In France, Parenting Patience is a Virtue

Guest Post by MeeGenius CEO, Wandy Hoh

I found some great parenting advice the other day in the Wall Street Journal on a rare Sunday morning where I actually snuck in some reading time instead of the usual running around to activities with my kids.  Pamela Druckerman, whose new book Bringing up Bebé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting came out last week, wrote an informative article comparing the different child-rearing approaches of French and American parents.

While living in France, Druckerman found that every time she and her husband took their new toddler out to a restaurant she became apprehensive and anxious. Within minutes of placing her 18-month-old daughter in the high chair, the carnage would start. Saltshakers would be spilled, sugar packets torn up; general chaos would reign. Druckerman’s main goal was to get in and out of there quickly and without causing any major trauma—to the wait staff or the patrons.

After many harried outings, she noticed that most of French children just sat contentedly in their seats—there was no shrieking, no foodstuffs flying, no carnage or chaos. She also realized that they weren’t just being good while sitting in the high chair at a restaurant. All around her, French kids were usually calm and perfectly fine to play alone or sit by themselves without raising a ruckus.

Though my husband and I are acutely aware of trying to avoid the trap of over-parenting, Druckerman’s observation that French children could play by themselves really made me think about my own daughter’s behavior. She is always, as she says, “bored.” She always needs one of us to do something with her. It became apparent that as our oldest child, she had the benefit of being our only child for a period of time—we were always all over her, giving attention to her demands and catering to her whims. Finally, we realized that she wasn’t capable of figuring out how to be happy by herself. We needed to remind ourselves that we didn’t have to be constantly servicing her and we needed to teach her the simple skill of waiting.

Druckerman reports that in France, babies aren’t picked up the minute they start crying in their crib, they are allowed to learn how to fall back asleep by themselves. When a child clamors for candy at the checkout line, they will buy them a piece but they don’t give it to them right away; they wait a few hours until a scheduled snack time each day and then let them eat it. If a child interrupts adults while they are talking, they will politely and firmly tell the child to wait until the adults’ conversation is over. French parents try to teach their kids to develop patience and the ability to amuse themselves.

With our daughter, we’ve started slowly. We encourage her to do more activities on her own a little at a time—drawing, puzzles, crafts, etc. She is becoming more capable of being independent and is more often happy with all that is around her. Eventually, with firmer pressure and more time, she will learn to sit and play and enjoy stories on her own—being “bored” will be something she reads about in a book.

Who knows, maybe I’ll start spending more Sunday mornings reading while my kids play nicely on their own.


Friendships: Why making friends can be hard for your kids

Every day I teach young children how being friends can mean so many things. Kids are developing the ability to share and take turns well into the 6, 7, 8th and even 10th years of life and this can reflect in their inability to navigate the challenges of friendship.

So when do kids begin to make friends? Very young children, usually 3 and under, still function often in parallel play where they are next to other children but not associating with them. The children I teach are beginning to associate with others, with the ability to take turns using concrete objects and trying out the notion of sharing.

Once they begin playing together regularly as preschoolers, kids are more likely to make regular friends. Keep in mind that who your younger child considers to be a “friend” will likely change very often. Even younger school-age children, until they are 10 to 12 years old, may have a new best friend every few months.

It’s important that as the adult role-models in our children’s lives wehelp them make friends. If your child doesn’t seem to have friends, it may simply be that he or she has not had enough opportunities to make them. Getting your child involved in activities with children the same age and with similar interests can be a great way to find friends for your child. Some good examples of places where your child may make friends include:

  • youth sports and classes, including team sports (soccer, baseball, etc.) and individual sports (tennis, martial arts, etc.)
  • noncompetitive activities, including music and art lessons, a chess club, etc.
  • story time at your library or bookstore
  • other kids’ clubs, including boy scouts and girl scouts
  • the park or playground

Another way to help connect your child with others is to bring an ice-breaker, such as a toy, pet, or snacks, to help draw other kids to your child when you go to the park or to other activities together.

Good luck and have fun! Let us know of any fun ideas to help your kids connect with others!

Being Thankful: How we can teach Empathy to our children

Thinking about being thankful for what you have can be an abstract concept for kids. So, as grown-ups, it’s our job to help children take on the feelings of others by leading from our example. How can we teach empathy to our kids? Do we have to create mini philanthropists in order for them to understand what being thankful is all about? Let’s first focus on showing our feelings to them they way we’d like them to show theirs to others.

I wrote a story called “Thank You for Thanksgiving” for our growing collection of holiday books that Mee Genius provides our readers. It’s my hope that this story inspires parents to talk with their children about what being thankful is all about.

Empathy starts at home and is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, because it helps them see the good in those around them. If we work hard to raise empathetic children, they’ll develop a sense of inner strength that will protect them against outside influences beckoning them away from the proper choices.

Self-directed empathetic children who rely on their own inner voices rather than outside influences, make the right choices concerning those around them rather than make choices tainted by their need for approval and acceptance. They develop this strong sense of empathy for other people by being taught how empathy works.

In general, I teach children that “if it feels wrong, it won’t work for anyone.” Kids need to be able to listen to the right choices in their hearts and their minds to keep their motives sincere. We can also help them analyze the motives behind their own acts towards others by helping them know if these motives allow them to only help themselves or if they are, in fact, helping others.

We can also lead by example when it comes to helping others. Handing out food or blankets to homeless people in need or helping an older neighbor with their lawn or their mail are ways we can show our kids how to think of others. By performing acts of compassion, whether at school, in the family or in the community, our children can’t help but think about the misfortune of those they help. When they do, they’re sure to think about how it would feel to be in those other shoes.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and let us know how you helped out someone in need this holiday season!

Five Finger Rule!

Find a “just right” book with the Five Finger Rule!

I went to my sons’ meet the faculty night last night and had a chance to listen to my sons’ first grade teachers talk about what they’re learning in class every day. Just an amazing time!

They had this great rule to help your child find the right book called the FIVE FINGER RULE. It’s so easy to follow.

  • Choose a book and read the first page or two.
  • Put one finger up for every word you don’t know.
  • If five of your fingers go up while reading, choose another book.
  • If only two or three fingers go up, you’ve found a “just right” book.

Happy Reading!

Summer Fun: Indoor Crafts and Outdoor Treasure Hunt!

Stay busy as the days warm up! Take time in the cooler hours both in the morning and the later afternoon to enjoy the outdoors, but when the heat or the summer rains come through, stay inside and get creative!

Here’s some fun and easy craft ideas and outdoor activities to keep your kids busy for hours:

Sand Sculptures: Use a sand dough and found objects to create your own sand sculpture! You can make your own shape or use a cookie cutter to create a mold for your creation. Use beads, sticks, twigs or sea shells to decorate the top of your sculpture!

Marbled Clay Beads: Use no-bake modeling clay, wooden skewers or tooth picks, and solid string or crafting laces to make your own beads! Mix and swirl your own colors into small medium or large balls, then carefully poke holes through the beads. Set them to dry overnight, then lace them the next day. This is a fun multi-step activity that can take two days to create!!

Treasure Map and Hunt: Create your own treasure map of your back yard, beach house or camp site! Stake out your site to get a good idea of where your hunt will be. Look for good places to hide your treasures and take note if you need to!

To make your map you can use a large piece of paper, distressed by crumpling and/or painted brown, crayons or pencils. Make sure you mark red or pink X’s on your map where the treasures are hiding!

Then, go and hide your treasures. Some ideas for treasures might include a small stuffed toy, a plastic fork, a stick with a scrap of material tied to it, and so on (don’t use food unless it is packaged and/or you will be finding it quickly…you don’t want unwanted animals in your treasure hunt!

To play the game, use a list of the treasures that need to be found and any other fun instructions (like: fill a bucket full of water and dump it on the garden!) you can either tell the player what they are looking for or give them a list. Hand them the map and paper bag. They are to use the pink or red X’s to find their treasures. Start the stopwatch and end it when they return with all the treasures. The player with the best time wins!

Have fun crafting and let us know if you succeed with a treasure hunt!