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LIVING WITH CHILDREN

Parenting advice: Maybe the French don’t have it right, and was that laptop shooting warranted?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 12:01 am

Two weeks ago, I reviewed and commented upon Pamela Druckerman's book “Bringing Up Bebe” in which she makes the claim that French parents, on the whole, raise children who are much more well-behaved, and at earlier ages, than their American counterparts.

Now arises the question: Did Druckerman do what so many social “scientists” do these days? Did she begin with a premise and ignore evidence to the contrary so as to “prove” her point?

A friend sent my column on Druckerman's book to an acquaintance of hers who is French, lives in France, and is a teacher in a French school, asking for comment.

The madame wrote back: “I have read your friend's article, and I can tell you the lady who wrote the book about French education (in this context, the French use “education” the same way Americans use the word “discipline”) can't have witnessed some of the scenes we see in supermarkets in this country, and I can assure you French children do have tantrums.

“Every Sunday in church, I suffer and am distracted, especially when I am the one who conducts the songs for the assembly, as some parents are totally unable to control their kids. Of course, some young parents are very strict and control their children, but they are a minority, that's for sure!”

She goes on to remark child behavior in France has deteriorated markedly over the past 30 years, coincident with an equally marked rise in parent denial and enabling. In other words, French parents, especially in the middle and upper classes, no longer support their children's teachers where discipline is concerned. That's very interesting, because it's the same thing I hear from veteran teachers in the U.S.A.

In fact, there was no description or observation in this woman's response to the column in question that is not also generally and most unfortunately true of American children and their parents.

The bottom line: It is nothing more, nothing less than a symptom of ubiquitous parent confusion that Americans are now looking to Chinese Tiger Mothers and the French to tell us how to raise American children.

All we need to do is look back in our own history to the 1950s and before. Besides, an American parent should be raising his or her kids with American values in mind, with the goal of raising a child who will strengthen America. The French cannot help us with that.

Part Two

Over the past few weeks, since it first appeared on YouTube, many people have asked what I think about the video of the father who responded to his teenage daughter's rebellious disrespect by taking her laptop into the yard and shooting it with a handgun.

There are actually two questions here: First, what do I think about the father destroying his daughter's laptop? I approve. I don't approve of his language, which was a tad too colorful for my tastes, but I thought his action was justified. It will certainly get his daughter's attention and cause her to think twice.

Second, what do I think about the father using a handgun to destroy his daughter's laptop? Well, I think that was overkill, to employ a pun. It was stupid, in fact. He should have used something less provocative, less inflammatory — a sledgehammer, perhaps. Why? Because there is no anti-sledgehammer lobby.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.