23 January 2008

Parenting in Paris

"It sucks how people with kids have nothing else to talk about" - conan, 2003

"My 18-month-old said 'bottle' today!!!" - conan, 2008

As if I didn't have enough obsessions already, Sabrina and I made two children. Quite apart from their personal qualities (which would keep me going for hours if anyone would listen), the whole topic of parenting is fascinating. I have found a few articles that inspire or reflect our parenting approach, to some degree. I want to share them with you.

Caveat: for every author who writes, "do X and your child will turn into a psychopath", there is another who writes "don't do X and your child will turn into a psychopath". Ultimately, you're the judge.

Pascal very kindly lent me two Arbinger books - Leadership and self-deception, and The Anatomy of Peace. These are two great books teaching inner peace, how to attain it, and how it helps everything else. Browsing their site, I spotted a pdf on parenting, which turns out to be a concise description of how Arbinger approaches apply to parenting - download here.

Punished by Rewards influenced me deeply, and is the only book I know that considers parenting and management equivalent. One line oversimplification: punishment and reward teach your children about manipulation and the wielding of power - but nothing about the ostensible purpose of the punishment/reward. I wonder if being a father counts as management experience for my CV?

We're really lucky to be living only 30 minutes' walk from Living School which offers "an education encompassing life skills, living together, environmental awareness, sustainable development, good citizenship and health" - a lot more than spelling and counting, and very much what the world needs more of.

We've seen great results from techniques in Faber and Mazlish's How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. In short - "I understand you would like a big, big box of chocolate biscuits" works better than "shut up, there are no chocolate biscuits, finish your porridge".

Aware Parenting - with a bunch of articles covering co-sleeping ("co-dodo" in french, how cute), violence, crying, punishment. The site has a strong moral tone however - I like the Faber and Mazlish practical tone a lot better.

How to Con your Kid has a few tricks that may or may not work in your context - but a common theme in many of their examples is the idea that the child's need for self-determination can be met by offering a simple choice. In other words when you're in a hurry to get out of the house, "do you want to wear your blue sweater, or your green sweater", works like a total charm.

Finally, a NY Times article, apparently based on this Scientific American article, talks about the difference between effective praise and counterproductive praise. Summary: praise the stuff your children feel they control (their effort); avoid praising them for being smart/intelligent, which leads to a sense of helplessness in the face of unfamiliar and difficult tasks.

Finally, my mother tells me I should stop all this silly reading and just do as my instincts tell me. The problem is, my instincts feel totally uneducated. Her instincts, on the other hand, are amazing. I learn more watching her with the children in one hour than from a month of books ...

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