Apparently French parents are less stressed and their kids largely better behaved than their American counterparts, notes author Pamela Druckerman in her book Bringing Up BÃ©bÃ© and in a recent article for in the Wall Street Journal. Druckerman is an American who lives in Paris with her British husband and three children — in her book, she provides readers with examples of her own American “hyper-parenting” and asks why we Americans seem to be enslaved to our kids.
Here she offers her perspective on how much better the French are at keeping their kids calm and agreeable when eating at a restaurant.
“French families around us didn’t look like they were sharing our mealtime agony. Weirdly, they looked like they were on vacation. 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.”
And here she offers more differences between the French and American styles of Parenting…
“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?”
Great– so as if I didn’t feel GUILTY enough about my mothering skills, now Ms. Druckman is telling me- even the French are doing it better than me”
But not everyone agrees one should parent precisely like the French, rather Sai Maa (SAY Sigh-Mah) a mother, businesswoman and former French government official who combines Eastern spirituality with Western therapeutic practices cautions it is best not to generalize between French and American culture, but points to some keys to good parenting for healthy relationships and behavior:
-Discipline” is not about punishment; it is about providing parameters and structure, which children need to master their world. Having specific times during the day for certain activities that are regular and ongoing (e.g., mealtimes, bedtimes), provides consistency that is comforting and leads to greater mastery.
-Parents should express all aspects of themselves to their children, playing with them like a child while providing discipline. This means being completely honest in communicating what is working and what isn’t, in what the parent needs as well as the child (the parent can say: “I am taking this time to do this and we will play later.”)
-Use activities to create and energize relationships with children. Taking children places exposes them to different aspects of life and provides variety, however it is about BEING with them in relationship wherever you go together, not about using the activity to take a break or separate yourself from the child.
-Help children develop inner discipline. Americans (and other cultures) tend to focus on pleasures and the senses, and use these as rewards – “You can HAVE this sweet if you do this, if you don’t do this.” This is conditioning through gratification. Create inner discipline and patience without relying on these conditions. When the child has a tantrum, have the child go to their room to take time alone to develop self-mastery.
So.. what do you think..do the French do it better?