This is the final installment of our series of blog posts based on Pamela Druckerman’s “Bébé Day by Day.” The following excerpts are taken directly from Chapter 10:
A battle cry of French parenting is: It’s me who decides. Parents say—and occasionally shout—this phrase to remind everyone who’s in charge or to shift the balance of power back in their favor. Just uttering it is fortifying.
To be the decider, you don’t have to be an ogre. French parents don’t want to turn their kids into obedient robots. But they still agree with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s contention, made 250 years ago, that perpetual negotiations are bad for kids.
91. Say “no” with conviction: The French didn’t invent non. But they’re especially good at saying it. They don’t worry that blocking a child will limit his creativity or crush his spirit. They believe that kids blossom best inside limits, and that it’s reassuring to know that a grown-up is steering the ship.
92. Say “yes” as often as you can: The French believe that another key to having authority with your child is to say yes as often as you can. It takes some recalibrating to make your default answer yes. But doing this has a calming effect.
93. Explain the reason behind the rule: When you say no, you should always explain why not. You’re not trying to scare your child into obeying you. Rather, you want to create a world that’s coherent and predictable to him, and to show that you respect his autonomy and intelligence.
94. Sometimes your child will hate you: French psychologists say that kids’ desires are practically endless. Your job as a parent is to stop this chain by sometimes saying no. The child will probably get angry when you do this. She might even temporarily hate you. This isn’t a sign that you’re a terrible parent. If you need your child to like you all the time, you simply cannot do your job. Be strong and your child will, as the French say, “find her place.”
95. Dedramatize: The idea is that you should drain some intensity from conflictual moments by responding calmly to them, or lightening the mood with a joke. Aim to have authority without losing your connection with the child. If you’re so angry that you need time to cool off, say so.
96. You’re not disciplining, you’re educating: Unlike discipline, education is something [French] parents imagine themselves to be doing all the time. Don’t jump on your child for every offense. When your child jumps on the couch or swipes a piece of bread off the counter before dinner, she’s just done a small act of naughtiness. All kids do them sometimes. Save your punishments for the felonies. It will help her learn what’s important.
98. Give kids time to comply: You’re running a family, not a military battalion. Don’t expect your child to jump as soon as you issue an order. Explain what you’d like her to do, then watch and wait for her to comply.
99. Punish rarely, but make it matter: Experts say a punishment should be administered immediately and matter-of-factly, without malice. After a conflict, they say it’s the parent’s role to reestablish the connection, for instance by suggesting that they play a favorite game together. Teach the child that after the storm comes the calm.
100. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do: Know when to fold ‘em. There are times when nothing works, and you have to wait it out. Remember, you’re on a long-term mission to educate. You don’t have to win every battle.
*Due to length, I have condensed each point and left out some entirely.