Bringing you part five in a series of blog posts based on Pamela Druckerman’s “Bébé Day by Day.” We’re halfway through! The following excerpts are taken directly from Chapter 5:
It is tempting to think of early childhood as the start of a marathon in which the finish line is admission to a university (winners get to go to the Ivy League).
The French want their kids to be successful too. But they probably wouldn’t use the marathon analogy. They don’t tend to think there’s any point in rushing little kids through developmental milestones, or teaching them skills like reading and math before they are most ready for them.
The latest American research validates this slower approach. It turns out that it’s more important to teach preschoolers skills like concentration, getting along with others, and self-control. These abilities—more than math worksheets or preliteracy training—create a strong basis for later academic success.
44. Don’t teach your toddler how to read: You don’t want to take time away from teaching children the things they most need to learn at that age, like how to be organized, articulate, and empathetic. French preschools teach kids how to have conversations, finish projects, and tackle problems.
46. Teach the four magic words: We Americans have “please” and “thank you.” The French have those plus two more: “hello” and “good-bye.” French parents view bonjour as a critical lesson in empathy. Saying it forces a child out of his selfish bubble, and makes him realize that other people have needs and feelings too—such as the simple need to be acknowledged.
48. Encourage insouciance: A roundup of neuroscience research couldn’t say enough about the benefits of exploratory play: it teaches kids persistence, relationship skills, and creative problem solving; it improves their attention spans and their confidence; and it gives them a chance to master activities. But playing isn’t just developmentally important; it’s also fun.
49. Let your child socialize with other kids: French mothers want to spend time with their offspring. But they also think it’s crucial that kids socialize with people who are equally enchanted by fire engines and princess paraphernalia. They want their children to learn how to make friends, to wait their turns, and to get along in a group.
50. Back off at the playground: French parents believe that once a child can walk on his own and safely climb up the slide, their job is to watch from the sidelines as he plays. Resist the urge to cross wobbly wooden bridges or to provide constant commentary and encouragement.
52. It’s not just about outcomes: Yes, it’s a competitive world. Of course you want to position your offspring to beat out that trilingual rug rat next door. But childhood is not merely preparation for the future. Learn to identify and enjoy what the French call moments privilégiés, little pockets of joy or calm when you simply appreciate being together.
*Due to length, I trimmed down each point and excluded some points entirely.