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)