February 04, 2012
Good Parenting
Posted by Gordon Smith

The year after Jaws ensured that I would never feel comfortable swimming in an ocean,* I laughed at Grizzly, a copycat entry in the animal horror genre. I thought about Grizzly when I read the WSJ's article about Pamela Druckerman's new book Bringing Up Bebe, an ode to French parenting. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother this is not.

I am as much of a Francophile of the next guy -- some of my ancestry is French, which I assume accounts for my love of fine cheese, and I have spent a decent amount of time in France over the past two decades -- but I am not buying that the French have "parenting secrets." What Druckerman describes is not "French parenting," but simply "good parenting." As far as I can tell from the WSJ story and the promotional material on the book, here is the secret to French parenting: parents make sensible rules and enforce them. No fake threats. No bargaining. No cheating.

This sort of parenting requires courage and integrity ... and an abundance of love for the child. Even then, parenting isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Children come to the world with lots of software already installed, and most of the people I have met who think that they have found the secret to parenting success have not completed the raising of any children (young parents are particularly susceptible to the delusion of parenting certainty). Good parenting is improvisational, and that implies the inevitability of frequent failures. Adaptation and iteration are keys, just like creating a successful startup company.

At least that's my view as an unfinished parent of five wonderful children. 

* I was in junior high school in Wisconsin in 1975, so I could not have been much further from an ocean, but that movie terrified me. And it's true, I still don't like going into the ocean.

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