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AmityD

Why the French are 'better' parents

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AmityD

‘Why French Parents are superior’ pronounced the headline, sure to grab any slightly competitive non-French parents attention, including mine. What are they doing that’s so right, I wondered? Well, aside from feeding their children croissants, cheese and baguettes everyday, which let’s be honest is how I’d like to live.

 

In the Wall Street Journal article, author of ‘Bringing up Bebe’ Pamela Druckerman writes about the differences in children’s behaviour she noticed while living in Paris. She noted there was a big disparity between her half American half British children and the local French children, particularly when they dined out at restaurants. As she explains,

 

‘French toddlers were sitting contentedly in their high chairs, waiting for their food, or eating fish and even vegetables. There was no shrieking or whining. And there was no debris around their tables.’

 

Now, there’s nothing revolutionary there. My children have been known to do all those things. Possibly not all at the same time and definitely not in the same outing, but it’s achievable. But with fairly stock standard children herself, the ones that make restaurant excursions akin to stabbing yourself in the eye repeatedly with a fork, this observation lead Ms Drukerman to start taking note of how else French children were expected to behave. Soon she realized there were many differences.

‘Why was it, for example, that in the hundreds of hours I'd clocked at French playgrounds, I'd never seen a child (except my own) throw a temper tantrum? Why didn't my French friends ever need to rush off the phone because their kids were demanding something? Why hadn't their living rooms been taken over by teepees and toy kitchens, the way ours had?’

 

Now if I noticed children doing all those things I may conclude they had been possessed, kind of like those blonde children in a movie I can’t remember the name of. But no, Ms Drukerman determined it was the French style of parenting that was achieving these miraculous outcomes. As she 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." French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and pre-literacy training, French kids are—by design—toddling around by themselves.’

 

And this is where it started to become clear to me. She was essentially saying the French parent all their children like they’re their second (or third, fourth, fifth) kids.

 

Because that is a little parenting secret I have stumbled on myself. Now, this could be entirely circumstantial, a personality thing, or just plain good luck, but compared to my first child my second is practically raising herself.

 

Thanks to an increase in my work load and the existence of a busy and demanding older sibling, my 20 month old gets substantially less of my attention than her brother did as an infant. I don’t sit on the floor and play with her for hours on end and we don’t attend every child friendly activity available within a 20km radius, all for her advancement and stimulation. We hang out a lot, we laugh a lot and she amuses herself a lot while I get stuff done.

 

To be honest, I had been feeling slightly guilty about this (because that’s what us mothers do) until a friend pointed out how silly I was being. ‘Look at her’ she said, as Poppy toddled off in the playground, oblivious to whether I was following her. ‘She is completely self assured because she knows you’re here if she needs you, but she doesn’t require you to constantly hover over her. That’s a good thing.’

 

And you know what, she’s right. My son needs more of my attention at nearly 6 than Poppy does at 1. Because he has always had so much of it. So while she is happy to play by herself, he needs constant company, stimulation, attention. Subsequently, she rarely fusses, cries, or throws a tantrum and he is still capable of doing all those things!

 

Again, maybe this is just their personalities. But maybe there’s something in it.

 

There were other examples in the article were I found a similarity. French parents don't pick up their babies the second they start crying, in order to allow the babies to learn how to self settle. This was definitely my experience with my second baby and she was a much better sleeper because of it.

 

French parents also place a strong emphasis on teaching their children patience and delayed gratification, and if an adult is speaking they are expected to wait their turn. This is an interesting one, as studies has shown that children who are able to delay gratification are better at concentrating and reasoning, and don't "tend to go to pieces under stress." This is also an area where Aussie kids are struggling more and more, as their parents do exactly the same. I know my ability to delay gratification is pretty non-existent now, with everything I could want or need just a few keyboard taps away. So how can we be surprised that our children are the same?

 

Finally, the writer decided the biggest difference was that in France adults are most definitely in charge, whereas in America (Britain and Australia) that is questionable. She summarized that we lack the authority with our children that French parents have mastered, and that we suffer because of it.

 

That’s a tricky one for me. I definitely want to have authority, but I don’t want my children to be seen and not heard like French kids often are. And I don’t mind a bit of child lead chaos and mess if everyone is having fun.

 

But I do think there is a lot to be said with chilling out a bit as parents, letting go of all this helicopter hovering, flashcard waving, extra curricular racing, perfection attempting exhaustion. Remembering that we were here first and that our lives don't have to be completely centred around our kids. Maintaining control while being slightly more laissez-faire.

 

At least that’s what I’m going to aim for. So, croissants and cheese for dinner?!

 

Do you think there's merit to the French style of parenting? Have you parented your subsequent children differently and what parenting philosophy do you follow?

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TopsyTurvy

I had to LOL at this!

 

Whilst in Europe holidaying, we frequented many typical tourist traps, art galleries, castles, museums and the like. During this time we also frequently ran into groups of school children on excursions. Without a doubt the groups of French children were the rudest, most ill behaved bunch of the lot!

 

So whilst the more relaxed, hands off parenting style may well have it's rewards in toddlerhood, without the balance of appropriate parental guidance, those self assured toddlers, can turn into arrogant self absorbed little bratty children.

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BetteBoop
Thanks to an increase in my work load and the existence of a busy and demanding older sibling, my 20 month old gets substantially less of my attention than her brother did as an infant. I don’t sit on the floor and play with her for hours on end and we don’t attend every child friendly activity available within a 20km radius, all for her advancement and stimulation. We hang out a lot, we laugh a lot and she amuses herself a lot while I get stuff done.

 

To be honest, I had been feeling slightly guilty about this (because that’s what us mothers do) until a friend pointed out how silly I was being. ‘Look at her’ she said, as Poppy toddled off in the playground, oblivious to whether I was following her. ‘She is completely self assured because she knows you’re here if she needs you, but she doesn’t require you to constantly hover over her. That’s a good thing.’

 

I agree with this. As the mother of an only child, I struggle with giving my child an appropriate amount of attention and control. I think it's healthy and reasonable for a child's demands to not be met immediately and for them to learn they are not the centre of anyone's universe.

 

As to who is better parents, I think this can't be assessed on how children are behaved but on what kind of adults they become.

 

So the question is probably "are the French better people?" I don't know the answer to that one.

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AmityD

Isn't that funny TopsyTurvy! There were certainly a lot of comments to the original article disagreeing that the French way of parenting was more superior or successful. (Many of them were from anti-French Americans however!)

 

The only time I have been to Paris was pre-children, so noting the behaviour of others was the last thing on my mind. But it is an interesting discussion to have....Lucky you holidaying in Europe!

 

 

I had to LOL at this!

 

Whilst in Europe holidaying, we frequented many typical tourist traps, art galleries, castles, museums and the like. During this time we also frequently ran into groups of school children on excursions. Without a doubt the groups of French children were the rudest, most ill behaved bunch of the lot!

 

So whilst the more relaxed, hands off parenting style may well have it's rewards in toddlerhood, without the balance of appropriate parental guidance, those self assured toddlers, can turn into arrogant self absorbed little bratty children.

 

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heffalumpsnwoozles

We took our two daughters (18mo and 3yo at the time) to France last year. I can't honestly say that I noticed that much difference between my kids and any others their age, other than my daughters were the only girls not wearing dresses at the playground. :laugh:

 

The reason we were in Paris was to visit a close friend of mine who had an 8 month old baby. She is French. Her partner is French. And they had a playgym and a bouncer and all the other baby paraphernalia in their living room, exactly like we did.

 

I think the author is clutching at straws - maybe there is a cultural difference, or maybe people parent differently. I do find that the French tend to relax and savour life a little more, where we are rushing around from one thing to the next. Maybe that rubs off and creates relaxed kids.

 

My kids were beautifully behaved during most of our meals while we were overseas, but rest assured they can throw a tantie with the best of them. I doubt my French friend will be getting off scot free just by dint of her nationality.

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rose888

A few years ago i lived for a year in the Marais district of Paris. The apartment we rented backed onto a small park. I used to see many petite parisiennes at play. I saw many tantrums and amazing displays of behaviour. However it was overseen by the nannies and au pirs most of whom were from Algeria and Tunisia. The fond mamans and papas would have been oblivious to what happened in the park as they were not there.

 

The nannies seemed totally unable to do anything about the behaviour and spent most of their time talking together and who could blame them. I often heard a child yelling that they "would tell their parents " if the nanny tried to stop the worst of the behaviour so it was no wonder that they were left on their own.

 

I realise that the district I lived in was a privileged area and far from typical but I have never seen this behaviour in Sydney nor in the Notting Hill area in London where we also lived for a while.

 

 

 

 

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ComradeBob

I can't say that I've seen *that* much difference between DD and her French cousins, honestly. I wouldn't say it's French v American/Australian/whatever, it's between people who live their lives through their kids, and people who love their kids, but don't define themselves solely as a parent.

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QueenElsa

In France the vast majority of parents work full time, from when the chikdren are babies, so the kids are in some form of full-time care. They also start school at 3. These might explain some differences - you can keep your lounge room clean if the kids aren't there!

 

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YandiGirl

I raised my older children in this way almost exactly. Throughout their childhoods people, frequently remarked at how well behaved they were in public. Taking them out to cafe, restaurants or friends homes was never a chore.

 

Now, some many years later I am considering having another child and I am often surprised at the current parenting styles. I know that I couldn't parent in the way that has become quite fashionable of late. I suspect, if the time comes, I will do what I did before which worked for me very well.

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remysmum

I read this with great interest because my husband is French/Portuguese (having lived in Australia for 5 years only).

He was schooled in Paris and lived in Portugal the other half.

His style of parenting - and I guess the way he was bought up is exact to your story. Strong Discipline methods but with much love.

He comments that we (when I say we I mean Australians, Americans etc) try to do too much for the kids..all this racing around to the next football lesson, piano lesson etc etc.

He feels we try far too hard - and pander to their every need (Yes, I do this!)

With my husband if it is dinner time - you sit and you eat. No questions. and you do it quietly.

I read also with interest as well that all French Parents work full time . This is also true including many other parts of Europe.

Interestingly enough, I work full time!

I have adapted alot to my husbands way of parenting. Mainly because I think it works well with our son(who has Aspergers so it is an extra challenge).

There are parts of his methods I agree with but also parts I don't - which causes alot of angst between us sometimes.

My husband's sisters have 3 children each. They are now in their teens and his sisters have always worked full time.

They live in Paris and are the most polite, well adjusted children. So maybe there is something to be said about the French parenting. :unsure:

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Guest EllieMayLee1
I had to LOL at this!

 

Whilst in Europe holidaying, we frequented many typical tourist traps, art galleries, castles, museums and the like. During this time we also frequently ran into groups of school children on excursions. Without a doubt the groups of French children were the rudest, most ill behaved bunch of the lot!

 

So whilst the more relaxed, hands off parenting style may well have it's rewards in toddlerhood, without the balance of appropriate parental guidance, those self assured toddlers, can turn into arrogant self absorbed little bratty children.

 

Totally agree!!!!!!!! :rant:

 

 

As a child care worker I have noticed many (not all) young children do not know how to entertain themselves. Many flit from one activity to another (without completing any activities). I have worked mostly with the toddler age group (15 months - 2 1/2 years) - if a child leaves an activity I lead them back to complete it before going to another play area. I help them to complete said activity.

 

I agree with the author there are some positives to French style parenting. I plan to mix the French and 'Aussie' style in raising my dd. I want her to be able to entertain herself but I also want to show her affection (I believe you can never give too many cuddles). I don't want to be walked over either.

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Tecopa

I dunno..I did a farm stay recently and there were 30 odd French kids from 4 upwards and they were just like any other kids but I did notice the French carers were a little off hand - whining that the four year old wanted to a hug and such when she was away from her parents at school camp for days. Ack.

 

 

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mimifresh

Clearly the author has never lived with any French kids. I can't say that I agree, having lived with French kids and mixed with heaps of poorly behaved ones.

 

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mimifresh
I dunno..I did a farm stay recently and there were 30 odd French kids from 4 upwards and they were just like any other kids but I did notice the French carers were a little off hand - whining that the four year old wanted to a hug and such when she was away from her parents at school camp for days. Ack.

 

 

Ah The French School of Sydney's annual camp. My little one was at the school but didn't go to that... I couldn't see the point in a 5 year old on camp.

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red door

I am sorry, your post was too long.

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MegsW

I must be part french or something because I do agree with the philosophy of children needing to be able to occupy themselves. I have seen too many relatives and friends have children that don't know how to play by themselves and constantly need stimulation from someone else. I think it is more the fact that nothing bores me more than sitting down and playing barbies or cars or superhero's with the kids.

 

I also feel that today too many kids are overscheduled and not given time to just play. I think this is an important part of development - finding things to do themselves and learning to find things to occupy their own time.

 

Not that my kids are the most well behaved kids - far from it. But they can sit and play by themselves for a reasonable amount of time, particularly good when I am helping others do homework, trying to do housework or needing to work during the day.

 

 

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CocobeanLillylove

I don't think there is much merit in this article.

I never hovered around my first born or played on the floor with her for hours. Nor with my second. My second born is more needy than my first and won't go off and play on her own, prefering to whinge at my feet with arms outstretched for me to pick her up. They both make a huge mess (as babies) out at restaurants and squirmed and whined at the dinner table.

I would like one of these French toddlers with perfect table manners and no desire to tantrum. I'm suspicious though as to if they actually exist.

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CocobeanLillylove
14291150[/url]']

I am sorry, your post was too long.

 

Is your short attention span due to the style of parenting your parents went with?

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Maitreya

I think the article is very interesting but it does oversimplify the issue. The french enjoy much better maternity leave than the UK, USA and here in Australia. They enjoy a lot more time with their babys in the crucial first year of their life. I think that could have a big effect on french kids. Any child that has had proper attachment early on in its life is more secure, content and able to handle disappointment later in life as they have had all their needs met early on. I'm a bit iffy on the self settling, I don't think any young baby should be left to self settle as the stress hormone Cortisol can damage the developing brain of the infant. But proper attachment means that children will self settle themselves much earlier on!

 

 

 

 

 

I would love to see a proper study on how different countries parenting styles affects children in the long term. ;)

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Balto1

The French children are going to need all their resilience and manners when they grow up to stand in unemployment queues due to France's basketcase ecomony while their self-entitled parents and grandparents swan around the world on their crazily overinflated pensions.

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halcyondays

What is it with the English speaking world's adoration of all things French?

Agree with Balto1.

Maybe it is because I don't like French food, high heels or high fashion.

 

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llg

Suprisingly without even setting out to follow this that is exactly how I parent. Exactly and I am not French,

 

It comes from a base phylosophy with some basic points.

 

1. Children are a part of a family, they are not the centre of the family and must for their own good adapt to the family dynamics.

 

2. Children must learn patients for patients allows you to think and work out problems. Good for now good for later.

 

3. Children must learn to appreciate solitude for it is good for the mind and eases the sole.

 

 

4. The only reason children get hysterical when learning to self settle is because there are other bad factors in the house i.e. parents yelling or you left it too late. I believe in starting self settling first day they are born.

 

Besides their parents were probably never taught patients, the gift of solitude or how to self settle so probably start to yell and threaten. NB this obviously does not relate to children with medical or cognitive problems outside of the norm.

 

 

I'm just shocked at how French I am..

Edited by llg

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Mille-Mille

My next door neighbours are French (only been in the country for a few months) and I can assure you, these French children throw many a tantrum!

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MegsW
I would love to see a proper study on how different countries parenting styles affects children in the long term.

 

Well looking at EB at how things like BF/FF, Co-sleeping, AP, CC etc end up derailing due to different opinions I don't think that we could come up with a parenting style in Australia LOL!

 

Just realised I can't be french because I think controlled crying in babies is so very wrong, so lucky for me I am just me and we just use our own judgment at what feels right.

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Maitreya
Well looking at EB at how things like BF/FF, Co-sleeping, AP, CC etc end up derailing due to different opinions I don't think that we could come up with a parenting style in Australia LOL!

 

Just realised I can't be french because I think controlled crying in babies is so very wrong, so lucky for me I am just me and we just use our own judgment at what feels right.

 

 

SO true, we probably have as many parenting styles over here as we do parents! He he he :D

 

Its probably a western thing - we have access to so many books and not much access to the community and extended family which is where most of the rest of the world would get their parenting advice.

 

But I agree that the best thing to do is trust your gut feeling - no one knows your child like you do :)

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