I read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, an American journalist raising her three children in Paris. In a clever and entertaining way, Druckerman discusses the differences between French and American parenting styles and her acculturation to French social norms. So why do French children seem to be so calm, eat diverse foods, and act “sage”? What Druckerman discovered is that common sense, not hovering too much, believing children can cope, and holding them accountable to high standards are all extremely important. She also emphasizes the French “pause” that helps children to develop their independence and patience early on.
Understanding that babies are rational and capable learners is important to establishing a mindset of lifelong learning from day one. We know that babies develop at different rates and learn to talk, walk, and navigate their world through trial and error. As they learn, they encounter obstacles, challenges, and frustrations, which help them to cultivate patience, coping skills, and perseverance. While it can be difficult to see our children struggle or get frustrated, these opportunities lead to accomplishment and pride through hard work.
In their pursuit of success, children are going to make mistakes, experience frustration, and encounter failure. That’s part of their education. When it happens, teachers and parents should take advantage of these teachable moments in thoughtful and respectful ways. Sometimes this means pausing before acting and giving children the chance to resolve issues for themselves, even it means brief but reasonable discomfort.
Pausing applies at all ages, and it’s something that parents and educators should be reminded of. For parents, as Druckerman explains, this means pausing before comforting a crying baby in order to analyze the situation and avoid jumping in too quickly. For a preschool teacher or parent, this means pausing before getting involved in a sandbox dispute. For elementary teachers or parents, this means letting students wrestle with difficult tasks. When we challenge our children in these ways, we send them important messages about our confidence in their ability to solve problems and cope with reasonable stress. We prepare them to live life with greater ease because they are empowered to make thoughtful choices.