I recently read “Bringing Up Bébé” by Pamela Druckerman and found it a very enlightening and entertaining read. She’s an American woman bringing up babies in Paris and notes the differences between parenting styles as well as the resulting child’s behavior. Where North American children tend to behave like tyrannical kings and queens, the French children seem to be functionally integrated into the adult world around them. I love it.
One of the points she brought out was in the diverse vocabulary French parents use with their infants and children. Here, we hear a lot of “Be good!” spoken to our kiddies. Even the Chinese have the equivalent with asking the child to be “guai”. Or if they do something pleasant, we heap on the praises of “Oh you’re so good” or “You’re so guai”. And once you’ve praised them for “being good”….well, are they not apt to think that everything they do is “good”? We haven’t exactly addressed what was so praise worthy in the first place. What does “good” mean anyways? It’s so ambiguous.
The French on the other hand, tell or praise their children for being “sage” …which is like saying “being calm.” Think about it…there’s a whole lot more going on for a child to be calm. That’s asking the child to quiet down their hearts and minds. To deal with the inner frustration of not getting their way or their timing. To be master over their impulses instead of being mastered by it. And that they are PART of a bigger world, and not THE world.
Yes I think we under-estimate what our infants and children can understand. The more diversity in the words we use with them, the more tools they’re given to understand and choose behavior. With ALL children in my life, I’m trying, even now, to change my words to build up good character and good behavior and specifically address negative behavior. Saying “You’re a good girl/boy” or “that’s bad” really doesn’t say much at all. I would much rather my child hear “What you did was very kind” or “Thanks for being patient” or “That attitude is selfish” or “Don’t be rude“. Even from infancy.
So in four months…this social experiment will start. haha. I invite you to join in. =)
You know that saying “It takes a village to raise a child“?
Is that still true?
I have many mommy friends…more mommy friends than non-mommy friends actually. Through conversation with them or through stories I hear, I get the strong sense that parenting advice/suggestions/help from others is sometimes tolerated but usually not welcome. I totally understand and agree that the parents usually know what’s best for their child or the style they want to raise their child in. I hear that sometimes they get so much “advice” it wears them down with self-doubt as to whether or not they know what they’re doing. Or other times it’s unwelcomed and ignorant advice given a circumstance others might not be aware of. It can drive one mad…so to stay sane, they just tell people to take a giant step back and let them raise their child in peace. On the other hand, there is also a lot of truly good advice and help to be had from seasoned and solid parents of great kids…because while “every child is different”, there’s also “nothing new under the sun”. Question is, where or what is that line for a villager to be involved? Do parents want a village around them?
(My guess is it also just depends on the comfort and control levels of every parent. It’s probably even different depending on whether you ask the Mom or Dad.)
I admit, sometimes it would be easier to just not care about the children around me. Hey they’re your kids, I don’t want to step on toes by helping, so I’ll be totally hands off…we’ll hang out again when they’ve left the nest. But sometimes, they really do appreciate the extra set of hands and eyes and help with the children. Especially if they have more than one. So…what’s the approach? If parents do want a village, how to be a good villager?
A conversation was had about this with Ms PR…mommy to a 18 month(?) old, as well as with my sister in law…mommy to four kids under the age of seven. Here are some take-aways that I’ll definitely keep in mind:
- Having a relationship with the parents is number one. If you don’t have a good relationship with them, you’re in no position to speak any kind of advice….because what do you know of their situation or circumstance? That said, I did hear of a friend whose baby girl was melting down in a restaurant when a stranger offered help, picked her up and totally calmed the baby down. Probably more the exception than the rule.
- Communicating with the parents before doing anything is key. “Is she allowed to do/have/eat this?” “Should I help him with that or let him figure it out?” “Do you want me to tell him ‘no’ or do you want me to just let you know about what he did after?” “Is it ok for her to play with my iphone?” “If She starts disturbing her sibling should I take her out of the room for a bit?” etc.
- Get to know what values the parents want the children to have regarding sharing toys, saying sorry, rewards and consequences, delayed or instant gratification, etc. I came across a post where a mom is asking others to NOT help her kids. It’s great! You know what values she wants for her kids and that helps define what to do or not do when around them. So parents, let the friends and family around you know what you expect, it’ll reduce the chances of them accidently pissing you off.
- Reinforce and support what the parents say to the kids. Keep the parent’s teaching/methods consistent if you’re helping out and don’t bring in your own way of doing something. Keep pointing back to the parents. So instead of saying “You have to finish your whole plate before leaving the table” (because that’s how you were brought up), say “Your Dad said you have to eat all your vegetables before you can go. It’s ok if you can’t finish the chicken.“
- Err on the side of being super gentle and less involved with children and wait for the parents to tell you otherwise.
Any other tips for the friends of those with children? Who’s in your village?
We recently met up with Mr and Mrs Why for a fun double date of squash (as in the racket sport) and an unhealthy dinner at Red Lobster afterwards. They’re an engaging and inviting couple I feel blessed to have met. One conversation topic in particular stood out in my mind: Faith vs Medicine
Considering my recent struggle to figure out where my faith fit into my health, I was very interested to hear what others thought. From my nonmedical perspective, my struggle with whether or not to use radioactive iodine versus having faith in God’s ability to heal me came down to whether or not I would surrender my control to God…specifically over its impact to family planning. “But,” Mrs Why asked, “if you were done having children, would you still have this struggle with faith or would you just do the RAI? And, if you were to trust God in healing in this aspect, would you also just ask God for healing every time you had a headache, etc?”
Good questions…I admit I hadn’t thought that far ahead. It was just for my current situation. Mr Why added some convincing thoughts to the mix. He said that medicine (and science) was also a provision of God, which I agree, but where faith really comes in is when medicine does not offer a high chance of success. For example, ibuprofen will cure my headache 100% of the time…so just take it. But chemotherapy only offers about a 55% chance of curing a particular cancer…so pray for healing. And in my case, radioactive iodine doesn’t cure ANYTHING, but destroys the organ responsible for my symptoms so that doctors can have an easier time managing the new symptoms due to killing my thyroid…so, I’m also praying for healing. And trying other treatments.
Earlier this year, my BIL’s wife also offered this insight, that if my life is in danger and needs immediate attention, use what science and medicine has to offer. But if it becomes about ease and convenience and control, then it’s a better practice to exercise faith.
Layering these two thoughts together I have a better idea of when to use each and what role each plays. Faith and Medicine are not conflicting entities that are exclusive of each other. Focusing on either side is unwise and potentially harmful. It’s a tight balance to maintain.
How about you? How would you differentiate when to use medicine and/or faith?