So I finally finished reading Bringing Up Bebe and so glad I did! I have had it on my list of reads when it came out 2 years now, and now I wish I had read it back then. For anyone who knows me, I think I lived my former life in Paris ;) Bringing Up Bébé (14.99 Amazon)
Anyway, so in case you haven't heard of this book, it's basically about an American mom living in Paris and raising her 3 children there. She used to be a journalist in NYC, and after moving to France with her British husband, they had a baby girl, and a few years later had twin boys. So you could say she has a good perspective on the whole parenting thing.
This book has totally changed the way I think about things when it comes to my current parenting woes..aka whining kids, constant attention and poor eating habits, not to mention sleep!
I am not doing a book review here, but I have to give a few highlights of the book which have really helped give me new perspectives:
1) Sleep! When my babies were not sleeping through the night, I would wonder all the time how other cultures dealt with baby issues like crying. I was so glad that this book was finally written to help gain some perspective on American sleep parenting vs. a European view.
The author finds the magic secret that all French babies are sleeping through the night or as they call it, 'doing their nights', by 3 months of age. How do they do it? By using the 'pause'.
Basically instead of rushing to the baby's side at the first cry (during the day or at night), they wait and try to really listen and figure out why the baby is crying: is she hungry, teething/pain, dirty diaper, etc. They are 'observing' the baby to see what they really need. They take a couple of minutes to figure this out, and let the baby learn how to communicate their needs.
They also say that the baby wakes up during the night in between regulating sleep cycles and if we rush to them immediately, then they won't learn to link their sleep cycles together on their own. I know some Americans and some sleep books that do advocate this type of not rushing to calm a baby, but I am a sucker and can't stand to hear an infant baby crying. I think I was one who rushed to their side even before they would start to cry!
But if I had to do it all over again (which won't be happening at all), I'm thinking maybe waiting 1 minute isn't such a bad idea. Not 5 minutes, but maybe just 1. I mean, they do have to learn that we can't be there immediately every time they need us right? Which brings me to the next part...
2) Learning to Wait
Apparently in France, children/toddlers can sit and play by themselves and the adults can have a real conversation around each other. They aren't demanding of their parents, they aren't pulling on their pant legs for attention and they don't scream and throw tantrums at restaurants. Say what? Not really the case here in America :0
The French say that their children learn to wait. They have learned the art of entertaining themselves and distraction. They don't teach them these skills, they just give them opportunities to learn it themselves. Basically involving delayed gratification, such as buying them candy, but making them wait to eat it after dinner. It's setting firm limits and learning to say 'no' to their kids. In fact the author goes into a long story about how to say 'no' and mean it, so your child will actually listen to you :)
They recommend teaching their kids that they can't have everything right away, especially in a store. Or when a child starts to whimper for more food, rushing to feed them is viewed like giving in to an addiction, and teaching them to have patience is a way of respecting a child....so speaking of food and waiting...
The French also teach patience through meals. Apparently they all eat 3 main meals a day and the children don't have a single snack until the 4pm 'gouter' snack. All I can say is wow! In my house, my toddler is demanding 'snack!' like 15 minutes after her breakfast and wants Goldfish crackers, or a pouch or her Cliff children's iced oatmeal bar. Since reading this book, I have learned to tell her 'no' as she runs to the pantry and I tell her no, set a limit, then distract her and it has surprisingly worked!
I would love to have my girls wait for meals too. The author talks about a dream world where moms don't "walk around with baggies of Goldfish or Cheerios in their bags to patch over the inevitable moments of angst" tantrums. She says, "Americans have decided that it is impossible for children to take part in any activity without shoving something in their pie holes." So true! We don't leave the house for an errand unless snacks are packed.
They also have 4 course meals at home and most families eat together to teach them manners as well as patience. They serve the kids fruit and veggies first to munch on while they wait for the protein part, that way they get the nutrients first.
The author also talks about how they learn to eat normal food, not kid food like nuggets and pizza! In France, daycare and preschool is free, and it is government run, so ALL employees go through rigorous trainings and have advanced degrees in childcare. They go through tough interview processes with 500 applicants and sometimes only 3 are hired, and they all have a psychological evaluation. And so when it comes to the food, they are also very picky about the diets of the day care kids.
The chefs of daycares do big time menu planning and come up with menus such as: first course of shredded red cabbage, and white cheese, then a white fish in dill sauce and a side of organic potatoes, followed by a cheese course of Brie, then a dessert of baked organic apple. And it is either pureed or cut up depending on the age. Did I mention these are free, government run daycares?? Toddlers here people! These are not 15 year-olds but toddler meals!
The best advice she gives in teaching your child to eat good food, is making sure to re-introduce foods each time, even if they don't like them. To make sure that your child 'tastes everything on their plate.' They don't have to eat it but at least taste it.
French parents also encourage good eating habits by discussing the texture of the foods on their plates, the smells, etc to get them interested. They also make them help prepare the meals they eat, so they are invested in how it turns out and willing to eat it more. And to get them to eat the veggies (and prevent battles), they ask them to eat each veggie item on their plates with as much enthusiasm as the sweet fruit sitting next to it.
The book also goes into a lot more about the different cultures, and even how the French push independence so much that 4 year-olds go on 2 week long away school trips! Okay, that one I am not a fan. But for the most part, she has given me a lot to think about and some great tips. I totally recommend reading the book and all of the drama she encounters along her parenting journey!