Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Bringing Up Bebe, or Things I Wished I'd Known When I Was a New Parent
Last night I got to work with K. She's been on maternity leave and since her return to work, our schedules hadn't coincided. Her husband brought the baby in, so I got to see her three and a half month old beautiful baby girl. I asked if she's sleeping through the night. "Not yet. She just wakes up once in the night to eat."
I told her that she should check out this book, BRINGING UP BEBE. Not that I thought she was doing anything wrong, not at all. It's just that I'd read this book recently and really wished I'd had it when I was a new parent.
Pamela Druckerman wrote BRINGING UP BEBE because as an American, an American living in Paris with her husband, and a participant in daily life in France, she observed that children behave differently in France than they do in the U.S. They tend to behave better. She set out to find out why.
Raising her own daughter gave her a chance to examine her own parenting tendencies and observe how the French do things differently.
None of it is rocket science and so much of it makes SENSE.
My first child didn't sleep through the night until he was seven months old. As soon as he would make a peep, either rustling a little in his sleep, or whimpering because he lost his pacifier, I'd rush into his room and try to soothe him back to sleep.
Even before I read this book I realized that that was a mistake. The book just confirmed it and gave valid reasons as to why it was a mistake. rah.
Druckerman describes how the French help their children learn how to sleep through the night. Instead of, like I did and Druckerman did, running into the baby's room every time the infant stirs, the French wait. They pause. They listen to see if the baby really is in need of attention, or if she is just moving around in her sleep cycle and will settle back into a deeper sleep. This waiting, this pause, allows the child to figure out his/her own sleeping abilities and rhythms. Parents running in there at the first sound actually disrupts the children's sleep cycle and inhibits their ability to learn how to get back to sleep on their own. Allowing the baby to settle back into a deeper sleep allows them to "have their nights", as the French put it.
Another thing French parents do is that they expect their children, even little children, to wait. They do not allow their child to demand the parent's attention. They don't give in to whining. If a child, even a very young child, interrupts the parent (on the phone, or in conversation with another person), the parent tells the child firmly and kindly that they need to wait. The parent will be with them in a few minutes. And said parent does not give attention to the child until the few minutes are up.
By giving children an opportunity to wait, for their mother's attention, for food to be prepared, for getting an answer to a question, they are teaching the children how to deal with not knowing. Or not having what they want the moment the idea of it enters their brain. Can you say "delayed gratification"?
I did this a little better than the whole sleeping thing. When my kids would ask a question and want an answer RIGHT NOW, ("Can I sleep over at so-and-so's house this week-end?" "Can I go see a movie with so-and-so tomorrow night?"), I'd say that I have to think about it. If they needed an answer right then, the answer was no. I told them I'd give them an answer after dinner, and the answer might be yes. I did not like feeling pressured to have to answer right that second. And they did learn to wait. (I learned that from my own frustration, not from the French!)
Helping infants "have their nights" and learn how to wait are just a few of the things Druckerman talked about that I wish I'd read and known when I was raising children.
I really liked how Druckerman approached parenting; she was so willing to learn. She did her homework (as my dad would have said), finding out where the French got their ideas and how they've incorporated them into family life in France.
That new parent in your life (even if it's you!) might really appreciate this book! I know I would have.
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