Recently I have been having some issues with Ray listening and cooperating for me. The more I tried to get him to do what I wanted and needed him to do the more he tried to not do it and just be super defiant. So, I did what I normally do when I am at my wit’s end and don’t know what changes to make, I looked into some parenting books that I might be able to read that would give me some ideas to try. I just happened to stumble onto the book Bringing Up Bebe which is written by an American mother raising kids in Paris. For some reason lately I keep hearing about how European children are a lot more well-behaved than American children so I decided that maybe this book might help me out a bit.
The book is written as a narrative so it is a little bit longer than what I am used to for books like this. However, I have found that I really love the ideas that are in it. What I have learned is that French mothers and families have a set of rules for their kids. These rules are the major ones that the kids are not allowed to break no matter what. Then within these rules they tend to have a lot of freedom. Also, French mothers seem a lot more relaxed with their kids while keeping up with their main rules. They understanding that their kids are little humans that want to do all sorts of things and it is up to us as the parents to guide them and teach them how to act and be polite while also giving them the freedom to be themselves. All the while making sure that they are not walking all over us. Yikes right!
Since I really like the ideas that this book has, I decided to see if changing the way I reacted to what Ray was doing would really help with some of our issues. Last week I really tried to let him know what the main rules of our house were other than that I allowed him to play and do what he wanted to do. I tried to really remember that I am the mother and that for some things it is me who decides what the main rules are and whether or not they can be broken. I also tried to really keep myself calm and confident.
A lot of times I would find myself worried that I wasn’t doing things right or parenting right. Because of this Ray could sense that in me, just like when he was a baby and could sense when I was tense and worried. When he would sense this with me it seemed that all bets were off and he felt like he had the right not to listen to me. I also found out that I would make a rule one day and then would let him break it the next day and then by the third day the rule was back. No wonder we were having problems, he couldn’t even keep up with all the little rules that we had! As I looked more into my own rules I found a lot of them were not necessary and I was just trying to control every little bit of a situation.
The French also really emphasize the importance of kids learning patience. I know that Ray has been having problems with this. We saw it especially when we went to his grandparents house because he is not used to having to wait his turn to talk. His grandma kept having to get after him to wait for her to finish saying something before he interrupted her. I saw that apparently I was failing to teach him this important lesson and after reading this book I am realizing now that it is a good thing for him to have to wait sometimes. It teaches him how to entertain himself and how to doing somethings for himself when he has to wait. The funny part is that he has really picked up on this and seems to understand it because when I tried to interrupt him the other day he stopped me and said “just be patient.”
As we all know in European countries, food also plays a major part in the culture. Kids are expected to eat what the adults are eating so teaching them to like all foods and to cook is another really important thing. I completely agree with this concept. I hate that we sort of have a picky eater on our hands with Ray. However, he has recently been getting better and will eat almost any sort of vegetable that we give him. The book says that French mothers bake with their kids almost every weekend. This helps to teach them patience and order. They also help to cook their dinners and are given tasks that help them learn to be more independent. I realized that I would not let Ray do a lot of stuff in the kitchen because I was afraid of having a mess. What I have seen since I have started to let him help is that he is so proud of doing things himself and helping along side of me and he seems to want to try even more foods than he used to. Letting our kids grow up is something that is hard for a lot of us to do because we do not give them the benefit of the doubt that they are capable of doing some things themselves. And coming to terms with the mess is something that I have done this past week. We can always clean up a messy kitchen right!
These are just some of the things that I have found very useful in this book. I love that my go to type of parenting is more along the lines of this style of parenting. I do not believe that I am here to be Rays friend. I am here to teach him how to be a functioning member of society and to excel in anything he wants to do. I have just been finding myself reading articles that make me feel like a bad mother if I make him wait a few minutes before I go to him when he calls me. Or some articles make me feel as though I am going to mess him up mentally and that my parenting will make him have issues later in life. This book has made me realize that a lot of what we do needs to be instinct with a little bit of thought behind it. But do not read too much into what might happen in the future if you parent your child a certain way. A lot of times we know what is best but then we cave because we don’t want to hurt their feelings or have them hate us. In reality they are going to hate us from time to time, but if you have some clear-cut rules while giving them some space to be independent as well things seem to go a lot more smoothly. I have definitely tried many different techniques lately and this one has been working wonders and it seems to help with my mom guilt as well.