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Monday, February 13, 2012

How to raise kids like a French woman

Have you heard these rules of French parenting? I'm dying to discuss...

The much-buzzed-about book Bringing Up Bebe just came out. The author Pamela Druckerman, an American mother of three, moved to Paris and said she learned how to better raise her kids by watching French parents. My copy of the book is still in the mail (I can't wait to get it), but I read an excerpt in the Wall Street Journal this week. The fascinating article was a little patronizing (not all Americans are bumbling fools, harrumph!), but here are four basic points I loved (and agree with)...

1. You can have a grown-up life, even if you have kids. Pamela writes: "The French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They 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. 'For me, the evenings are for the parents,' one Parisian mother told me. 'My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it's adult time.' "

2. You can teach your child the act of learning to wait. Pamela writes: "It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night…Their parents don't pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.) A [French mother] Delphine said that she sometimes bought her daughter Pauline candy. (Bonbons are on display in most bakeries.) But Pauline wasn't allowed to eat the candy until that day's snack, even if it meant waiting many hours."

3. Kids can spend time playing by themselves, and that's a good thing. Pamela writes: "French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time...French kids are—by design—toddling around by themselves....'The most important thing is that he learns to be happy by himself,' [a French mother] said of her son....In a 2004 study...the American moms said that encouraging one's child to play alone was of average importance. But the French moms said it was very important."

4. Believe it when you tell your child "No." Pamela writes: "Authority is one of the most impressive parts of French parenting—and perhaps the toughest one to master. Many French parents I meet have an easy, calm authority with their children that I can only envy. When Pauline [a French toddler] tried to interrupt our conversation, Delphine [her French mother] said, "Just wait two minutes, my little one. I'm in the middle of talking." It was both very polite and very firm. I was struck both by how sweetly Delphine said it and by how certain she seemed that Pauline would obey her...I gradually felt my "nos" coming from a more convincing place. They weren't louder, but they were more self-assured."

Toby is still a pretty little dude (so who knows what will happen!), but thus far, we've basically followed (or tried to follow) similar parenting philosophies. They seem more like common sense than particularly French, although I think one real difference is that American women can feel (or be made to feel) guilty for carving out time for themselves or letting their babies play on their own. It's all about finding a balance that works best for you, your baby and your family.

I'm really curious: Do you agree with these parenting approaches? Do you disagree? Do you think these approaches are French, American, or universal? Were your parents strict, and are you? What parts of parenthood do you find trickiest? Are you inspired by any of these points? (I'm going to curb Toby's snacks.) Will you read the book? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!!!

P.S. Remember this marshmallow test for children?

(Top photo by The Sartorialist)

299 comments:

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Flo said...

I do think this is more French than it is from the United States...my mother had a French education and I remember being brought up with many of the ways the book talks about. In the United States, on the other hand, kids are told so many times that they are people with rights and all that, that I've even heard of kids calling 911 over their parents saying no to TV or a treat.
I believe parenting should be about the kids, but life is about more than them, and parents need to realise that. Have a great Valentine's day, everyone!

antique engagement rings said...

Learning to wait.....that so important!

Eugénie said...

Hi,
I don't know if every parents here are doing these.
I'm trying to be respectful and happy. And it's funny because my reference are two canadian women who wrote books about parenting (Faber & Mazlisch).
All is in the respect ! ;)

But it's always nice to see other people interested in our way of life !
(sorry for my english...)

bettyoctopus said...

I completely agree, especially with the first point. As parents, we shouldn't consider ourselves martyrs - it is possible to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with our children whilst retaining our own identities.

Guilt and judgement affects a lot of parents. I think after 3 years of being a mother I've finally hit a lovely balance of motherhood, and just being me.

Anonymous said...

Im American raising three kids under the age of five. I have no problems or complaints from others on my style of American upbringing. Someone posted above that this book seems like common sense parenting and I agree. My kids do not snack all day to entertain themselves. My kids are happy to play alone. My kids listen to my firm NO. I am almost willing to bet that for every well behaved French child as well as American, there is a dozen not so well behaved. We all like a good read and Im sure this book is entertaining but lets take credit for the excellent jobs us Americans do with our kids.

Chichi Mangou said...

I'm a french mum, I have two little boys (3 years old and 20 months, like Toby!). Of course, that's how french parents raise their child, probably like many other ones in the world!
However, about babys night, it depends on so many things... specially, the little one himself!
And, the big difference between french and american children is really about food. 2 years ago, I went to NYC and I was surprised to see so many children eating all day long. (Even if I noticed ther are not many children in this city)

There is ro rule for parenting!

Clara said...

I so agree with everything here, Joanna, especially the first one. My parents always maintained their social life while raising children and I think it's one of the best things they not only did for themselves, but my brother and I, too! People always comment on how social my parents are, and I'm always confused when I meet families whose parents never venture out! How is that fun? It's taught me so much about maintaining my independence and relationships. It also was wonderful having all these friends around while we were growing up, it made for such a loving environment. I definitely pick up this book when I start having kids- thank you!

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that these parenting styles were French but I can say that this is how my parents have raised myself and my siblings. We have grown up to be independent and generally happy people. I remember seeing friends who constantly needed to be entertained or catered to but thats not how I feel at all. I completely agree with these guidelines but just in my experience it seemed at times my parents were more focused on being firm and making their expectations known that it left little room for the emotional side that children sometimes need to share. I would be upset about something but be expected to deal with my problems in a mature, grown up way even if I had no idea what i was doing.

lauren said...

Interesting, my mother is far from French, in fact she's from Kentucky, but she raised my brother and I EXACTLY like this, to a T. If I gave her that book I know she'd laugh her ass off because it's supposedly the "French" way. She'd say it's not the French way, but rather the Smart way.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but Im not sure what this has got to do with being 'French'. Its common sense. Anyone thats read any of the Gina Ford books for example will have learnt these pretty basic rules of parenting straight off the bat! X

Katelyn said...

Hmm, I'd have to say that I agree with a lot of this. I wouldn't even call it "french parenting." More or less old fashioned parenting. My mother never over coddled us. As a result she said we were always well behaved kids. It depends on the individual I suppose. I'm really loving the part where your life doesn't end as a grown-up adult however!

Katariina said...

The rules listed here seem like common sense, but only paint part of the picture.
I spent my childhood and teens (12 years) in Belgium, and what most stuck with me from the French parenting was how strict they could be, sometimes even dishing out a slap or two in public, if the child was whining or throwing a tantrum.
Yes, you can raise nice and obedient little children, but it takes a lot of harsh discipline at least at the start.

I don't have enough experience with American parenting and children to compare with, except for this hilarious (and kind of disturbing)video of kids reacting to not getting what they wanted for Christmas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4a9CKgLprQ&feature=relmfu

I guess I was brought up relatively strict. I wasn't exactly miss sunshine as a kid, but I never complained about not getting a certain present etc.
Also I do agree with teaching your children to learn to be independent, starting off with teaching them to play by themselves. When I lived in Finland during my early childhood, I was free to play outside on my own or with my friends (as it was safe enough in the suburbs there compared to Brussels), as long as my parents knew where I was.

The eating habits of American and British kids are pretty horrible though. In Brussels I would have lunch at school, and maybe some kind of small snack like fruit or a sandwich. I remember being quite jealous of all the supposedly healthy but really sugary snacks my friends would have, but now am really glad that my parents didn't allow them.
Here in London at first I was amazed how meal deals at supermarkets would include a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar alongside the regular sandwich and drink, and how most crisps are sold in small bags - just the right size for a snack. Most kids seems to regularly eat such a lunch, along with eating a few of the mini-bags of crisps along the day.

Sarina said...

This seems a lot like my brother and I were raised. We were expected to play by ourselves and to respect our elders. Our parents vacationed by themselves and basically had an adult life.. despite the fact that we were around. In fact, I remember being put into service to pass around the cheese and crackers at my parent's cocktail parties. A lot of parents have made the mistake of totally catering to their child's whims and desires.. making the little prince and princess the center of the universe.. (would love to be those teachers that have to wrangle 28 little persons of royalty). I see young adults that are products of this "self esteem building" style of parenting and they are naive, self absorbed, lazy and incapable of handling the least amount of adversity in their lives. Constant calls to daddy or mommy to complain about their boss or professor certainly drives home the dangers of this style of parenting. My step daughter on the other hand, works and pays for her own insurance.. without reminders from us. She is tasked with organizing her own activities (with permission granted) and encouraged to make decisions on her own based on our values. She appears much better equipped to deal with live vs the kid whose every bowel movement was considered heavan sent.

miss twinkletoes said...

I am currently pregnant with my first child and can't wait to read this. Alot of these principles is how my parents raised me, and I always agreed with it.

www.twinkletoes-golddangles.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I don't really think these are new concepts- it's also how American parents used to raise kids. It's only been in the last few generations that we've swayed away from that and become indulgent, obsessed, helicopter parents.

I have had many of these philosophies from the get go. I have been having my baby play by herself in increasing increments, I don't rush to get her unless it's a clear pain cry, and I plan on teaching her to wait (agreeing with the mealtime philosophy), how to properly act in restaurants and other public places and how to not interrupt others.

I think the key is the "teaching" vs. discipline philosophy. You teach them every day, you praise the good behaviors and pay more attention to them then the bad. The bad you quietly correct and tell them why it's wrong. If you teach them to respect you I think everything else falls into place.

Beth F. said...

I was hoping you would post on this book! I know I am a day late here...My copy is also in the mail...and the article in the journal was discussed at length this weekend by my extended family. So interesting...it really polarized us! My sister (3 kids) thinks it is hooey, and I was thinking I want to move to France just so my 2 yr old will sit still at a restaurant! My mom was of the "this is common sense" feeling, and my dad thinks they must be doing something wrong there at some point in the children's lives to have a society that can't work more than 35 hours a week (which I think sounds great!). I'm hoping the book will touch on how to get my little one to not want to watch TV!

Sammi said...

I'm not a parent, so my thoughts are simply observations on my friends with children. I think this is how I would bring up my children, they seem like common sense rules. My boss' actually bring their children up like this, and sometimes when I think they are being super strict, actually, it is the reason their children are so well mannered and polite. They also manage to carve a couple of hours out for themselves. I think the American culture puts too much pressure on parents to do things just through the children. It will drive you insane if you don't take some time out occasionally.

houseofvioletta said...

I don't think this is such a"french parenting" tradition, but more of how Europeans raise their kids. The book excerpts you share, could easily be describing how parents raise their children here in Italy. I see these "traditions" being used with my nephews and our friends children, especially the part about food and no snacking. Also, in Italy, they eat what the adults eat and they love it. And adults here definitely have lives and socialize with or without children around but they make sure it's adult time.

Lynne said...

I think the part about snacking is true. A friend wrote the following a few months ago, it's the same book I think, with a different name.

http://crumbsfeedyourfamily.blogspot.com/2012/01/at-weekend-i-read-interesting-in.html

K said...

mental note to get this book

Anonymous said...

As an elementary school teacher, I see TONS of over-parenting. This advice should be common sense... I'm glad she has written it down for those without it!

Kathy said...

As a 52 year old mother of 3 (two out of the house, last one in high school) I totally agree. It seems to me that over the past few years US doctors have forgotten how to cut umbilical cords. And for the record, I was a stay at home mom who was very involved, and still am. Just not as enmeshed as parents seem to be these days. Gosh that made me sound really old! Surprised I didn't say something like "young people these days"! HA!

Kathy

.sa said...

Parenting and how to raise children is incredible closely linked to the culture and reflects so much of what is valued in the culture and society where you raise your children.

I am Swedish and my husband is French and we live in Canada. My Swedish family thinks I set rules everywhere and my Canadian relatives think I don't set any rules at all.

I do not think this book is "common sense" at all, even though it may make children obedient and give parents their adult time...

You can have well behaved, social children without being super strict and telling them no all the time. Believe me, there are other ways.

I DO NOT believe children should cry themselves to sleep.

There is a big difference from the independence that comes from being forced to sooth yourself because your parent wont come and pick you up and to falling asleep happily because you know your parent will come and pick you up if you need them.

Attachment theory explains the psychology about learned behavior in children.
It's a good read.

Anonymous said...

I lived in France for 3 years, one of them as an au pair. The thing that struck me most about French parenting was that all the kids I knew were constantly spanked for the most ridiculous reasons(including when they woke up crying at night, which only made it worse). I can't say I have fond memories of French parenting.
I realize this book is not about that. And I was an au-pair 16 years ago, so maybe things changed.
Did anyone else have this experience?
Anja

Anonymous said...

I agree that this does indeed seem like common sense, and that it does come off as a bit patronizing. I give my child consistent rules that kids need, but at the same time I don't treat her like she's only a child (some parents act like kids have no place conversing with adults.) Consequently, she is growing up to be a very mature, level headed, and confident person.

brianna said...

Hmmm...I don't think these tips are French at all. These tips seem familiar to me and I think I have a tendency to parent with this style. I have only one child though, and I think all of these things work more easily with one. :)

Carlie said...

Just finished the book myself and found it incredibly inspiring. Of course there are misbehaving French children and of course technically the French have no exclusive, brilliant right to any of this knowledge but cultures do carry certain norms and social patterns and I thought there was a lot to learn from the French model after my read. I am heading back into my second reading with a pen in hand to mark up my copy with notes. Lots of what was in here was philosophy I agreed with but implementation I'd never heard of which made it sound possible and practical.

Anonymous said...

It may come across as common sence, but, it is cultural. I am a teacher, and have taught in CA and in South Carolina. the kids and the culture is different. American children do stay up later, and eat different amounts of food, and more frequently. They also play with their siblings and family. American families are larger in size than French families. American parents do play a lot and feel a need to "entertain" the kids. they also give in to the whining. You can see it in the malls, and restaurants. Babysitting in South carolina was Horrible. I have done it for several families, and have since stopped. the children do not entertain themselves, unless it is with a video game, and constantly want to eat. I feel that Americans should be more open to other ways of raising their children and not so defensive to other approaches.

M.

cats dreaming in keylime said...

The book should be titled "Common sense parenting" - I hate to say this (and I'm American!) but many American moms have lost their way. I heard this quote recently: We mistakenly teach self-absorbtion instead of self-confidence. (Wish I could remember where I heard that.)

Michelle said...

I'm no parent, but I too have foreign (south american) parents, and those tips sound very similar to how I was brought up. With kids hopefully in our future, I am so pleased to feel reassured of these methods. Sound much less stressful for parents!

Shana said...

Let me preface by saying first that I have no children as of yet. I live in Brooklyn with my husband and we are always in awe at how parents here treat their children. It's as though authority doesn't exist! I see children rule their parents lives and I wonder what ever happened to parenting? I love my mother more than words but I was a little bit scared of her when I was growing up as a kid and I think that taught me valuable lessons in life. I think parents should learn that strictness is ok from time to time and being a parent is being an authority figure too.

Having said all this, I'm curious to see how my husband and I will manage if we do have kids... ;-)

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Kathleen said...

I agree that these are mostly common sense - I think the family as a whole benefits when the kids do not rule the roost, so to speak. And we used to LOVE when my parents went out for the night, because our sitters were cool and introduced us to new music, etc.

Then again, I recently had a mother make a rude comment to me when she overheard I'd been a concert the night before, so maybe not common sense to everyone.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the article/book completely, especially the part about the constant snacking in the US. Its so frustrating to cook a meal and not have the kids eat it because they have been snacking all day. What a waste of time! Then you have kids who don't appreciate a really good home cooked meal. And I believe it ties in with the need of instant gratification and even obesity in children

Anonymous said...

I'm French too and I must say that I didn't know having an 'adult time' was specific to France... But I totally agree with so many of these points specially since I live in Japan. As a french girl, I'm still chocked when I listen to japanese friends telling me that they don't sleep with their husband anymore, but with their kids, often up to 10 years old...

GINA BIBER said...

I've been living in Paris for six years.

My thoughts are that Pamela Druckerman sugar coats what French parenting actually is, which is most often neglect.

For example, parent's consider the evening to be "adult time," this would make perfect sense if they spent the day giving their children attention, but in reality, the vast majority of parent's ignore their children during the day too, giving their responsibilities to cold institutions. If the parents feel like it, they might play with their kids on the weekend.

As a psychologist, it's not surprising to me that American children grow to be over indulgent, but it's also not surprising that a large percentage of grown French children are depressed.

Benedicte said...

Well, I am a French mother and all that sounds very familiar to me. But is this typically French ? I thought it was universel "rules"...

Mama of Esmee and Lily said...

A friend has just spent a year in Paris and she was shocked at the extent of parents slapping children. Also complete strangers would come up to her and comment on her children's behavior or even reprimand the children directly.

madilla said...

I agree with all the examples you mentioned. These are the guidelines I try to raise my 1 year old son. With our second child on the way it is really important to me to have healthy routines during the day. Breakfast around 8.30, some fruit around 10, at 12 we have lunch then nap time. After that some fruit or little snack and dinner around 6 pm. By that time his daddy is home as well so we can sit down together at the table. They say it's important for a child to see how you have to behave around the table and to bond like a family so dinner times are a great way for that.
During the day I let him play a lot alone so he knows how to entertain himself while I'm cooking. Of course I'm there in the room but I just give him breathing space. When he wants me to read a story he just brings over a book and we sit down.
And your partner comes always BEFORE your child (I'm speaking about a healthy relationship) . That's the best you can do for your baby. So he knows his parents are there for him. And are the people he can trust.

Ry said...

I knew I was meant to be French....

joaninha said...

I'm Brasilian but grew up in Europe and have to say that the way my mother raised me as a child is pretty much what the "rules" are of this book. They actually seem absolutely normal to me. If that isn't normal now a days I wonder what is?

I still remember my parents friends when we came to America being mesmerized at the fact that I sat and waited patiently in restaurants with them while their children ran rampant. Oddly enough I remember thinking as a child "why are these children such savages?" too.

I have to admit I do find that a lot of children here in NYC tend to run rampant with no set of rules but then again to each their own right?

etoilee8 said...

I'm in the this-advice-is-common-sense camp. Often I am horrified when adults let their children run the show, interrupting conversations with tantrums and such. But I've seen poorly behaved children of every nationality. Truthfully speaking, for the most part the behavior I've witnessed in my visits to France has been pretty good. My favorite story which exemplifies this statement was visiting a glass shop and seeing a toddler bending over to peer at a glass knick knack with his little hands placed firmly behind his back as his mother had clearly worked on this action with him. My mother (who is a strong disciplinarian), was utterly impressed . . . which is not an easy feat.

Stephanie said...

I lived in Italy for many years, and the parenting style there is very different from the French style. I'd prefer the French mode of parenting, honestly. Italian moms shadow their kids to the point where the kids know that mom will drop everything to do their bidding. It's not the kind of relationship I hope to build with my (eventual) children. I definitely think all parents, both new and recurring (hehe), could benefit from the lessons of others. Pride should be the last thing on our plates when it comes to raising respectful, responsible little ones.

Sara said...

Like so many of the other comments, I don't think this is a particularly French style of parenting. I was raised this way and my mother was born in the U.S. but raised by a Latin American mother and my father was born and raised in South America. I am a single mom to a 9 year old daughter and raise her in the same manner. Bedtime is a firm 8:30pm, she slept a full 8 hours straight by 2 months old, she knew how to entertain herself at an early age, is extremely well-behaved, has never been a picky eater, always eats her vegetables and even likes "adult" food. In fact, when wait staff give her a kids menu she usually asks to order from the "adult" menu. From the time she was a toddler people have told me how amazingly well-behaved she is. I respect her opinions and as she gets older I acknowledge that she has a say in some decisions (in our little family of 2) but she also knows I have the last word. Since she was a toddler all she needed was one stern look from me and she knew what to do. My daughter is a bright, thoughtful, creative, and independent kid. She is very respectful of adults. We have an extremely close, trusting, loving & affectionate relationship. This is just good parenting, not necessarily French parenting. And to the person who commented about not being able to take the author seriously after seeing her on the Today Show wearing a beret - I totally agree!!!

Nicole said...

About the snacking, I think children (and adults) should snack between meals, especially if their metabolism demands it. My son's (and my own) mood changes when hungry. Growing children need frequent feedings... I always found it a bit unhealthy to eat a pain au chocolat at 4 pm. But lucky, those French kids certainly are!!

AnastasiaC said...

intersesting but I think its absurd to say a whole group of Mothers from a paticular country ALL mother the same way - it was similar to that awful Tiger Mum article - she claimed Asian parents were better because they were pushy and didnt want their kids involved in fluffy activities??! its crazy...having said that my son's best friend is French and his parents are firm, very involved and supportive and their kids are both well behaved, bright, doing extremely well at school...still its would be crazy for me to say its because they are french?!
each family and each parent will have different parenting skills for their kids!
Le sigh....parenting for me is the most challenging and the hardest thing ever ...each day I wonder if what Im doing is right....its a learning curve!

TheBeautyFile said...

I love, love, love what your mom wrote to you after reading that article. Somatic conviction. I wonder if that's learned or comes naturally to every mom. I have a very stubborn son who wants to do what he wants and has been throwing little fits lately when he isn't allowed. I feel very strongly about not letting him get everything because how will he ever learn anything that way? Learning to create a life in which he is still curious to do everything he would like to do, but also conscious and OK with not being able to do it all is a goal of mine...

Chessa! said...

I agree with what a lot of the other commenters are saying. Not sure if this is necessarily a cultural thing but there does seem to be so much coddling out there and I don't think it helps anyone. I read an article a few weeks ago about parents calling their child's potential employers to discuss salary and benefits packages and apparently this has become rather frequents. If I worked in HR and someone's mom called me to talk about their kid's employment I would wonder whether offering them a position was a smart move in the first place. And I have a lot of friends who are educators and they constantly gripe about parents constantly second guessing everything that goes on in school.

Anyway, that's not really directly on point but it's an interesting anecdote bc I think it stems from this sort of helicopter parenting that seems to be so rampant everywhere.

A lot of these points you listed seem to be "common sense" but apparently there is nothing common about sense these days. I'm sure you've seen all sorts of crazy parenting behaviors living in NY. I mean, kids in restaurants screaming and parents just sitting there, kids pushing other kids on the playground or hitting (and biting even!) and no one tries to reprimand their child (hello, no hitting anyone especially your friends). All kids have tantrums and freak out once in a while (obviously!) but our behavior as parents is what will determine the outcome.

It is no simple task to raise a child and you can't say what you would do until you're in it but I know I want to raise my child to be independent and to think about her actions and her feelings and how they affect others. She knows that we love her and adore her and we dote on her but she also knows (or rather, is learning bc she's still so little) that somethings are okay and somethings aren't and that there are limits and boundaries.

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that I disagree with this concept of raising your children like a French woman. I think its actually raising your child with common sense and teaching them respect. I am American, raised by Americans and this is exactly how I was raised. My brother and I went to restaurants and ordered our own food at an early age, and sat quietly and ate like civilized human beings, so I'm not sure why this would be some kind of epiphany for anyone. Children are not wild animals, and no matter where you are from you shouldn't let them behave as such. My mother had adult time and would tell us firmly if we interrupted her that she was speaking. Its funny to me that this seems to be some new concept for people,its not "French", its called PARENTING.

SIRANI said...

do you remember Ms Ronzulli at Europarlamento?

www.repubblica.it/politica/2012/02/15/foto/la_ronzulli_al_parlamento_europeo-29945679/1/?ref=HRESS-62

Raffaella
Italian architect & mom of Marta

shoegirl said...

Joanna - I love what your mom had to say about this! There's so much to be said for countries that actually support motherhood with time off work, free childcare and even money (here in Germany, parents get a monthly stipend called 'kindergeld' - child money). I wish America prioritized this more - it's so important!

As an American now living in Europe and observing the cultural differences with children (both here in Germany, and all over Europe via our travels), I see the way people here parent - with a year off of work after giving birth, not immersing themselves in their child's every whim, being firm with discipline - and the resulting behavior. In the two years I've lived here, not once have I witnessed a public display of bad behavior from a European child, whereas in the states, I saw it every day. Whether it's attributed to being French or European or just having the luxury of being able to dedicate more time to your child's upbringing, I must say there's an obvious, positive difference in the children, and the more relaxed parents, that I've observed with this kind of approach.

I used to think I'd never have children for fear of losing myself and a life of my own, but observing such successful European families has given me hope!

m said...

A lot of common sense if you don't want to end up with a needy kid (and adult)...

About the rule #1, Festivals in Montreal, like Osheaga for example, started making family sections and were also talking about be making a breast feeding section to accomodate parents bringing their kids (they get in for free under 10). This way they can hava a more quiet spot to have lunch and rest a little.

I think it's great. I also know musicians who occasionally bring their kids to rock concerts as well... with noise reducing headsets for when things get loud of course.

Anonymous said...

We used about this same method with our now 32 year old only child. Maybe Americans have gotten more "child-centered" in more recent years? It kind of seems so to me.

claudiaboswell@yahoo.com said...

I think it's more universal than French. I grew like that and I'm from Costa Rica. From a very young age I had to learn how to say thank you, please and I was told not to interrupt when others were talking. Snack time was only once a day and it was around 4pm, but then again every person in Costa Rica has their coffee or tea time around 4pm. It's part of the culture. People go to cafes around that time so as a kid I was allowed to have a snack, usually something sweet in the afternoon.

I ate my meals at the same time as my family and they never served me a different type of meal. I ate what what everybody ate.

I think is also wise that mothers have their own adult time during the day. Raising children is eonderful and it's a gift, but it's ok to have time for yourself everyday, hopefully with friends. I think having your own tea time is good bc you're not interrupting family time in the evening.

Mini Piccolini said...

I think you can learn so much about parenting by watching other parents, especially parents of a different culture! Great post! Had to share: http://minipiccolini.com/2012/02/its-friday-5/

Steph said...

I really want to say something, and I hope it doesn't come across as rude...I'm Canadian and I speak French fluently. I spend a lot of time in Europe and have many European friends, including my partner. One thing I've never understood is the American obsession with the French "way". There's always some new book coming out about how French women do this or French women do that...all "discovered" by some hapless American woman who moved to Paris and confirmed for herself some deficiency in American life...It's very strange. Perhaps we Canadians (anglo ones, at least) are less intrigued by the French simply because we've had to live with them for so long (kidding!), but really, I don't get it. The Italians, in my view, are waaaaay more stylish and chic :), and certainly good and bad parenting can be found in pretty much every country in the world (having lived in Asia, Australia, the US, Canada, and Europe, I personally have seen a spectrum). I wish someone would explain to me the American confusion about all things French! My French friends in fact laugh at this whole delusion, because they don't see it either! Anyhow...

Shena - Platinum Digital Video said...

I'll read the book, but not checking on your kids right away when they cry at night seems like an all around bad idea to me. Whenever my kids cry at night, it is for a reason. There has either been a potty accident, a fever, someone threw up, or someone had a nightmare. Crying at night should be tended to immediately. Also, we don't just stop being parents in the evening or at night time. Sure we can have rules and expectations. My husband and I watch "grown up" TV at night and are done making food for the kids after dinner. If they are still hungry they can make their own food. But I don't think that children are over-coddled. Rules and expectations are good in any country, but ignoring is bad in any country.

Jillian Hobbs said...

Just purchased this, starting to read it today and so far very interesting. I'm open minded... I think as people have said that this approach doesn't seem unique to French parents, but I do think there is something about French culture that facilitates this type of parenting. Where as other cultures it's a bit harder when you have friends and other parents who do not have the same parenting philosophies!

But we'll see! I'll keep reading!

Marta said...

So what does it mean to be a good parent? Your kids do what you say? I agree that everyone of all ages should be respectful, eat every three hours, and exhibit patience...but when I am a parent I hope to find that the role is so much more than that...

skt said...

This comment from an American mother raising her children in Paris hits the nail on the head about WHY our parenting styles are different:

"Our two cultures value very different things. Where the French value tradition and solidarity, Americans value innovation and individuality. Where they seek to cultivate qualities of patience and intellectual uniformity we strive for entrepreneurialism and originality."

Article found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paige-bradley-frost/french-better-parents_b_1260779.html

Nikki said...

I agree with having adult time and still having an adult life. Many of our friends have strict bedtimes for their children and thus can rarely go out themselves. My husbsnd and i are all about taking our son along and having him sleep wherever we are. It has worked so far!

I understand the teaching the child to wait but I don't believe in the specific example of crying it out. I have to follow my instincts and they say that when my child cries, he needs me. :)

I love it when my son plays by himself. I need to remember not to feel guilty when I let him crawl around on the floor and take some time for myself.

I totally love the waiting for meals/snack time. (not cool that they lump Americans into one stereotyped group).

I hope to teach my child to not inturrupt (eventually) :)

I will read this book!!!

Carmen Eva said...

I think this is the description of the boundaries and respect between two people, you and your son, and if these do not arise from the beginning of the relationship, triggers problematic then exploding in adolescence

A + O said...

i am extremely intrigued by this book. i don't know if i will have kids, and so maybe it isn't my place to say this, but i cannot stand how most american children are raised these days. if the child is bored, here, give it an ipod or some other gaming system. or food! no wonder they are growing up to be worthless adults. b/c they weren't taught proper etiquette at a young age. i am about to be 27 and i think my generation was the last of not having a cell phone at all times. i had one i hs but it was a total piece of shit. so the kids now days, some of them at least, have the whole world at their fingertips. and that is not always a good thing. they've never had to wait for anything and everything is instant gratification for them. the internet was meant to make life easier, but in some ways it's made us all a little bit dumber. if i ever have a child, i'd definitely be raising it more along the lines of not only the french, but i think more progressive societies.

Jaleh & Persia said...

boundaries for baby = boundaries for the parents

Having a 9 mon. old, i think its hard work to be consistant with your baby. Short term fixes are much easier, but have long term effects. I am sitting here staring @ the baby monitor, wishing I could sometimes cuddle w/ my baby; but I know she wouldn't be ok with that, she's so used to sleeping in her room by herself..and then I remind myself how nice it is for my husband and I that she consistently goes to sleep at 7 and we have our time to be a married couple....so I force myself to kiss the monitor instead!

Not sure why people got so caught up on the "french" aspect of this, I'm sure there are tons of people that parent like this in the US, but its not the norm...most parents I know like to obsess with their kids and always think they have an "advanced" kid or are freaking out that their kids haven't hit the milestones yet.

I just try to smile, speak nicely, breath and make it to bed-time so I can have a nice FULL glass of wine.

rebekah said...

my sister is my parenting hero and i love when her almost two year old will say "no!" about something, she calmly responds, "you need to find another word. are you finished eating? you can say 'no thank you'" and without fail, she gets a precious "no thank you" in response. now, my niece and nephew are two of the most polite and sweet toddlers.

Anonymous said...

I think good parenting anywhere on the planet sounds like this. Limits, with calm love.

Melanie said...

I had no idea this was a French approach. I have four kids, and my best friend has been joking for years that my parenting style would be called Parenting from the Couch. We enjoyed many fine mornings over coffee while our kids played. And even now I try to limit my involvement in their homework. They are kids and the ways they need to prepare for adulthood don't have much to do with worksheets.

Candice said...

Sounds like there are lots of good ideas in the book but I'm not sure how French it all is. It sounds similar to the way a lot of people I know here parent. Even the things I don't agree with are similar to the way they are here generally. Maybe it's because I'm in Quebec, Canada, I don't know.

misplaced texan said...

I'm an American, married to a Parisian, pregnant with our first child and just moved back to America after living in France for 3.5 years. Most of our friends here and there are parents, and I'd have to say there is definitely a difference in the approaches to parenting that I've witnessed.
I'm half-way through Druckerman's book and although I'm taking it all in with a grain of salt, I find that she does point out some of the most obvious differences that I've noticed. Among the ones you've noted here, I'd say the points on snacking and teaching kids to be patient (and not interrupt, especially) are where I see the largest gap among my group of friends. It's just not common to see French kids with baggies of goldfish or cereal bars, and it took some time for me to adjust to my American friends' kids interrupting our conversations or making a fuss about eating at the dinner table. Obviously, this isn’t across the board in every Parisian family, but it’s what I witnessed and (on these points, at least) it seems to be pretty consistent with Druckerman’s experience.

Kayla Joy said...

Just started reading this last night, and I'm finding it very interesting! I'm curious what you think about it - have you started reading it yet?

Merabella said...

What strikes me as the most interesting thing about this book is that she presents it that everyone uses the same "common sense" philosophies. I think that it makes it easier to be consistent with your children when others use the same parenting techniques with your children. Because there are so many different techniques in the states, you don't have consistency with your children if they are being taught one thing with you and something completely different with your other child care providers - ie. your parents, the babysitter, other mothers during play dates. I don't believe that there is one single right way to raise children, but it can be confusing for children to get different messages all the time.

Amanda said...

When did the 'American' form of parenting become so bad?And since when do we all parent the same in this country anyway? I'd say parenting in the U.S. is very diverse, as I am sure it is in France as well. There is a book written by Mayim Bialik titled, 'Beyond the Sling' in which she details her style of attachment parenting. Probably the extreme opposite from the style of French parenting described in this book. Is one better than the other? I suppose that depends on who you are as a parent and how much of your life you want to be dictated by being in your active mommy role. I'd say I am somewhere in the middle.

Céline said...

I am a French mother of two - French rules ? I beg to differ. Common sense ? Yes, I'd vote like many other readers before me. I did not read the book, but excerpts were published in Le Monde Magazine, a trusted magazine here in France. I'd go for common sense, but a "currently fashionable" common sense from an educational standpoint. Remember ? Decades ago, kids were brought up is a very "no boundaries" fashion, which proved to be wrong, somehow. So we are back to good old values, and perhaps these guidelines for bringing up were quickly accepted in France / Europe as they were not so far from our regular cultural background ?
Another point to underline is that French parents are, according to Druckermann, liable for not putting enough trust in their kids and not pushing encouragements were they should.
Any thoughts on that part ?
(and Yes, I definitely like to let the kids play as a group, far from adults, while we, parents sip a glass of wine. Parental intervention will only happen if somebody starts to cry - teaching autonomy is a key word too)

Kate said...

I definitely followed these with my son and am continuing with my daughter. I was always mystified when Harry was 2 or so and I'd be approached by parents wanting to know how I "got him" to listen/stop/eat his veggies/[insert verb here].

I, too, think these principles are mainly common sense. Also, firm does not equal mean. I really despise when I'm told I'm mean when I indulge in a treat I don't yet permit the babes to have.

Why is having a cookie in front of them mean, but driving/voting/wine not mean? They're not permitted those things either. Learning to wait is a big part of life. Accepting that "no" is an acceptable answer is vital, too.

Downtown79 said...

I am so glad I have found this blog! I had heard something about the french parenting style but never knew much about it. So when I did a google search, it took me straight to this blog. I am very please to know that I am already on the right track and it is if I am a natual. I am part french and was always interested in that part of my heritage. Anyway, I glad to see that I have been doing these things with my 9month daughter since the day she was born. Iv had many friends that are moms say I am not attached to my kid and that hurts me. I don't agree with what what all of american society tells me on how to raise my child or all those other blogs. I feel american moms are too needy and are only using their child to fill some emotional void by using attached parenting methods. I will definetly pick up this book for more info. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

This was one of the big things the struck my husband and I visiting Germany last summer. I think it is more of a European way. I can't wait to read this.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments that the author's parenting insights are neither limited to the French or ideal for every child. But there was one topic in the book I did find fascinating because, while it may not be exclusive to France, I KNOW it doesn't happen in the US: high quality food in public schools!!!! That's one thing definitely worth taking away from the book.

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Anshu said...

To be honest, I was dying to discuss this article too. I happened to read it in the midst of a major tantrum with my daughter. I smirked a bit on the article and on whim decided to apply some of the tips...and I'm not kidding you...It worked. Then my usually paranoid husband came downstairs and I showed him the article he half-heartedly started reading it an hour later he told me that he used the tips thrice in that one hour and they worked. He said we should frame the newspaper clipping and hang it on our wall.
I immediately pre-ordered her book...and read it the day it came.
Here's what I think about it - The principles are usually common sense, but are lost in this era of child-kings. As a parent we really need to exert ourselves better and keep our place as the parent instead of being driven by kids. But the tips offered in the book really work...I did try the 3 course meal for my picky eater and a lot of small things. I also learned not to feel guilty about the down time I get when she is playing happily.
Here's my bottomline - rather than finding badly behaved french kids or being offended as americans, I would focus on having better behaved child...french or not.

Isabel Ceballos said...

I think this is common sense, and just discipline basics. Not just french. I am from Colombia and I was told as a child to not interrupt adults during conversations or adult time. I went to bed at 7 pm as a child, and now I do the exact same thing with my children. Many Americans are the same way, it is just how do you see discipline. But I dont think is purely French.

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Celeste Muller said...

My parents were very strict all through my childhood and teenage years. They both worked full time and I was lucky enough to have been looked after by my grandmother for many years ( before entering kindergarten and primary school). Therefore I learnt at a very young age how to play by myself and be content. I was almost 4 when my brother was born (it's just the two of us) and while we were raised in the same household, we have always behaved completely differently. I was always much more respectful of my parents, much more quiet and I hardly ever became upset or threw tantrums. My brother, on the other hand, has always verged on being disrespectful to myself and my parents, he felt like he deserved the same attention and allowances as adults. Even now, I am 23 and he is 19, he still acts the same way.
I have a theory that this might be because as a young baby, he was sick often and therefore needed ALOT more attention from my parents. I also think that because of this, my mother treated him more favourably than me. He would act out and she would see him as her little, fragile baby. She recently almost admited this to me. Because of our slightly different upbringings, and of course our personalities, we have become completely different people.
My point is that I think perhaps good parenting cannot be defined and should instead be something that is not only sculpted to each family but to each child. I am not a parent, this is just my theory.

Greg Chua said...

This post gives insight to the readers most especially to all the parents out there. I really agreed of all the information stated with this post and this will lead to become a good parent someday.

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Stephanee Tripp said...

All great points! My five year old son is mostly compliant (well behaved) but I really value that he is comfortable challenging what he is told. He is allowed to voice is opinion, in a respectful manner. I don't allow yelling or attitude but just the way I can correct him in a respectful tone, he is allowed to question my opinion. Mutual respect does a lot more in the long term for the better than control. Its great that you pointed out that all children are different, some kids have so much physical energy and/or are highly intelligent and require a little more help with finding the right outlets for stimulation and fun. All kids need to be challenged and sometimes the level of activities that are available don't satisfy their needs.

I think a lot of the restlessness we see in American children out in public are not due to a lack of manners but due to lack of stimulation. The hyperactivity that causes them to ignore their parents' requests is jusy a side affect of that.

GC Villani-Raymond said...

I've been doing a lot of these I guess you could say, naturally? I'm still working on the food thing but our son will go without knowing he has no other choice. There comes the American girl's guilt. Ultimately, I can say, he's a well rounded, bright, patient and kind 15 year old. Something's going right...

Kandice Kidd said...

This is a great article. One theory I have is that we (Americans) have succumbed too much to the "Self-Esteem Movement" where we are constantly trying to create high self-esteem in our children at the expense of ourselves and other people. We try to make our children feel good about themselves without questioning if we are providing enough balance in trying to do that. I think you can be loving, firm, and available to your child without coddling them.

Kara Mistretta said...

The American women reading these articles and blogs are simply inspired by this way of raising children. Even for the mere fact that we have seen and/or have children and families that could greatly benefit from a 'new' possibilities and ideas of how to raise our children. I don't yet have any children but I am pregnant with twins. The reason why I am interested is because I REFUSE to raise my children like 90% of American families. I want my children to be calm, respectful, imaginative, independent and fantastic. In have been a nanny for years and sadly the American norm tends to be children that are running around screaming their heads off or crying because they are not constantly being held or coddled. Many are not correctly disciplined.
Call it 'French', 'Bristish' or 'European' is beyond the point. The point is that we care enough to want a better life for our children and ourselves from what seems to be an American epidemic and we see that im other cultures.
If someone has something proactive to teach other moms, I challenge you to share a book or blog that 'correctly' relays portrays the experiences that you've had.

Jessica D. said...

I agree with most of the points, but there needs to be a balance. When you have kids, you will lose some of your "adult" time. That's part of being a parent. Parents who are obsessed with carving out too much "adult" time end up ignoring their kids...especially in our American culture where both parents usually maintain a career. My parents raised me very much like French parents (adult time, encouraging me to play by myself etc.) and it created some very distinct problems:

1. I was often left in the care of my grandmother while my parents spent all of their weekend nights having "adult time" with their friends. My grandmother, who was very old when I was a child (in her 70's) usually fell asleep by 6 or 7 pm and I was left to play on my own. Yes, I learned how to entertain myself, but I grew up very distant from my parents.

2. Because my parents stressed playing by myself, they never got me involved in activities involving other kids. They never took me to the playground, on outings on the weekends, or involved me in school clubs or sports. As a result, I missed out on a lot of the fun part of growing up and didn't learn how to relate to other people my age. I also never learned to have a decent conversation with anyone. I learned to internalize everything. This still affects me to this day - my own husband, who I have been with for 10 years, still complains that I never have anything to talk about with him.

Moderation is the key.

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Lana said...

Many say this is "not particularly French" or that there aren't many cultural differences to these rules. I think the cultural difference is that in France this is seen as common sense and it is commonly practiced. When you have a built it societal support system to reinforce the same ideas, they would be easier to implement (think French eating habits) and they would seem like the only way to do things. Love this book.

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Viktoriia said...

Thank you. Now I know where to give birth my child and where to rise him(her), so that neighbors wouldn`t dictate me how mom to be and how to behave, etc... It brings new difficulties: no knowledge of French language, not native speaker with English, more then that, about medium level... how to find job... I am 41, no time to wait... if you have any information or advice how could I move there let me know, please. E-mail is: victoriiamore@yandex.com. I am Viktoriia. Huge thank you one more time... Of course I would read the book...

Shan M said...

One could argue that reading books that chastise American parents for being not good enough is an extension of the very traits -- lack of confidence, self-chastisement, striving for unattainable perfection --- which the author of the book critiques. So if American parents actually followed the author's prescription, then they would in fact not buy a book like this one, and then this person would be out of a job. I think the whole thing is ridiculous. Margaret Mead was doing this with Samoan children and mothers in the 1920s, and yet another socially privileged American is doing it with French women today. At the end of the day, women love to tell women how not to suck so much - usually from very narrow, self-congratulatory perspectives.

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Dixie said...

Everything I have read in this article, is the same way I was raised here in the Southern United States. You must greet and acknowledge someone, always, say please and thank you, parents make the decisions on meals and snack time, as well as the bedtime schedules. We were taught to be kind, consequences of our actions, good and bad, and to be respectful to all people. We are, French, German, English, Irish, Scottish, and American indian descent. Unfortunately these days, too many Americans do not like to take the time and effort it takes to teach children these rudimentary basics... they are too busy working, worried about their own self-gratification, lazy, or afraid they will make their children angry at them(LOL!) My daughter is raising her child, like she and I were raised. She is a wise person and a great Mom!

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