Philippe Bourguignon Inspires Parenting Perspectives

To be or not to be successful through failure? That was the question addressed by Philippe Bourguignon during a recent and amazing PathNorth dinner. Parisians know Bourguignon as the founding CEO of Disneyland Paris and previous CEO of Club Med. Currently working alongside Steve Case (ex-chair of AOL) on Revolution, he’s also on the board of eBay and sponsors record breaking rollerblader, Taïg Khris. Bourguignon knows a thing or two about risk, failure, and success. For years he’s kept one foot on either side of the Atlantic and observed how French and Americans respond to “Oh, oh!”

The French and American Boys Who Scrape Their Knee

Bourguignon introduced his comments with the story of a little French boy playing at the park who scrapes his knee. Crying, he runs to his mother who exclaims, “Oh, la la!” and scolds him for getting into trouble. She reprimands lovingly, yet nonetheless reminds her son that he messed up.

In the same way an American boy plays in Central Park NYC, scrapes his knee, and runs off to mom. She wipes him off and sends him back, reminding him not to do the same thing so that he can avoid getting hurt again. Bourguignon observed that in the U.S.A., failure is an experience. One is a wiser person after the mistake than before.

Parenting Disney-Style

My children provide ample daily opportunities to vacillate between desperation and creativity in parenting. Space Mountain is tame entertainment compared to the home roller coaster. The emotional heights which Mom & Dad reach (like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day), the plunges to which we fall and keep dropping, our twists and contortions in multiple directions simultaneously, and even after the ride we’re still in the dark!

One of our sons is particularly apt to taking us on such a ride, but frankly, every kid is an attraction: when Space Mountain’s on pause, our Big Thunder or Pirate of the Caribbean becomes the main attraction. Innumerable times their failures expose my weaknesses (think Haunted House), which leaves me feeling defeated. Yet we also connect for moments of deep and thrilling intimacy (Twirling Tea Cups speed x50).

The Business of Parenting “Failure” & “Success”

The biggest challenge is to want to love the children again after being hurt. That’s when I seek:

- A clear strategy, a specific mission. It’s hard to reach parenting success—however it’s defined—if you can’t recognize it. Home Is Fun helps parents equip kids to be positively contributing to society, first at home then in the world. We’re about living fully emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically.

- A workable, measurable action plan and the courage to do it. In interviews with moms and dads, Home Is Fun heard impressive parenting strategies. “How do you translate that into your daily schedule?” met with frustrated silence. It’s tough! That’s why we have developed a tool kit to address issues common to many families. Peruse through our tools (many free downloads) for inspiration.

Measuring “performance”— obedience, taking initiative, respect of others…—enables parents and kids to know how far there’s left to go (French angle) and reminds all to marvel at how far the family has already come (U.S. perspective).

- An attractive compensation package. The currency of relationships is love, which Gary Chapman reminds us is communicated through Physical Touch (PT), Affirmation (A), one-on-one Quality Time (QT), Acts of Service (AS), and Gifts (G). Each individual has a preferred love language and responds to several. Personalize the compensation package to each family member:

o Plan time for touch football with Tiger and point out his skilful moves (PT, QT, & A).
o Help Cinderella with the cleaning and offer her a glass shoe (AS & G).

- A miracle…in me. We chuckle at the shoe salesman who returned from the jungle and declared, “No market. They don’t wear shoes.” I seek new sight: to see the young in the old, to be free from focusing on a problem and to redefine it as an opportunity instead. If our family had not suffered through screams or awkward silences, I would not be trying new ways to bring home peace & joy.

The return on investment of these efforts is exponential. “Fun makes fun, and the fun fun makes makes more fun.”*

Photo of Philippe Bourguignon from Revolution. Disney ride featuring screaming me and comforting husband.  Optical illusion by Octavio Ocampo

* Paraphrase of a German proverb on money: “Money makes money and the money money makes makes more money.”

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