If you are reading this, chances are good that you are already involved in your child’s life. Knowing this, we want to help make it easier for you to be involved and educated about the ages and stages of your child's development. We received such great feedback on our Ages and Stages Charts in the 24/7 Dad® curriculum - developed with contributions from Dr. Kyle Pruett and Dr. Yvette Warren - we decided to bring it you in a FREE online version!
The Countdown to Growing Up tool helps dads (and moms!) know about what to expect and not to expect in terms of child growth over the months and years.
You can also use the tool to make notes and save or print out your child's chart to take with you to a pediatrician visit for discussion if desired.
Be sure to click on the Complete Survey button once you have finished using the tool to give us your feedback. We'd GREATLY appreciate it!
To begin, simply enter the name of your child, then select his/her gender and age. If you have more than one child, we will provide you with an opportunity to enter his/her/their name(s) and age(s) after entering the information for your first child.
Depending on your child’s age, you will be taken through statements to answer Yes or No/Unsure for three targets: Physical Growth, Mental/Emotional Growth and Social Growth.
Please note, this tool is customized to track ages from birth to 18+ years and older.
For example, I chose to test "Fred," a five-year-old male for purposes of this review. For a five-year-old male, the Physical Growth milestone has statements like:
- Grows 2-3 inches but gains as little as 2-4 pounds a year. Children grow and gain weight at very different rates.
- Clearly right or left-handed.
- Learns to tie shoes.
You as the parent simply clicks YES or NO/Unsure box for each statement.
Using "Fred" as the example, the Mental/Emotional Growth milestone asks:
- Uses complete sentences with many words.
- Learns to name coins, colors, days of week, months.
- Takes basic care of self (dress, brush teeth).
- Helps with simple chores.
For the Social Growth milestone, statements such as:
- More settled and focused when with others.
- Begins to notice the outside world and where/how belongs.
- Enjoys doing things with parent of same sex.
Again, for you the mom and dad, it’s simple to click Yes or NO/Unsure for each item.
There is a section for "Additional Notes," which is optional for placing notes to yourself that will save and/or print with the PDF of the report.
Once you have chosen YES or NO/Unsure on each statement, you are taken to a list that reads: Milestones (Your Child) Has Reached. Below is an example from our test. Your report will be customized to your child's name, gender and age.
Additionally, a section is automatically created for your customized report that reads Milestones (Your Child) Has Not Reach, your additional notes from the previous page have now been added to the report.
Lastly, on the same report is invaluable “Tips to Help (Your Child’s Name) Grow" from physicians. This is free expert advice targeted directly at your child's gender and aged based on the information you provided in answering the statements. These tips from physicians offer you expert advice for what to watch for in your child's development as well as tips to help you grow your child.
Notice at the bottom of the above image, you have four options for what you can do with the customized report of your child:
1) View PDF
2) Save as PDF
3) Track Another Child
4) Complete a Brief Survey
Choosing “Save as PDF” will allow you to email it to yourself and then use it on your mobile device. For instance, if you have an iPhone or iPad, the PDF from your email can be saved in iBooks on your phone or iPad for easy, mobile and paperless reference at your child’s next doctor appointment.
There are two additional options, which are Track Another Child and Complete a Brief Survey. Please feel free to use this new and free tool for all of your children. Please also take a moment and complete our survey. We would love to hear feedback from you once you use the tool.
We know parents do not have a lot of time to study their children. We hope you this tool makes your life easier. Track your child’s growth today. Believe us, you will be prepared for your child's next visit to the doctor; and your doctor will never know how simple and easy it was for you!
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The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you would like to blog for us, email here.
I’m an avid reader of business articles (e.g. what works in business) because they spark ideas that NFI has implemented to help us effectively pursue our mission. But rarely do I read such an article that helps build my knowledge about the cultural challenges we face in promoting involved, responsible, committed fatherhood. Recently, however, I read an article on research conducted by professors at the Wharton School (the preeminent business school at the University of Pennsylvania) that examines how people react to scandals of celebrities with huge brands, and it provided me with additional insight on how our society has dealt with the crisis of father absence.
The researchers conducted several studies on how people react to “moral transgressions” by public figures (e.g. athletes and politicians) and whether they were more likely to react with “moral rationalization” or “moral decoupling” to those transgressions.
In moral rationalization a person downplays the moral transgression. “It’s not so bad,” they say. “Everyone else does it.” Thus, the transgression becomes excusable.
Moral decoupling, in contrast, involves separating the transgression from other acts. It preserves the person’s outrage at the transgression and allows them to believe that it doesn’t affect other parts of the transgressor’s life, profession, etc.
Remember the Tiger Woods sex scandal? (Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you do.) What about the Michael Vick dog-fighting conviction? What has happened since those two athletes came under scrutiny for their transgressions? They’re just as, and perhaps more popular, than ever.
Forgiveness aside (and I don’t discount the importance of forgiveness), these athletes have probably benefitted from a branding standpoint because of those transgressions. (Note how Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation has seen its donations rise in the wake of him dropping his fight against doping allegations.)
The researchers found that people engage more often in moral decoupling because it allows them to maintain their view that the act was immoral and that it had or has no effect on their performance (in whatever way they perform—on the field, in Congress, etc.). Fans of Tiger and Michael say, “Sure. What he did was wrong, but I see no reason why that should affect whether I’m a fan.”
So what does this research have to do with fatherhood? Do people engage in moral decoupling when they react to non-married fatherhood? Nope. The reason is that we no longer look at non-married fatherhood as a moral transgression. Consequently, we don’t have to separate a father not being married to the mother of his children from his ability to be an involved, responsible, committed father despite the reams of evidence that marriage arose in cultures across the world in large part to connect fathers to their children, and that it provides the best environment in which to reduce the risk that children will grow up facing a host of risks.
You see, non-married fatherhood (and motherhood, by the way) has become excusable. As we’ve seen a rise in the number of out-of-wedlock childbirths leading to more and more children growing up without fathers, we’ve engaged in moral rationalization rather than moral decoupling. We say, “It’s not so bad. So many people are doing it that it doesn’t really matter.” (You only have to watch one episode of the hugely-popular Jersey Shore or the many other reality shows and sitcoms that celebrate out-of-wedlock child bearing to see my point.)
Don’t get me wrong. My argument isn’t that a specific unmarried dad can’t be a good father to his children. But when viewed through the lens of our culture and population at large, the conclusion that we have rationalized away the morality of unmarried fatherhood is undeniable. It has moved us away from our society's real need to address it in a preventive manner.
Unfortunately, the consequences of this rationalization are a huge burden on our society as noted in NFI’s 100 Billion Dollar Man study. But perhaps even more frightening is that it has, sadly, set the stage for the current debate about whether fathers are even relevant any longer.
I didn’t cry at school this morning. Nope, I did great. But today is still not a normal Tuesday for me. As my wife and I dropped our firstborn at her class and turned away, there were no visible tears from me. I saved my tears for the drive to my office.
It was Darius Rucker who put me over the edge. You know, Country Darius not Hootie Darius. His song, “It Won't Be Like This For Long” made me think. It hasn't been long since we brought Bella home from the hospital. It hasn’t been long, looking back, when we were waking up at night and wishing she would sleep more than two hours at a time. It wasn’t long ago I picked her up and tossed her in the air with ease.
Time sure flies and as a dad to a daughter who started school this morning, some of my thoughts are as follows:
1) How will we deal with the increased expenses of school?
2) How will we manage busier schedules and still create time for fun and travel?
3) Will bears steal my daughter and try to raise her as one of their own because she’s so sweet and cuddly?
3a) Perhaps bears trying to raise my daughter wouldn’t be all that bad. If they are bears that love sweet and cuddly five-year-olds, perhaps they are like a group of real-life Pooh bears and we’ll love them as we do our daughter. They can live with us and we can all enjoy eating honey together….
These are some of my thoughts. I told you; it’s not my normal Tuesday.
So being stolen by a family of kind-and-gentle bears isn’t the most accurate worry as a parent. Besides, bears are probably more apt to steal children in the Shenandoah’s, not closer to metro-Washington, right?! I will Google “bear attacks in greater DC area” later. For now, know that my biggest fear as my daughter starts school is that others will influence her.
See, I have one of those good daughters. She’s sweet, really, she is. She’s kind too. She’s not like your daughter. I have been at parties and Chuck E. Cheese’s with your daughters (and sons) – they aren’t as awesome as my daughter! ; )
Aside from if she’s sleepy or hungry, she listens to her parents. She is a good big sister too. She considers her sister. Just yesterday (at Chuck E. Cheese’s, where else?) she “won” enough tickets to get two packages of Smarties. What did she do with the extra pack? Yep, she shared with her sister. I didn’t have to tell her and her sister didn’t even have to ask.
Bell had other tickets; what did she do with those? She picked an extra set of glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth. Yes, an extra set. You see, Bell has carried around glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth for some time (she may be running around the school with them right now!); but her little sister hasn’t had a set. After yesterday, all that changed. It was Bella’s idea to take the seven million tickets and pick a set of vampire teeth for her little sister. I haven’t seen a better example of sacrificial love in a long time.
I’m focusing on the wrong part of the story. My point is my firstborn is an awesome and considerate big sister and human being. Why? Because my wife and I have worked with her and molded her into this person. Over five years, we have created this machine/human being who says “thank you” and “may I” and “please.” This is no small accomplishment considering I rarely say these things.
But still, my biggest fear is other-lesser-well-meaning individuals will now influence her. Yeah, so maybe I can trust her teacher, but what about those other 20 rascals in her classroom? My wife and I are creating something here, and we don’t need others getting involved and messing it up!
Truth is, other kids will influence my daughter. She will learn to navigate her way through now unimaginable drama. One day her “best friend” will probably lie to her. One day she may be shunned by “the cool kids.” This will hurt her until one day she realizes that “being cool” only comes when you blog for a living and use social media to talk about them. I kid; but seriously, one thing is certain, while we at National Fatherhood Initiative teach about the impact of father absence, we also teach about the impact of involved fathers. We talk about how the lack of a father changes the lives of children and a society, but the truth is that active, involved and committed dads change families and societies too.
With all of our research on absent dads, we hold to the fact that parents are the number one influencers of their children. Did you hear that? Parents are the number one influence on children, not mean girls or sweet boys.
We know that children whose fathers are stable and involved are better off on almost every cognitive, social, and emotional measure researchers have developed. My biggest fear shouldn’t be the influence of fellow students and friends on my daughter. My biggest fear should be how I am influencing my daughter. There will definitely be a test. While I am nostalgic today, I know that this phase is flying by. My wife and I will keep “holding on” as the song says. We will keep hugging, kissing, loving and training our daughter. Because we know, as Country Darius sings, “it won’t be like this for long.”
What's the one thing you fear the most as a parent?
Parents have an "odd life," and Disney’s new family film The Odd Life of Timothy Green brings this to life on the big screen.
A parent's life is odd. We get this odd opportunity to shape a human being for a short time. When you think about it, our only real prerequisite for having this distinctive thing of childbearing take place is to be a male and a female living on the planet earth. We bring our preconceived notions, the way our parents did things, and the lame stuff our friends tell us into this bowl and mix it up for a few years. A very few short years.
By the time they go away to college, you have a person, and hopefully, after a few years of care and love and teaching, you have person who is mature and grown. You love this person, and you’ve shaped and molded this tiny person into a bigger one through cheesy gold fish and sliced hot dogs. After spending all of this time and money and worry and sacrifice, you learn it’s just starting when you send your prized possession to college. It’s really an odd life for parents.
When my wife mentioned that she might be pregnant -- “might” because you’re never really certain with the first pregnancy until several pregancy tests later -- I just didn’t believe it really happened. It’s quite magical, really.
The moment after you realize you or your significant other is pregnant, your mind shifts into parent mode. Seriously. Your mind takes you places you didn’t previously know about. You now have a parent brain. You dream about the gender and whom he or she will look like in the family. You dream about he or she acting like you or your spouse. You worry about things you never even thought about before you were a parent.
Before the baby came, do you remember all the worry and anxiety and stress over all the things that could go wrong?
Parents have a worry continuum. That contiuum goes from wanting a child, to being pregnant and worrying about said child. This worry and stress, I’m told goes on until the end, with peaks during the high school and college years.
But the odd life of parents is that you learn, as Jim and Cindy Green learn in the film, your kids aren’t really yours. You're just overseers who take care of those little ones on their journey. Whether you promise yourself as Jim does in the film and vow to, "...do things different than my dad" or you make silly parenting mistakes, you really are there to love and care and cherish the children given to you. The rest is not up to you.
It’s an odd thing, the life of parenting. From counseling your teen in relationships, to teaching them sports and music and love and life and death, we parents have been entrusted with something special, a very odd life.
This new family film from Disney will make you relive your parenting mistakes and triumphs and inspire you to cherish the moments you have with your kids. They grow up fast and leave the house, when the real worry and odd life continues.
For more on Disney’s new family film, visit our Timothy Green page.
This is a guest post by Heather Creekmore. If you would like to guest post on this blog, email us here.
“Daddy, Big UG! Daddy, Daddy, Big UG...Big UG...”
If you sneak into my house, this is what you'll hear my two-year-old say, over and over again, before his Daddy leaves for work. He'll then run to the door, clearing toys out of his path, so that he can attach himself to my husband's leg, waiting for his Daddy to bend down and give him a full embrace.
But, while you are observing, you may also notice my oldest boy. He's almost six and will wrinkle his nose in disgust as his dad rubs on his buzz cut hair. Sometimes, if his mood is just right, he'll initiate a hug. But, most of the time he'd rather talk. He's a creator and dreamer. He'd rather hear Daddy affirm his latest Lego masterpiece or agree to whatever detailed plan he's come up with for that day, evening, or for when he turns twenty. He's got big ideas and he wants Daddy to listen and put his stamp of approval on them.
We have a total of four children and one of the most fascinating adventures for us as parents has been discovering their similarities and their differences, especially in the area of affirmation. We could squeeze on my eldest all day and he wouldn't be satisfied without some words. Whereas we could talk the socks off my two-year old, yet all he really needs to feel secure are some big, ‘H’-less, “ugs.”
This might have been more of a mystery to me if I hadn't read a book called, The Five Love Languages of Children, by Dr. Gary Chapman. Chapman’s theory is that everybody has a way, or language, in which they best express and receive love. Verbal affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time are the five categories dubs as languages. Dr. Chapman adapted his original book (The Five Love Languages) into this version for parents to help them better discover the ways in which their offspring express and receive messages of care and acceptance.
Want to know what language your little guy or gal speaks? The best way to figure out their language is to first stop, and figure out your own.
Are you a dad who needs to hear aloud how much you are loved? Or, maybe you feel most loved when someone takes care of you…like when your spouse does your laundry or takes care of that errand you were putting off. Do you prefer presents over a warm embrace? Or, do you just want someone to spend focused time with you?
Do you show someone you love them by serving them, telling them, spending time with them, physically connecting with them or giving them tokens of your love?
Once you figure out your language, start to observe your children more carefully. Do they always find "presents" to give you or ways to “help” you? Do they just want you to sit and be with them? Do they just want to be physically close? Do they want to hear or say “I love you” frequently?
Take time to discover your child’s language and then find ways to intentionally “speak it” with them. Remember, if you have more than one child, they may all have different languages. If you aren’t sure what language is being spoken, experiment! And, if your child is older, ask for his or her ideas and feedback.
There's no doubt: Kids need a lot. You start buying gear for your newborn and the expenses just never stop. You’ve given so much you may feel as if there is no way your child doesn’t know they are loved. But, I hope you’ll remember that children need affection and affirmation in special ways that their little brains are wired to understand. And, that’s where this information can help take the question out of whether or not your children understand how much they are loved.
So take the challenge! Discover your child's love language, and your own! You won’t regret it!
Question: Which love language does your child(ren) speak?
Visit Gold Medal Dads…Affirm Their Kids for tips on how you can affirm and show affection to your kids.
Remember to share and connect with other dads on our blog, Facebook and Twitter (#DadGames12).
This is a guest post by Heather Creekmore. Heather worked at the National Fatherhood Initiative from 2000 until 2007 when she “retired” from full time employment to live the glamorous life of a stay-at-home mom. Heather and her husband Eric reside outside of Dallas and have four children, ages 5 and under. She now spends her days changing diapers, making a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich, teaching fitness classes, and blogging. Read Heather's blog about the similarities between faith and fitness.
photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography
A few years ago, Ayelet Waldman wrote an article in the New York Times about how she loves her husband more than her children. It caused quite an uproar in the community of moms who called her a "bad mother" (and a lot worse) because of this.
Well, it's happened again, but this time, it is a dad saying he loves his wife more than his children. It also happens to be a very famous married couple, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. Urban recently revealed in an interview that he loves Nicole more than their two children. To do justice to what he said, I have copied the entire quote here:
"We're very, very tight as a family unit and the children are our life, but I know the order of my love. It's my wife and then my daughters. I just think it's really important for the kids...There are too many parents who start to lose the plot a little and start to give all their love to the kids, and then the partner starts to go without. And then everybody loses. As a kid, all I needed to know was that my parents were solid. Kids shouldn't feel like they are being favoured. It's a dangerous place."
Urban may not even realize it, but what he said is incredibly profound. His family is in Australia, so things may be different there, but here in the U.S., we have become so child-centered that you are attacked when you make such statements (Editor's note: I realize this sentence can be misconstrued. Being child-centered is great. The point is that the most child-centered thing you can do is have a great marriage. So maybe "child-centeredness" is not the problem as much as "anti-marriageness" is). Some respondents to Urban's statement suggested that it is inappropriate to not love your own flesh and blood more than your spouse.
But research seems to back Urban's mentality. Generally speaking, the most important relationship in the home is the one between mom and dad. As Urban states, if their relationship fails, everyone loses. While we don't yet have research that shows specifically that marriages in which the spouses love each other more than the kids produce "better kids," we do know that kids who grow up in married homes do better, on average, across every measure of child well-being. We also know that divorce is not good for children. We also know that parents who are married to each other are closer to each other and to their kids than parents in any other family structure. Put that all together, and what Urban says looks pretty good.
Back in 2005, Ms. Waldman appeared on Oprah to defend this notion of loving one's spouse more than one's children. Our very own president, Roland Warren, was on the show to affirm her position. It was very much her (and Roland) against the world. None of the moms on the show agreed with them. But I would ask those who are angered by this notion if they have "checked it" with their children. As Urban so eloquently states above, the only thing that mattered to him was that his parents were "solid." That is where children get their sense of identity and stability from.
So, when we dote on our kids at the expense of our spouse, are we doing so because we know our kids want that, or are we really just fulfilling our own selfish needs? After all, it is "easier" to love a child, who typically loves you back without question. Things are messier with adults and they take more work.
So, before we jump on the Ayelet Waldmans and Keith Urbans of the world, let's at least consider this question from the perspective of what kids really need.
What do you think? Who do you love more, your spouse or kids?
photo credit: SynergyByDesign
I can admit to the Father Factor readers that Ive struggled with depression over the years, with therapy and group sessions aiding me through the rough patches. Various things happened over the course of my life that led to my diagnosis, but I tried hard to mask the pain. This is a dangerous practice done by lots of people, especially men. This could prove to be even more troubling if you happen to be a father.
There is a disturbing lack of research showing what being a depressed father does to children in the home until recently. A study undertaken by NYU researchers
found that one out of every four children who are raised in a home with depressed parents soon develop mental health issues of their own. This nationwide study captured data from 7,247 US households where the parents and children all lived. Of that number, 6% of the fathers showed results that suggested they were depressed.
Further numbers in the research paper show other alarming stats: 15% of children with a depressed father showed symptoms; 20% of children with a depressed mother showed symptoms and, lastly, 25% of children living with two depressed parents showed symptoms. Factors influencing the depressive symptoms in parents included poverty, joblessness, and having a child with special health care needs.
Amazingly, this is the first large study done on male depression as it relates to fatherhood although there is plenty research on maternal and postpartum/postnatal depression. One could suggest that men are typically insular with their emotions and cope silently. Another point could be that many men dont even know where to go for resources. When was the last time you saw a mens mental health care center in your neighborhood? Do you know of any outreach groups doing work on a large scale?
I can tell you from my own experience that finding help for my depression was an epic task. I called therapists and counselors who all had many female clients but barely any male patients. Finding groups to talk about my issues also proved difficult, as I scoured the Internet and newspaper classifieds for assistance. Eventually, I did find some help.
It was important for me to move beyond my depression as a father. I know that my child watches every move, so it became necessary for me to make sure she doesnt repeat my mistakes. If we want to make certain as fathers and parents to not pass on bad physical health habits, we have to start including our mental health in that equation as well.Are you, or a father you know, suffering with depression? Do you think fathers pass on bad mental health habits to their children? Leave us a comment below or tweet to us at: @thefatherfactor. You can also like and comment on our Facebook page by following this link.
Image courtesy of Splash New
I became a fan of English actress Minnie Driver after her star turn in Good Will Hunting
in 1997. Drivers good looks and charm had her seemingly poised for stardom. She then starred in the box office flop Hard Rain
, and while she kept acting in smaller films and TV, nothing came close to the fame she gained working on Good Will Hunting
I read a story
from British newspaper The Observer
which featured Driver offering a revealing look into her private life. Before now, Driver had been mum about the identity of her three-year old sons father. She was still vague in her revelation during her interview, only opting to say there isnt much to the story.
"We weren't together and he wasn't directly in the business," she said. So I chose to protect him and not have a rain of publicity. I know, but it's ridiculous. He's not famous. There's no big story. I don't need to protect him anymore. He can fend for himself. He's a grown-up.
The unnamed mystery dad was a writer on short-lived television series The Riches of which Driver was a co-star. Driver shared some opinion of the fathers parenting duties. He's figuring it out. I mean, he hasn't been that involved; his choice. But he is now, she said.
Drivers cavalier decision to keep the father out of the limelight may be a manifestation of her own upbringing. Drivers father was a married man with a family who had no idea that Minnie and her sister existed. Although Drivers mother was her dads mistress, she doesnt seem to hold any ill will towards her father for his choices. She even compared herself to her father, neatly saying he lived his life.
For Minnie's son, Henry, one can only hope that his mom and dad will become effective co-parents and allow a relationship to build as it should. Driver has seen many mistakes up close when it comes to fatherhood. It would make sense for her to include her sons father in raising their child. While I find it curious that Driver shared the news after hiding the facts for three years, perhaps this is her attempt in giving Henry a chance to know his father in the best ways possible.Father Factor readers, what do you think about Minnie Drivers decision to speak openly about her son's father? Tell us in the comments below or tweet to us at @TheFatherFactor. You can also like and comment on our Facebook page by following this link.
I just read on the New York Times' parenting blog, Motherlode
(we will discuss this title later...), that the U.S. Census Bureau considers the time that fathers spend at home caring for children while mom works "child care," but does not do the same for the time when mom is home with the kids and dad works. This is because the Census Bureau considers moms the "designated parent." So mom's time caring for kids while dad is away is "parenting" and dad's time is... something else.
The Times does not agree with this assessment. Nor do we. But should we really be surprised?
I mentioned we would discuss the title of the New York Times' own parenting
blog. It is called Mother
lode. Isn't that an assumption, in and of itself, that mothers are to be considered the primary parent? The tagline of Parenting
magazine was, until very recently, "What Matters to Moms." Parenting books are written for moms. The tagline of the book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
is, "This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs." This was a married mother with the father living in the same home, but he is apparently a lower life form than the two dogs. Most brands in their advertising pretend that dad does not make any family purchasing decisions (although a few notable exceptions, like Tide
are cropping up). The list goes on.
In other words, our culture surrounds us with messages - some intentional, some not - that moms are still the more important parent. So, we should not be terribly surprised by how the Census Bureau views this issue. After all, the government typically reflects cultural values and is not usually on the cutting edge of changing them.
But back to what the Census reporting is doing... Motherlode aptly points out that mothers are just as much a victim of this mentality. As their post says, mothers are "on the hook every time" when it comes to taking care of kids. In that sense, moms are the victims of their own success - they fought to achieve the status of being able to raise families in any situation, but now there is an expectation that they always will, and dad is off the hook.
This is not empowering to dads, moms, and, most importantly, to children who deserve to have both moms and dads responsibly and equally involved in their lives.
This Saturday's Wall Street Journal
had an article titled, Why French Parents Are Superior
. Before I even read it, I knew there would be something to blog about...
Turns out that the reason the writer, Pamela Druckerman, believes that American parents have something to learn from the French is actually pretty simple (and I agree with her!). The article's thesis is summed up in this line: "They [the French] assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this."
You would think that most American parents would "get" this, but with the introduction of terms like "hyperparenting" and "helicopter parenting" entering the vernacular in recent years, it is clear that our culture (at least our middle-class culture) has become too "child-centric."
Here at NFI, we often say that the most important relationship in the house is the one between mom and dad. If they are doing well, they are more likely to do well by their children. Children get a sense of stability and learn how to relate to others by watching their parents. So, to serve children best, mom and dad must focus on their own relationship first.
So, in that sense, NFI has always espoused (pun intended) a "French" ideal. This is counter to the American ideal which seems to have placed the parent-child relationship at the center (mom-child, really), with all other relationships (mainly mom and dad's marriage) in heated competition for precious time and energy.
According to the Journal
article, this reversal of relationship priorities appears to be causing problems in many American households, where kids throw tantrums and adults have little time to themselves. Meanwhile the French are ambling along nicely with well-behaved kids, stable marriages, and healthy adult time. This notion is summed up in another key line in the article: "To the French couple, it seemed like the American kids were in charge."
In my short time (two years) as a parent, I can say that I have seen some of this, and my wife and I are probably a little guilty of it at times. But this is where I may get in a little trouble with both my wife and moms at large: in my own experience - which the Journal
article seems to support - it appears to be American moms who are piloting the helicopter in the helicopter parenting equation.
Dads are certainly passengers on the helicopter and must share some of the responsibility. But my impression is that dads have bought much less into the overparenting hype, but because our culture is set up to establish and support mothers as the "primary parent," mom's parenting paradigm wins out.
The Tiger Mom phenomenon illustrates this point nicely. "Tiger Mommying" is overparenting to the extreme. But, as we blogged about on this very blog last April, the fatherhood perspective was largely invisible during that debate
. Moreover, the Wall Street Journal
soon after answered questions about the lack of dads in the discussion, which we also discussed on this blog.
The writer of that response, Alan Paul, made this statement, which will get us back to the American vs. French parenting question: "To make a sweeping generalization, moms tend to be more detail oriented, and order driven. Dads often care less about the mess, can live with a bit more chaos and more easily adopt a big picture view."
So, America versus France...
What the American perspective does to dads is that they have to compete for attention from their wives, who are giving most of their time and energy to the kids. This is why one of the riskiest times for divorces is when all the kids have left for college: moms and dad have spent the last 18+ years pouring all of their love, energy, and attention into the kids and forgot how to love each other.
If what this new Journal
article says is true, this is not happening as much in France. And that is a good thing for children, moms, and dads.
Tell us: is your parenting more American or French? What are the benefits (and disadvantages) of your approach?