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)

  1. Yes! Love this and completely don’t get with the whole notion of mothering as glorified martydom. As in burning yourself to the ground for your kids, for what purpose?

  2. I agree that today’s mothers can make trouble for themselves by lack of authority..and confusing their kids.I have often heard young mums say..oh my small child won’t.sleep, eat, do what I want..Food is often such an issue, it shouldn’t be.Children can only eat what you put in front of them..the idea that they prefer sweet foods is only because sweet food has been given in more quantity.Sleeping on queue is something to start very young I always accompanied a firm ‘Go to sleep’ just as my son was about to nod off, it soon became natural to him and I could tell him this and he’d settle pretty much without a whimper..I still can Hypnotise him at 27 years old!So consistency is key.

  3. I totally agree with these approaches but I think these approaches are universal.Almost every parent wants to adopt these approaches. I guess the trickiest part of parenthood is to make your kids understand that you know what is best for them. I don’t know whether I would be able to do it or not with my own kids but my parents were successful in making us understand that they know what is best for us.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

    • Joanna Micallef says...

      Yes!!! Couldn’t agree more.

    • Angie Russell says...

      Well said, Shan M!

  6. 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: I am Viktoriia. Huge thank you one more time… Of course I would read the book…

    • Angie Russell says...


  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    • Ella says...

      Totally agree with you on this one….this book is and it’s parenting ideas are not an excuse to push your child and their needs right to the bottom of the list but a way to ensure that treating them like the boss doesn’t spoil the child and frazzled the parent xx I’m sorry you had thus experience..mine had similar traits only my parents left my sister and I alone in the house when they went out but I think that was more common in the 70

  9. 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.

  10. 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…

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  14. 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.

  15. 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.

    • Jen says...

      This is the smartest thing I’ve read! Well said!

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  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Tahnk you to share this wonderful information.

    It sounds good and too much informative.

  20. Anonymous says...

    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.

  21. Anonymous says...

    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.

  22. 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!!!

  23. 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.

  24. Céline says...

    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)

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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?

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. Anonymous says...

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

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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

  36. 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!!!

  37. 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:

  38. 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…

  39. 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!

  40. 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.

  41. Steph says...

    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…

  42. 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.

  43. Anonymous says...

    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.

  44. m says...

    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.

  45. 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!

  46. Anonymous says...

    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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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…

  49. 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!

  50. 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!!

  51. 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!!!

  52. Stephanie says...

    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.

  53. 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.

  54. joaninha says...

    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?

  55. Ry says...

    I knew I was meant to be French….

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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”…

  59. 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.

  60. Anonymous says...

    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…

  61. Anonymous says...

    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

  62. 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.

  63. 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… ;-)

  64. 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!

  65. 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.)

  66. Anonymous says...

    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.


  67. 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.

  68. 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. :)

  69. Anonymous says...

    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.

  70. Anonymous says...

    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?

  71. 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.

  72. 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!


  73. Anonymous says...

    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!

  74. K says...

    mental note to get this book

  75. 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.

  76. 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.

  77. Beth F. says...

    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!

  78. Anonymous says...

    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.

  79. 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.

  80. 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.

    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.

  81. 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!

  82. Anonymous says...

    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

  83. 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.

  84. Anonymous says...

    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.

  85. 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!

  86. 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!

  87. Anonymous says...

    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.

  88. 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.

  89. 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…)

  90. 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!

  91. I’m definitely buying this book! Weeks away from having our first child my hubby and I discuss our parenting style a lot.

    I don’t think this is an exclusively French approach, but we’ve witnessed many friends succumb to a parenting style where the kids rule the roost and Mum & Dad are relagated to restaurants, tv etc chosen by the children and a distinct lack of adult time.

    Our child will be an incredible extension of our relationship & we are here to guide & teach him – not to serve him!

  92. Anonymous says...

    I totally parent like this. Happy parents = Happy child.


  93. anne says...

    I heard the author talking about her book on English radio and a French journalist was invited along to comment. Her polite denials about this being a universal French approach were railroaded by the writer who insisted that she had seen it in Paris so it was definitely French. Hmm. I am English and older but this was how I raised mine. At the time I felt rather outside the prevailing belief of devoting all my interest to my children but believed I was right. I still do. Too much involvement in your childrens’ lives, too much positive endorsement of every breath and too much open adoration never made a pleasant human. Baby or adult. I get it: you love them. But let them be.

  94. Totally agree but their success also depends on the context

  95. I’m french and I didn’t see these rules as french rules. I don’t know if it’s a french way to raise a child but I think it depends on each family, each “history”. My family paid attention to all these points but in a very strict way : a lot of french mothers born in the forties, as my mother, went to very inflexible boarding school or convent school, where it was very strict. Time helps to make rules supple but we keep perhaps the same base : to learn how to wait (to talk, to eat…) for example.

    And yes, one thing I like very much is my “adult time”. To have diner with my husband and to talk about job, life, love… ! :-)

  96. I think with a darling illustration on the cover and a French title, the American consumer will buy it all day long. The parenting described in this post is merely going back to the authoritarian style which is not new. It happens to work extremely well if not taken to the extreme. It’s what we’ve used with our daughter who does not have impulsivity and instant gratification problems. She is very independent and can be by herself for long periods. She can hear the word no and accept it maturely. It would be lovely if more American parents embraced this philosophy. However, I wish they didn’t have to think it’s French to become intrigued!

  97. Julie Benton says...

    Only an American expat would deem common sense parenting as French parenting and decide to write a book telling other American parents how to be more French in their parenting style.

  98. This all sounds about how things fly around here….although we are definitely snackers :).
    I think the real key, though, is raising people you enjoy. When my four kiddos drive me up the wall, it is without fail because I’ve dropped the ball or been too lax for a bit. When I get back on track, my children quickly become people I really like to be around again. You’re raising adults, so do what it takes to raise ones you’ll actually want to hang out with.

  99. I love how ethnic observation of Parisiennes can make one write a book about French people parenting skills…

    Don’t worry: we raise awful brats too.

  100. Anonymous says...

    I’ve just discovered your blog and it is quickly becoming a favourite so, thank you!

    As for the book, I don’t think this is such a French tradition of raising children as it is a European or generational way of doing things. The points that rang true with me are the points on children having to occupy themselves and not interrupt “adult time”. My husband and I are trying to raise our two boys this way but sometimes feel guilty when surrounded by “hands on” parents at parks and cafes. Ultimately, I have to remind myself that this is the way our parents raised us (and I assume many of the readers on this blog) and we turned out all right.

    So is this revolutionary idea? Probably not, but it’s nice to remember to stay grounded nonetheless.

  101. jules says...

    Sounds like blue collar parenting to me. I was raised that way, in the way back 70s and not only survived but grew up to be independent mentally, intellectually and financially.

    My friends who are still blue collar did are raising their kids this way and guess what? Their kids are growing up to be more polite, curious, achieving and interesting than the entitled brats in my current neighborhood.

    don’t spoil your kids. you’re hurting them.

  102. I am definitely going to have to buy this book. While I’m not a mom yet, I am always up for getting prepared in advance.

    I’m a new follower :) Stop by if you like:

  103. oh sweet baby jesus, i would love to figure out the secret to three meals and a snack. my kids are ridiculously picky eaters and eat small snacks all day long. i’m sure it’s all my fault somehow, but it is soooo annoying…

  104. Anonymous says...

    Yeah, not so sure what’s so ‘French’ about it, I am doing stuffs she’s doing and I’m an Asian immigrant LOL (and not writing a book about it). Although she does give some good advise :)

    I do have the issue with my American husband who can’t stick to ‘no,’ basically he’s kinda contradicting me. Wonder why my son always runs to dad when mom says ‘no.’ Ha.

  105. I completely agree with the author’s words.. I was staying in a french home with my French parents and their children respected them very much and the times they ate are correct.. we did not have snack but the children always did. We sat for at least two hours for dinner and their lunch breaks are two hours long starting at noon. Wonderful country.

    XX Hilary

  106. Anonymous says...

    I also agree that none of it is “french”. I’ve met children from Mexico that can sit through a whole dinner and order fuzzili pasta at an upscale restaurant by themselves and American toddlers that walk around running errands with their mothers without complaining. I guess giving it the “french” connotation is a good way to market a book in the U.S…

    Regardless, it is a good way to let people know about other ways of healthy parenting!

  107. I was raised to respect my parents as people–not “adults”. this translated into respecting other adults AND other children. Adults–my parents included– were not presented to me as all-knowing or all powerful, but rather as people just like me that made mistakes. If I did something wrong (sneaking snacks, mouthing off, etc.) we discussed WHY what I did was wrong, which helped prevent future misbehavior because I could think through my decisions.

  108. I will agree that this is just common sense and not so ‘French.’ however it is French in the sense that they’re the ones doing it the most it seems! I don’t have kids of my own, but it seems the way that I would like to raise my children in the future! I’ll have to check this book out :)

  109. I have raised my kids this way, and they are very well behaved. I think, like many of the others, that its not particularly a French thing…seeing as how I am mexican. But more cultural I am thinking. Some people raise their kids with good manners, some forget to. The only difference for me, and I dont believe its because they are french, is the snacking thing. I tend to let my kids graze through the day.

  110. Anonymous says...

    I love this! Be firm, but kind. Your blog is amazing. I love it so much.

  111. Anonymous says...

    This is exactly how I was raised, and I grew up in Poland.
    If I had children, I would be raising them the same way my parents raised me. I don’t care if this is called “French style”. To me this is commone sense and logic.
    It’s dissapointing that it seems like a completely new concept in America.

  112. Very interesting content…will have to read the book but honestly, it sounds like smart parenting. Love your children, command respect but nurture your adult relationships. Not so “french” but just wise! My lifestyle blog is just that tips and trends on how to live a more creative life…

  113. I hear you all on the “it’s just common sense” thing, but yikes, in my world there’s a notable lack of common sense in UMC American parenting, at least in the urban northeast.

    I know children who can’t go to sleep unless a parent is in the same bed. Children who are never asked to speak quietly when shouting might disturb other people. Parents who are honestly afraid to say “no” – or who say it constantly but don’t mean it or enforce it. Parents who are afraid they will damage their child if they ask her to wait or be quiet or consider the time and place before she belts out a song in a quiet restaurant.

    All of these are people I know. The children aren’t insufferable brats, the parents aren’t useless gits. And of course this isn’t every family. But too many are stuck in a weird parenting culture that provides fertile ground for a book like this.

    There were two important things I felt I needed to teach my kids, who are now teenagers. 1) You and your thoughts and feelings and comfort are very important and 2) look around – see the other people in your family, classroom, restaurant? So is theirs. (FWIW, it worked pretty well for us)

    Now, the French people I’ve spent time with aren’t parents, so what do I know? But as described, it seems the main difference is that French parents are intent on teaching their kids point #2, while American parents (insert standard UMC Northeast disclaimer language here) are obsessed with point #1 and completely oblivious to point #2.

    And frankly, that’s something I’d love parents to start thinking about – teaching kids to consider others, to manage themselves when adults are discussing something, to exercise self-control as well as self-espression, to look around and assess whether singing at the top of ones lungs is a good idea at that time and place.

  114. I think these used to be pretty universal, but (according to my mother) Dr. Spock ruined America’s parenting behaviors by putting the child at the center of the parents’ lives. My parents were both very involved with us growing up, but we definitely were disciplined and “character building” was a big part of growing up!

  115. i’m not married or have any children yet. but i’m the eldest of 5, and my siblings are way much yonger than me. i feel in some ways, they are my babies. in indonesian culture, and javaness to be more spesific, women are meant to devoted their lives to their family. their lives circles around husband, kids, household and such things. and they’ll feel guilty about let their kids play alone, or leave the kids at home while they go to sip a cup of coffee with friends. women who still tied to this cultural value seldom have time for themselves. but the more modern we get here, the perspective in indonesian modern women also change. the life of moms still evolves around their husband, kids and household, but some of them also be in a career and have other activities with frieds.

    my mom is the kind that will do anything for her kids. when me and my siblings were little, she gave all her life to us. raising 5 kids without a helper/housekeeper is not an easy job. it’s a full time occupation. but she’s done it! she’s the best mother in the world for me. she can be strict, but she has something that keeps her kids close to her and respect her. now that we’ve grown up and getting older, my mom has more time for herself and do activities with her friends

  116. Stefani Sarah says...

    But I’ve read (and agree with) all your points above in The Baby Book series by The Sears. Aren’t they American family? P.S. I live in Japan and am not American.

  117. I totally agree with what you said! Julip is still young (she just turned two) but all of these “rules” seem to come pretty naturally in parenting. BUT i’ve observed that this is not common for everyone. It’s fascinating! In a way, it’s the difference between you raising your kid or them raising you… ya know?

  118. Joanna, I love this! Number 4 especially, so classy. I dislike when parents yell at their children in public, causing negative attention.
    I am not a mom yet – but all of this is so, so interesting to me. In my sociology class we have discussed topics like this.. also like the ‘expectations’ of parents especially in America.
    I love hearing about others’ views to keep in mind for my future:)

  119. Moving to Sydney AU with 3 children, I noticed the same things. Children were cherished and loved but NOT the center of the universe. A “child-centered” home is never a happy one….

  120. never knew these were french philosophies. but i do see many moms (even in my family) that make no time for themselves and entertain their children NON stop. i love playing with my daughter but i also know she needs to learn to be independent. i also think these kids of smothering mothers grow up to resent constant attention.
    great post–might read the book!

  121. Have you seen this French commercial advocating birth control?

    It portrays a French kid misbehaving pretty badly in a grocery store — not at all like the perfectly behaved French children described in the article. This was a commercial aired in France, so it must have resonated with the French! All of which to say, there are badly behaved and well behaved kids in every culture.

  122. My American boyfriend sent this article to me via WSJ earlier last week and we both agreed on the points mentioned in the article. Our friend argued it was common sense but sometimes, common sense is easily forgotten.

    Instant gratification is a common way of raising kids both in the States and in Asia. In Singapore where I come from, parents ‘encourage’ kids to study hard and get good grades with a tangible reward. So you grow up expecting something in return.

    I wryly lamented to my bf that we should adopt this method otherwise, the American and ‘kiasu’ (afraid to lose) mentality of Singaporeans will be suicidal for our kids. A great difference I feel in the ‘French way’ of bringing up kids is teaching them to be self-sufficient, to be independent – go do something on your own until someone can tend to you – don’t expect immediate attention. The same way you don’t immediately pick up a baby wailing as the baby gets tuned to thinking, the moment I cry, I’ll get attention.

    Glad you’re sharing this!


  123. Parenting books are relevant to me now that I am pregnant with my first child.. I will most likely check this book out, among other parenting books… What struck me immediately after reading the list you posted is how these parenting tactics benefit the parents on the most part. Yes, children that obey are more pleasant to be around, but that is not the only defining attribute that makes a child enjoyable and also builds their character. To say that other societies dont parent as well is a bit insulting, but it also blurs the line of what good parenting is! A previous poster listed an article on Huffington Post that was really interesting and I enjoyed the points the author made about how our society has different structure as far as our education systems go, and that made sense to me. Parenting is SUCH a personal issue, confined to the immediate family and their values. I think defining one way or another as “good” or “bad” is discrediting the one thing that I love the most about our culture- our differences make us special! Very thought provoking post Joanna! Love it…

  124. Whether or not it’s French, I love this approach. Part of my trepidation (reluctance really) about having children is how many parents seem to give up adult lives in favor of being nothing BUT parents.

  125. Sarah says...

    I haven’t read the book, but by the sounds of it, this woman just learned some pretty universal lessons while in France. It sounds like being out of her own comfort zone (in a different country) opened up her eyes to learn, observe and question some of the things she was doing. I can’t see that this is particularly “French” per se. I agree with most of the points, to a degree. Yes, children need structure and limits, yes they need to learn respect, patience and independence. Personally, I do not agree with letting a young baby cry. It is not healthy and is not developmentally appropriate. I don’t care what anyone says, a baby who has not yet learned object permanence is simply not able to be manipulative by crying. Who would they be trying to manipulate, when they do not know that anything exists outside of themselves? But, certainly toddlers and older children need to learn patience and how to appropriately ask for things. I think the adult time issue does have a cultural connection to it. Many cultures do not expect that child and adult time be as separate as we seem to believe in the U.S. In the U.S. it would be frowned upon, or flat out forbidden, to bring a child along to an adult event. You cannot bring a child out to a bar or to some other adult event, even if that child would happily play on their own at a table. So, it leaves many people without a way to get out and participate in adult activities. If you don’t live near family and cannot afford a sitter, it can be very difficult to continue one’s adult social life when you cannot bring the kids along….

  126. LV says...

    This just seems like garden variety common sense to me. Great tips nonetheless, but not sure how this is any different than the way parents in the US raise children. I loved your mom’s perspective.

  127. I believe in balance. I don’t care for the comparison of the over-involved, over-indulgent American mother with the French mothers who seem to fall on the other side of the spectrum. As in the US, I’m positive there is not one way the French parent.

    Parenting differs from community to community in the US, and from person to person. I grew up in an area where I was usually the odd mother out. I just had differing ways of parenting. My way of parenting changed over the years and with each of my three children. But I know I offered them two things that have made a huge difference: they know I love them unconditionally and they know a life of balance.

    I am not comfortable with the generalizations made about either side – the French or the US – or the idea that one does it better than the other. Take the best of both, fit the ideas into your own life, make your own rules (and stick with them as long as they work). Choose when to say “no” quite carefully and stick with that answer always. Be firm, but loving. Be involved, but learn to let go and allow your children to grow into themselves.

  128. Wow- 159 comments, this is a hot topic. My book is in the mail to but thanks to your synopsis, I see where I weigh in so far. Feelin’ kinda French. Would love a follow up after you read and more discussion!

  129. It might not be particularly “French,” but hey, you have to use sex (or a sexy culture) to sell just about everything these days. ;-)

  130. I always struggle with generalizations like the ones made in the article.

    I also found this view interesting to consider:

    It’s an interesting topic on whether our parenting is influenced my where we raise our children. I am German but live in New Zealand and although there are subtle differences in parenting here and there it ultimately comes down to your own personality and most importantly the temperament of your children. I have two boys, one very quiet, reserved boy who can play by himself for hours and never has major tantrums and then I have a boy who is quite the opposite. He has a huge fun personality but can’t play by himself and needs a lot of interaction and he has major tantrums – I have always parented them in the same way because they are very close in age.

    Another point I’d like to make is that the rate of childcare is considerably higher in France than in Germany or New Zealand (I don’t know about the USA) 30% of 0-2 year old children and 90% of 3-6 year olds are in full time care – I strongly believe this has an effect on children. Good or bad? We’ll see.

  131. i looove this and i love your mother’s email response as well. i’m so excited to be a mother!

  132. I am most definitely a francophile, and I will without a doubt be reading the book, but to be honest, from what I’ve read thus far, it really does seem like a very universal approach to parenting. I think many people set out with every intention of follow this approach but life, personality, family, pressures of all kinds can ultimately interfere.
    I was for the greater part of my childhood raised by nanny’s. I remember them being incredibly affectionate, and when need be firm but very polite. I don’t have children yet, but the firm yet polite factor resonates with me in a huge way. I really do feel it made and continues to make a difference. It’s something I distinctly remember being different between the way my nanny’s treated me and the way my Mom did. My mom was very strict. I preferred the nanny’s, hahaha!

    I do think it’s a great thing for kids to learn how to enjoy playing by themselves. I used to love to play by myself – to this day I attribute my funky monkey imagination and creativity to that time playing make-believe solo style .

    I LOVE that marshmallow willpower test!! Absolutely adorable!

  133. My mum raised me that way and I wasn’t a problematic kid. I wasn’t crying at the restaurant, I didn’t have problems with finding my own entertainment without asking my mum to play with me, etc.
    But I can see 1 difference – she never had to took candies away from me, because I could eat them as much as I wanted and when I wanted to – and because of that… I was never eating them! I still don’t like candies. Maybe that sounds crazy but I think that if someone is forbidding his kids to eat candies, it would work more like a forbidden fruit.

  134. All of this is very accurate from what I’ve experienced. I am half french and spent every summer in France with my family while I was growing up. I remember watching my older cousin parent when I was young and thinking, wow, she’s so harsh! This summer when I visited I was spending time with the same cousin and her children and I had this moment when I realized, Valerie was really on to something. All of the little ones can sit at the table for the two hour meals, they eat each course, use their manners and play independently for hours. It’s truly incredible the difference sometimes.

    Sure, there are so many assumptions that are stretched or false all together, but I feel comfortable saying that most are correct.

    Camille- I would love to stay in contact with you! Feel free to add me on Facebook under Jessica Robinette or contact me through my blog,
    A bientôt!

  135. after reading the email from your mom, i kind of want her to write her own book on this. ;)

  136. jenny says...

    I’ve found all the advice that’s been in the press about this book pretty common-sense, and generally things I do. And, to be honest, while I cannot say that my little ones have never, ever had a tantrum, they behave in restaurants and in public in general, go down pretty easily at night and don’t snack constantly.

  137. I am not sure if this is French or not, but these are definitely rules to live by for parents. I am a teacher in a Montessori school, and I feel that even though these things feel like common sense, many parents have the hardest time abiding by them. Especially the part about meaning no when you say it. Ooof, it sure makes my job a lot harder when parents don’t follow these simple rules.