain himself while the maman would chat with a friend. I think West Indian parents are middle of the road on this - and it really does depend on the child's age - and, of course, where you're going. For instance, when our son was younger and we'd go to church on a weekend, I'd pack a book or two (just in case) to occupy him during an hour-long Mass. (I know many Catholics choose the "microwave" version because it's easier on their kids, but the attention-span thing really hasn't been an issue for us). So now we travel lighter, because he's always interested in what's going on, no matter where we go.

I also notice that he's content to play by himself if he's not into what I'm doing at at any given moment, but at the same time, his father and I do try to include him in practically everything we do, because it's how he learns. Plus, you know...we like having him around. And because we're (gasp!) not spring chicken parents, many of our friends have either already been there, done that, or have chosen not to do it at all, so he's very much used to interacting with adults.

The Independence Thing

While the link doesn't go into much more than the preceding two points (I guess I'll have to buy the book!), I'll make one more observation. My son and I get together with some friends once a week for a play day and one of the mums just happens to be French. Another happens to be eastern European. And I happen to be Trinidadian, with a leaning towards the European way of doing things. I have not succumbed to sending my kid off to pre-school at an early age simply because it's "what's done". Locally, we have adopted a largely North American approach of pushing kids into "independence", and hey...sometimes you have to be the maverick: I think it's fair to say that the U.S. education system has serious challenges, while many European countries seem to have it all figured out. American kids are mostly off to pre-school at 2 and a half, while education is not mandatory in some European countries until the age of 7 (It's 6 in France, though I understand that the system continues to get more and more stringent from that point onward).

But I digress. The mums in our group have all chosen to keep the tether tight-ish until our kids are ready to venture a bit farther way, which in our case, means when they're a bit older. Which I guess makes this West Indian mother more French than she thought!

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