French Lesson #2: The “Cadre” {Say Less, Pray More}

Apr 16, 2012

A few weeks ago I wrote about my latest realization…overtraining my boys (saying too much & not praying enough). Since writing that post, I’ve made a few more observations about the words that come out of my mouth…

~Five to One~

At a parenting seminar a few years ago, I learned:

“A healthy relationship consists of 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.”(Brad Schwall)

Unfortunately, more days than I’d like, I have it backwards…5 negative for every 1 positive. The reason behind all the negative interactions is my frequent correcting, directing and instructing. Due to the high number of corrections, my boys have stopped listening. Several times when I’ve asked them to “come here”, they run the other way assuming they are in trouble.

“If you stand in your chair you could fall!”

“Wash your hands or you’ll get food on the couch.”

“Don’t run on that wall, it’s wet & you could slip.”

“Blah, blah, blah…”

~Love & Logic~

In my early parenting days I read the book “Parenting with Love & Logic”. The authors  suggested you allow your child freedom to experience natural consequences. If he doesn’t want to wear shoes in the backyard, then let him go barefoot. When he hurts his feet then he will choose to wear shoes. Of course, the caveat here is you should warn them in matters of life or death (parking lots/streets/etc). If it’s not life/death, you allow your child to learn from his mistakes.

This approach has always been hard for me. Particularly since it typically means potential harm to my children and more work for me. For example, if he falls off the chair and breaks an arm, then I have to drag 4 children to the emergency room and take care of a poor little guy in a cast.

On the other hand, it’s exhausting and stressful to be so vigilant. Warning them about every danger. Keeping track of the activities of 3 busy boys. I end up being that dreaded “helicopter parent” or the ogre mommy (in the words of Kat).

~The French Frame~

In the article I mentioned before called  “Why French Parents are Superior” by Pamela Druckerman, it mentions Americans’ over-attentiveness to their children:

  “When American families visited our home, the parents usually spent much of the visit refereeing their kids’ spats, helping their toddlers do laps around the kitchen island, or getting down on the floor to build Lego villages. When French friends visited, by contrast, the grown-ups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves.”

Perhaps I make it too hard? Having coffee with the grown-ups sounds lovely. Allowing my children to monitor themselves…a dream!

My husband* tends to give my boys more freedom. He isn’t constantly directing them. In fact, he may have a reputation for not being attentive enough. When we are at a social gathering we both want to talk & mingle. This has become a source of conflict. I feel that one of us should be watching the children at all times. I suggest that we should trade off who watches them. He agrees more with the French approach…children playing by themselves while adults enjoy conversation.

His opinion comes in part from how he was reared. He describes his upbringing to include strong boundaries but a lot of freedom within those boundaries. His parents were NOT constantly standing over him, correcting and directing. But they did have absolute rules that could not be broken.  Since he wasn’t constantly corrected he was more willing to listen when they did train him. They focused on those important boundaries, but let the little things go.

Here is another quote from the article on French parenting:

 “the French ideal of the cadre, or frame…Cadre means that kids have very firm limits about certain things—that’s the frame—and that the parents strictly enforce these. But inside the cadre, French parents entrust their kids with quite a lot of freedom and autonomy.”

photo credit 

If my goal is to “say less, pray more”, this is a good visual to keep in mind: a frame. Allowing freedom within the frame, but correcting when they attempt to cross outside the frame.

But saying less & giving more freedom does not come naturally to me. I have supersonic sensory powers. I see, hear, taste, feel everything around me. My strong sense of justice makes it difficult to let offenses go unnoticed. Then there is the “teacher” side of me, taking advantage of every learning opportunity. And I care too much about what other people think.  We have 4 boys, for heaven’s sake. We already draw attention wherever we go. To allow them freedom sounds frightening.

~In Conclusion~

I’m not going to get it right 100% of the time. But my goal is to use less “warnings” and give more freedom. Fulfilling that goal will hopefully lead to the right equation: 5 positive to 1 negative interaction.

Ultimately, my goal is to stop before I correct. Decide if correction is necessary. Then pray for character rather than micromanaging each child.

Here is a great prayer calendar for kids on the Inspired to Action blog: A Mother’s Prayer Calendar.  There is also 21 days of prayer for boys ebook available for $3.99.

Do you struggle with warning too frequently? Have you been able to successfully implement the “love & logic” approach? When you are at social functions how do you and your husband manage the children? How often do you pray for your children?

*everything written about my husband has been approved by my husband

French Lesson #1: Parenting with Confidence

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  1. Kathy

    LOVE the quote “Say less, pray more.” I’m going to write that down so I can see it all day long! Thanks for sharing your parenting thoughts!

  2. Mae

    I love this post. I would say I side with your husband. I have FIRM boundaries, but within those boundaries I try hard to trust my kids. I feel the same as you in some aspects though because I do feel judged by other moms when they see me “not parenting” (or at least not helicopter parenting like they are). For example, I have a son who is relatively well behaved, but he likes to climb (as in, at the playground he doesn’t swing on the swings, he climbs like a koala bear up the poles that support the swing set itself and then smiles and says, “Look at me, Mom” at the top… that’s just always been his way). I have had MANY moms look at me in shock (and a few have even said something to me). And I just let him do it. He has always been that way and I don’t really see any disrespect in it, so why should I make him get down and do things “they way they were designed”… sometimes kids have more fun going up the slide than down, right?!?! I try to not let mommy-peer-pressure change my parenting style. It’s hard though. Makes me feel bad sometimes.

  3. fragolla

    We have been dealing with this struggle or balance this year also. I am a typical helicopter mom and I realized one day that she needs the freedom to learn and discover things on her own. I have been experimenting on this for the last 4 months and so far it has worked out well. Funny that you brought up french parenting. We were in Vegas last week and a French family sat next to us. We both noticed how their little boy was definitely a “boy”, but yet they effortlessly controlled him and at the same time allowed him his freedom. They barely said a chasticing word to him. When he stood on the chair and started going after things, they quietly took him and sat him on their laps and held his hands, all while they carried on with their conversation. Afterwards, they sat him back on his chair and let him explore his area in front of him. They were content to let him explore the things in front of him that were not breakable and for him to shout out in laughter. It was a great balance and I remember that we both commented on how they allowed him to be a boy, but yet create a nice atmosphere for the rest of the family to enjoy their meal. They were not terribly childcentric at all. It was interesting to watch.

  4. Kristin

    THANK YOU for the prayer calendar. I wonder if you have read the ebook. Is it definitely worth it? I am NOT a huge reader, so I prefer to buy it ONLY if you feel it’s an easy read and a must read. LOVE YOUR BLOG. Just came across it a few weeks back. Sometimes I feel like I am writing. LOL! I have three kids (2 being 3 year old twins.). I feel overwhelmed most days and cannot imagine a 4th. God knew you could handle it and I know some days are challenging, but you seem, from your writing, to be doing a wonderful job. Most importantly, you are LOVING your children by raising them to know CHRIST.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Kristin, if I were you I would go to the MOB Society website and sign up for the 21 days of prayer for sons. It starts up May 1st. Thanks for your encouragement!

  5. Emily

    I was blessed to land on your blog today! I am also a mom of 4 boys…ages 5 1/2, 4, 2, and 6 mos. Very close to yours, it sounds like. It is a challenge (to put it lightly!). I really appreciate this post. My husband and I have both felt lately that the boys just are not listening to us. And I really struggle with feeling like I am negative to them all day long. It’s constant discipline. Constant energy. I will pray for you, Heather, as I pray for myself in this boy-mom journey. May you sense His abundant mercy renewing you each & every day 🙂

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh sweet friend! we are definitely in the same boat. It’s challenging, for sure. I agree with you…constant discipline. constant energy. With an infant the sleep deprived momma doesn’t help. I just visited your blog and love it! (tried to comment but something didn’t work…i’ll try again!). God bless friend and hope to connect more!


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