"An ongoing apprenticeship in how to delay gratification"
Pamela Druckerman,"Why French Parents Are Superior", WSJ, 2/4/12
My brother often refers to the "easy-gratification" lifestyle of Dubai, which he explains as followed by "in and out" reactions to pass times. Indeed, the easy availability of things, the wide variety of activities, the luxurious entertainment services that are provided in this futuristic city spoil its inhabitants and especially the children. Children, in Dubai, and to a certain extent in other parts of the world, are over stimulated by "too much" and "too easy". This is an overt over-generalization that will assist me in analyzing the February article in the Wall Street Journal about French child-rearing that may have the same impact as the article about the Tiger Moms.
When the article first came out, my family and friends rushed into summarizing it for me in interested discussion. I had not read it yet, but listening to them and knowing the French all to well for having being reared by a whole set of French teachers: I had one word, easy gratification. That is what French shun.
Everything in the French education, and to that extent, in the French parenting, is about the process instead of the result. They are the descendants of Descartes and have always approached things with analysis and "slowed down" reflection. At school, they ask us to take our time and prove our answers, all the while individualizing our thoughts with our personal handwriting and the slower and more archaic methods of dictionary research and calculator-free class rooms.
French, in their nostalgia, dress their kids as if they lived in the 60s, gift them with wooden toys and classic books. The simpler the games, the better. Old values prevail. The language itself requires a formal conjugation between age groups. I am always reminded of the formality and etiquette when I interact with French children, who call me Madame, and I try my best to import that element of culture to my own children.
I postpone stages of entertainment for my children. I offer them electronic games, devices, phones in delayed time. Living in Dubai, I take them outdoors weather permitting and indoors into "constructive" and sportive activities rather than quick-entertainment ones. No Kidzania or mall-fun for my kids. They do indoor climbing and iceskating!
When they receive gifts, or if I buy them a toy, sports articles or dvds, they have to DESERVE it, work hard, get a good grade. They have seldom opened a package upon receiving it! If the package has multiple parts, like a Season's worth of DVDs, those DVDs get distributed throughout a course of time: never all at once!
They have always heard "next time...." and they are always looking foreword, relishing the expectations. And French tradition oblige, they enjoy "dejeuner sur l'herbe". Simple things of life: pick-nicks!