Have you ever heard a phrase “after 3 it’s too late”? Well, I did. I’ve heard this often enough to force myself into the early childhood development race.
As I continue to explore what it is like to raise kids in France, more and more I notice the resemblance of my own parenting philosophy with French parenting style.
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One situation that strikes me nowadays are the ambivalent attempts of modern parents to engage their kids in every possible developmental activities right from birth. And I’m speaking not only about American parents.
In Ukraine, where I grew up, the early childhood development “trend” is on the rise now. It seems like it’s become the point of honour for the middle and upper class parents to teach their kids alphabet, math, reading and other activities that are not suitable for baby’s developmental stage, from as early as possible.
On the other hand, French parents seem indifferent about giving their kids early head starts. Instead, they give their little ones a chance to explore and discover of what’s going on around them. These parents leave studying the alphabet, math and other subjects for a more developmentally appropriate stage.
As Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget notices: “”Why would you want to do that?”(in reffering to parents who want to speed developmental stages up). He didn’t think that pushing kids to acquire skills ahead of schedule was either possible or desirable. He believed that children reach these milestones at their own speeds, driven by their own inner motors.”
I remember the times before I become a blogger. I would spend hours a day on moms’ forums. It’s kind of addicting, isn’t it? We would discuss all of our parenting problems and wins, rave about our baby’s developmental milestones and our role in those. There were also moms who would in every single post highlight their progress in raising the next Einsteins. They would try to persuade everyone in the importance of the early development and do the enormous daily job to create the most educational environment as possible for their little ones.
I have to confess that at one point I gave in to this common movement and started to actively gather flash cards, mandalas, logical games and other materials, so that I could keep up with those progressive moms. To my surprise, my daughter was not thrilled at all about me flashing 2 cards in a second before her eyes. She just wasn’t interested. As recommended by those moms, I kept trying and sometimes I would be lucky to show her a stack of animal cards. Other times, she would just look elsewhere. These educational activities didn’t seem to arouse a lot if interest in my daughter nor making me want to repeat them. As my child became older, she started paying more attention to what I’m trying to teach her through these educational games. But simple activities such as painting, drawing, or just playing imaginary games with her cohort of stuffed animals makes her happier. To me it feels more like an organic development.
I still haven’t figured out if the early development is right for my daughter and if I should keep pushing. I feel that if I don’t follow the “trend,” my daughter will miss out on some important educational aspects. I always question myself: am I a bad mother that I don’t want to teach a math to my daughter at 2 and half years old?
On the other hand, I look back at the way I was raised and the way all kids were raised back in 80s. Our mothers didn’t know what the early development was. They just played with the kids and read books to them. No one rant about teaching their children how to read right from birth.
And you know, I think I come out just fine. So as my peers, who successfully graduated from schools, received a good education and profitable jobs.
French parents believe in the organic/natural development of their children, without pressuring them to obtain some kind of knowledge before it is necessary. The best thing a parent can do for their child is to give them firm boundaries, but lots of freedom within those boundaries. They give their children a lot of resources and encourage an independent play and exploration.
I don’t say that early development is bad per se. As with the sleep training and other parenting advices, every mother and father should look at their child and figure out what’s good for him or her. If you feel that your child is curious and seems to pick up every piece of information with astonishment, go ahead and teach your little one a math. If not – then not. Don’t stress yourself. All kids are different, so as the parenting and educational approaches. As long as a child has a love and nurture of his parents, he’ll be all right.
What are your thoughts on the early education and French parenting style?