Children, parents, meals and discipline
Saturday, February 04, 2012
There is a wonderful article today in the Wall Street Journal's Review section about "Why French Parents are Superior". We can all debate that, of course, but one of the points that struck me is that children are taught from birth the concept of delayed gratification. The example they gave was food and meals. Here in America people graze all day long. Hungry? Bored? Eat something. In France you eat 3 times a day, and children have a snack at about 4 or 4:30. Period. Nothing in between. My husband's first wife was French, and my step son, whom I have known since he was a teen, never ate between meals. He would be bouncing on his feet moaning "hurry up" while I was making dinner, but it never occurred to him to snack. He is pushing 50 now and has two kids of his own, and he has raised them the same way. Just that one aspect of "delayed gratification" has worked its way into all his life. We all have heard about French women not being fat and have examined their food for the "secret", but no one ever mentioned that the culture doesn't involve snacking. I love the story I read about Euro-Disney when it first opened. Disney had designed their food vendors the same way we see them here, but in France, the vendors were empty between meals and overwhelmed at meal times. They actually had to "educate" people to eat like Americans when at the park just so there would be the capacity to feed them.
I was raised not to snack, but I let that "after school snack" get WAY out of hand, and got fat. When I got to Weight Watchers in 1970, snacks weren't part of the meal plan; maybe you broke lunch into two parts an hour or so apart, but the emphasis was in getting to the next meal without snacking. It's the old "delayed gratification" thing.
To this day I do not snack. There is no "snack food" in my house. I have three planned meals each day, and I make sure to eat enough at each one (according to my plan) to get me through to the next. That's how I raised my own kids, although it was primarily because I couldn't afford to give them food outside of meals. I had no idea I was teaching them to accept delayed gratification, but I guess I was.
Maybe that's why I have no trouble putting off purchases until (or if) I can afford them. I can wait until everyone gets here on Christmas afternoon to open gifts. I had no idea that waiting until meals to eat would have such a big (although unattributed) affect.
If you can get your hands on the Feb 4 Wall Street Journal (they charge for online or I'd link it), it's very interesting.