Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Who is the victim here?

A young mother comes into the coffee shop with her three-year-old daughter.

– Do you want a doughnut?

– No.  I want to go home.

– Mommy can buy you a chocolate milk.

– No.  I want to go home.

Mommy sees some friends at one of the tables and goes to talk to them.  Then she returns to the counter to order a coffee for herself.

– Can Mommy sit down and have a coffee with her friends?

– No.  I want to go home.

Mommy gives up and leaves the coffee shop.

Who was the victim in this episode?  Did you say it was the mother?  I think the child is every bit as much a victim as the mother.  Authority in North American homes has shifted from the parents to the children and the results have not been pretty.

Years ago, North American parents were told that babies needed to learn to sleep and eat on a fixed schedule.  They were told that showing much affection to their babies would leave them ill-prepared to face the harshness of the real world.  They should not be hugged and kissed or picked up and held whenever they cried.

In 1946 the first edition of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care appeared.  Dr. Spock was a pediatrician who had studied psychoanalysis in order to understand children’s needs.  He recommended that mothers be more flexible and affectionate.  Treat each child as a unique individual, feed her when she is hungry, tell her how special she is.

The first approach to child nurture was too rigid and uncaring.  Dr. Spock’s advice sounded like a great improvement, but it has resulted in numerous scenes like the one above (witnessed by my wife a few years ago).

Parents in France never signed on with either North American extreme.  Mothers in France are loving and affectionate, yet expect their babies to quickly adapt to sleeping through the night.  As soon as possible, they are put on a regular feeding schedule.  The child learns very early, with very little fuss, that he is not the boss, Maman is.  Baby will be loved and cared for, but the other people in the house need to sleep, too.

Maman is the boss in the kitchen, too.  She decides what the family will eat and Junior will eat what everyone else eats.  The diet is much more varied than a typical North American diet and Junior is expected to eat what is on his plate.  Yet Maman understands that Junior needs time to learn to enjoy a new food, so she only insists that he taste a little bit of everything on his plate.  She knows that it might take up to a dozen tastes before Junior decides that this new food is really OK.  So Junior finds this new food on his plate from time to time and knows that he needs to at least taste it.  There is no whining: “I don’t like this,” nor loud commands: “You have to eat it anyway!”

In many such little ways, a child is constantly, yet gently, reminded that Maman and Papa are the ones in charge.  It works.  The child knows the rules, feels secure, and actually has more freedom than many young North American children.  It doesn’t sound like there are many “helicopter mothers” in France, hovering over their little darling for fear that he might come to some harm.

Parental authority is undisputed in France.  North American parents don’t believe that they have such authority, or are afraid that they might somehow ruin their children’s lives if they attempt to exercise such authority.  In this way the children become victims and the results show up as the child grows older, develops learning difficulties, becomes more anxious, more rebellious.  The typical North American solution to these problems?  A pill.  But that’s not a solution, just another problem, another victimization of our children.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged (Colossians 3:20-21).

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