Monday, July 2, 2012

Wait! - Part Three Dealing with frustration and delayed gratification

French parents not only wait to pick up their wakeful babies, but they also integrate the concept of waiting into every aspect of their children's lives. Children get three regularly scheduled meals and a scheduled afternoon snack (the goutier);if they want to eat between meals, they have to wait. Druckerman describes how French mothers bake cakes on weekends with their children, and the kids have to wait until their 4:30 PM goutier to eat them, unlike American kids who presumably scarf the cakes while they are still hot. Not only do the French kids learn to bake, but they also learn self-control.

Self-control is important to for children to learn early as much of life is spent coping with frustration. Druckerman comments that

"what seems to be the consensus in France: making kids face up to limitations and deal with frustration turns them into happier, more resilient people. And one of the main ways is gently to induce frustration, on a daily basis, is to make children wait a bit." (p. 75).

You don't always get what you want in life, sometimes you have to wait, and it is better to learn this when young. Elsewhere in the chapter, telling a child "no" is another method of producing a happy child.

All of this makes enormous sense to me. As a child, my mother constantly quoted "Patience is a virtue" to my siblings and me. As an adult, I regularly think this to myself as I cope with being stuck in a late night train for half-an-hour, or long line at the supermarket.

During the course of a day, I find myself saying "Wait" repeatedly not only to small children but to adults. I am constantly interrupted while speaking to or helping people by other people who just don't want to wait. Very rarely do people have to communicate something that must be dealt with immediately- a fire, a sudden attack of illness, an visit by the police. Perhaps if everyone took a pause and taught their kids to talk a pause, we would all have some time to reconsider the immediacy of our demands and just relax.

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