More on French Parenting

February 7, 2012

A few weeks ago, we discussed an article that made French mothers sound a bit monstrous. Well apparently, French parenting is a hot topic. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal printed this article about French parenting and it’s practically glowing, it’s so positive. Here’s an excerpt:

“When I asked French parents how they disciplined their children, it took them a few beats just to understand what I meant. “Ah, you mean how do we educate them?” they asked. “Discipline,” I soon realized, is a narrow, seldom-used notion that deals with punishment. Whereas “educating” (which has nothing to do with school) is something they imagined themselves to be doing all the time.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. 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.”

What do you think? Do you purposely and pointedly teach the ability-to-wait-nicely to your children? I can’t say I’ve been particularly good at it. But it does seem like such a valuable real-life skill!

The article isn’t too long, but it definitely has me examining my parenting methods. I hope you have a few minutes to give it a read — I’d love to hear what you think of it.

P.S. — Thank you to all the readers who sent me the article. So glad you did! Also. The photo of June doesn’t have much to do with the article, I just found it irresistible. : )

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 128 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary February 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

the best photo ever of little June. Thanks for sharing!


2 {plum} February 7, 2012 at 7:56 am

irresistible, indeed!

those cheeks are just crying out to be kissed.

As always, thanks for sharing.

– d.


3 Esther February 7, 2012 at 8:04 am

I read this article with a lot of interest, and immediately thought of an interview on NPR I heard last fall with the authors of a new book called Welcome to Your Child’s Brain, in which they said that two things really important that children do not just naturally learn as their brains develop, and that it is critical that children learn from their parents, are empathy and self-control. (The interview is here: )

Helping children learn to wait politely seems to connect really strongly to these two qualities–the child learns to think about what mommy is doing and whether or not she is available, and also to control her own desires and defer her gratification a little.

This is something I’ve tried to work on with my kids, but I’m definitely going to be thinking about it more and working on it harder based on that WSJ article and the NPR interview. :)


4 Esther February 7, 2012 at 8:05 am

Oops, typo: I meant “two things THAT ARE really important that children do not just naturally learn…”


5 morgan February 7, 2012 at 8:11 am

I live in Paris and I’d love to know where ARE these toddlers sitting happily and quietly in restaurants, bcs I have yet to see them. The truth is kids don’t eat out with their parents as much as in the US (or the rest of Europe). But when they do, they’re kids. Like all kids.

I did see a mom really spank her kid HARD after school pick up yesterday. This happens more here than in the US. And kids are much more violent on the playground than in the US I think — I mean, their parents lets kids do way more real pushing and real hitting. Not just little stuff. That took some getting used to.

And snacking? Seriously? Every parent/nanny has their gouter in their hands at school pick up, waiting for their kid to yell for it. Cookies, pastries, everything. I mean, they have a WORD for it! No snacking — please, thats’ crazy.


6 Penny February 8, 2012 at 1:07 am

Thanks, Morgan! The minute I read this I thought, hang on, this can’t be right! No way babies all babies sleep through after not picking them up; I cannot imagine a toddler sitting still in a restaurant; and not snacking? Please, even doctors will tell you toddlers will need 5 not 3 meals a day. Really Morgan, thank you for putting this article into perspective! I’m so relieved! : )))


7 Nicole February 8, 2012 at 1:37 am

First, in the article, she said that children eat three meals AND a gouter after school at 4 hence the cookies and pastries at the school gate. This is a basic rule of French life- you are allowed a guilt-free snack and a break at 4. Its funny that even in offices, people have a tendency to get up from their desks for a stretch and a coffee break at 4, just showing how their childhood habits are still there.
I have to disagree about naughty children in cafes. First off, because of the availability of garderie and creche (daycare) none of the French women I know would bother making plans to meet up for coffee when they have their kids- they do things like this when the kids are in daycare OR you meet at someone’s home. Also, there is a much stricter idea about places being appropriate for kids and places which are adults only. You don’t take your small children out to eat in the evening because that is an adult activity in an adult space.


8 morgan February 8, 2012 at 9:24 am

I agree, Nicole. Afterschool snack. But I guess I’m confused about life in America bcs that’s what we did there too! 3 meals and an afterschool snack!

My kids are in school 4 days a week (or 4.5 days for my older kids) so I see kids out when I’m with MY kids out — on wednesdays/the weekends.

But I totally agree that all this is so much easier when your kids are in the hands of the schools for so many hours a week starting from a young age. I wonder if this book should be praising the school system more than the moms! (altho, to be honest, I have issues with the schools!)


9 Christa the BabbyMama February 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

I definitely try to teach patience – being able to wait is a valuable skill for a kid to have! Restaurants are difficult at 3, but we try – within reason, think Bertuccis rather than the lovely Italian place downtown or Cheesecake Factory versus the organic local joint. Basically, we try to keep it age appropriate while pushing the envelope. Like the BabbyDaddy took the Babby to a movie in a theatre in an art museum – but it was a family movie and he reported she wasn’t the loudest one there!


10 Amy February 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

One of the things that I can relate to in this article is the importance of having children be able to play by themselves. I have two duaghters – 10 and 3 – and my husband and I have encouraged both of them to play on their own. I think having children be able to entertain themselves is a true gift. When we all play together it is very fun and bonding… but having them be able to truly entertain themselves is wonderful. I would imagine it is exhausting to have to entertain your kids from sun up to sun down.


11 Jen E @ mommablogsalot February 7, 2012 at 8:27 am

My husband and I were both very intrigued by the Wall Street Journal article – I like the idea of teaching patience and of using a forceful no & speaking with confidence like you mean it. I think there is a fine line. I doubt ALL french parents have it all figured out – or that no American parents do. But I like the sentiment behind it – finding some moderate balance between the two I think would be perfection – I don’t know that I want to ONLY give my kids one snack at 4pm every day, but not snacking all day makes sense to me also. Everything in moderation.


12 Laetitia February 7, 2012 at 8:39 am

Thank you for the article.
I love studies / articles that highlight the cultural differences, I find it fascinating.

I am French and part of my family is from North America. My cousins ​​live in Canada and their mother is American.

When I was 15, I was shocked of the crises/ anger of my cousins ​​when they were 2/3 years old. They had no patience, while for the same things my parents would have simply told me to wait.

I remember an episode when we all ent camping. There were 4 adults and 8 children (me and my brother, my cousins​​, they are 3 and 3 children of my step mom who have 3 girls of the same aga as my cousins)

One morning, my cousins ​​screamed and cried because she wanted so much the blue bowl to eat their cereals … my aunt insisted that gave her the blue bowl (which was used by another child) because my cousin insisted on … I was like , ok she is 3 and we do excatly what she wants..on demand… very strange from my point of view and very different from the way I was brought up.

So I can totally relate to this article.

Thanks for you blog.
I love reading your thoughts and views on France ;-)


13 Sandra February 7, 2012 at 8:50 am

One of the main differences that I have found travelling in Europe with my family is that social life is not as segregated by age as it is here in North America. In other words, people from different ages mix regularly in public.

Here it seems like you are grouped into “young families”, or “older adults”, or “teenagers”. It is much more rare to see, for example, a restaurant with customers of a huge range of ages.

And because of that mixing, I think that (sweeping generalization alert!) kids are more used to being in adult/grown up situations and behave accordingly. They are included BUT it doesn’t revolve around them.


14 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:24 am

Such an interesting observation, Sandra!


15 Linda Kerr February 7, 2012 at 8:50 am

I agree with the reader who mentioned the spanking. We spent some time in the Middle East and there were many French moms living in our community and there was quite a bit of spanking/slapping when kids misbehaved. It never seemed horrible just not very American. But it sure got kids to behave quickly! They seemed to leave that out of the article. I’m curious if you see that there?


16 Lynne February 7, 2012 at 8:51 am

This morning I saw Pam Druckerman on The Today Show, and immediately thought of Designmom, and the previous conversations regarding French parenting. I agree with an earlier comment–Nobody has it all figured out. I do love the idea of teaching children to wait. My youngest is 13, and she routinely interrupts me when I am on the phone…I guess I didn’t teach her too well! Alas, I’m a work-in-progress as a parent/educator…I will say that my daughter just spent an evening with a friend, who has a Chinese mother and a French father. She loved spending time at their home. She said…”They talk to us like we’re adults!” They also sat at the dinner table for two hours after dinner for conversation. Lovely!


17 sarah February 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

super intriguing article. these qualities they’re describing being taught to french children are important to me as well, and i’ve really been struggling lately with how to impart such qualities (as well as other ‘non-tangibles,’ such as true gratitude) to my child. while there were a few examples of how some french parents ‘educated’ their children, i’d love more practical advice and tips. anyone have recommendations for reading material that covers teaching toddlers/young children things like self control, how to play by oneself, and gratitude? i’m hoping to create habits early (my son is 2), rather than try to retroactively teach such things to an older child.


18 Marissa February 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

I read that article and then downloaded her book to my kindle. I’m really excited to read it. Sometimes I don’t feel like I fit the “mommy mold” because I don’t enjoy being strapped to my son every single second of the day. It makes me feel guilty and I think this book is going to give me the validation and confidence that I need to be ok with my style of parenting.


19 Noemi@GetFreeBabyCoupons February 7, 2012 at 8:53 am

It’s definitely an interesting article. In a way I agree with French parents. Kids have to learn patience. It’s hard to learn but quite important in everybody’s life.

I love it when she wrote that French parents love talking to their kids and reading them lots of books. It’s not everything about television in France.

“Yet the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive.” – I think this is really important. “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.” They don’t do overparenting.


20 Terri Siffring February 7, 2012 at 8:57 am

I loved this article! Thank you for sharing. I like the idea of having a firm “no” instead of shouting and chasing, the idea of the parent being in control of meals and teaching children from a very young age to wait, gently, but firmly. I ordered the book.


21 Sharon @ Discoveringblog February 7, 2012 at 9:02 am

I love these types of articles! We are so used to what we are familiar with, and sometimes forget that there are other ways to parent.

My downfall is worrying too much about other people, and I find myself almost apologizing for taking up space with 2 little kids sometimes, so I may allow them to have 3 lollipops while we food shop because it allows us to get through it. And my kids aren’t terrors, throwing tantrums or anything. They just see ALL THE CANDY and I let them have some.

It’s such a relief sometimes to just be with other families who understand the craziness of young kids, and not have to feel the need to explain or excuse.


22 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 2:43 am

“We are so used to what we are familiar with, and sometimes forget that there are other ways to parent.”

That’s how I feel too, Sharon!


23 Barchbo February 7, 2012 at 9:10 am

June gets more darling every day! Such a cute photo. Archie has a very similar hat.

Apparently I am French (who knew?) but I also had almost 30 (!!!) years of teaching/coaching/volunteering/Sunday school leading/babysitting under my belt before I had my first child. Firm, loving, consistent direction works on all kids. Not right away, of course – but eventually. It’s training. Like a marathon. I saw Pamela Druckerman on the TODAY SHOW this morning and she was discussing how French parents get their babies to sleep through the night. It’s the same technique that was in my parenting book – not a French book – and I used it. He slept through the night at 7 weeks (though I also think the good Lord knows what a 40 year old mom can handle.) :)


24 dunski February 8, 2012 at 4:02 am

thank you! my thaughts!


25 Aliesha February 7, 2012 at 9:11 am

I find this article particularly interesting, after just spending what I hoped would be an enjoyable weekend with my sister and niece…and what turned into be a hellish weekend spent with a complete brat. My husband and I have spent many hours discussing what we can do to keep our own daughter, only a year old right now, from becoming such an…outspoken at best…toddler. How much of it is personality and how much of it is letting her get away with whatever she wants? We both feel like we have “better” ideas of how we’ll handle things, but I, especially, wonder if we’re just being naive. Is that kind of behavior inevitable?

Anyway, this article gives such an interesting view on that very topic, and is I think what we strive to be to our daughter…loving, engaged parents who are in fact IN CHARGE. We don’t want to dread time with our daughter as she grows up. I wonder if it’s possible for us to be this kind of parents or not. I hope it is. I think she’ll begin testing us any day now, and I want to be ready. Being a VERY impatient person myself though, one who RARELY delays gratification, I wonder if I’ll be able to be a good example or end up becoming a bad one?


26 Jennifer February 7, 2012 at 9:15 am

Do you know the word “discipline” means to teach?

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin disciplina teaching, learning, from discipulus pupil
First Known Use: 13th century (Merrian-Webster Dictionary)

Since knowing discipline means to teach, I’ve appreciated the word and act of disciplining my children as positive. Helping them learn, teachable moments.

Completely different topic, but this conversation makes me think of a conversation this past Summer when we visited France. A man working at an art gallery said, “in France, we would never ask someone what they do for a living. Instead, we say, how are you?”


27 Sarah Jane February 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

I didn’t read the whole article, but just from the excerpt you posted, I can tell the French and I would get a long just fine! Being a school teacher, I’ve seen too many teens who were “indulged” most of their lives and have no idea how to be polite, be responsible for themselves, or even sit still through a class. After dealing with these frustrations, I was/am determined that my children will be the opposite. My two year old is already responsible for many things. She is expected to be independent and self-sufficient (age-appropriate of course). And you know what, she’s a really happy, strong, confident child. I don’t believe in indulging and spoiling children. We are only setting them up for failure in “real life” by doing so. There is no reason a two year old can’t say please and thank you and help you put their toys away and be patient. If they don’t learn these principals at home, where will they? Can you tell I feel strongly about this topic?! My son (11 months old) was sick this past week and therefore was held A LOT! He got spoiled and now wants to be held all the time, but that’s not healthy for him or for me. So I stopped picking him up when he cried, and now he’s playing independently and HAPPILY again! Everyone wins!


28 Ana February 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

In that case I parent in a very French way. I don’t understand sometimes why all my friends are frantic, they all have non-sleepers/picky eaters. I understand it has a lot to do with personality and that cannot be changed but I let my daughter self-sooth, it doesn’t mean I didn’t want to get out of bed, I actually did every time but I just waited for a few minutes before I took her out of the crib. She is also a good eater because we sit down to eat together, I never though for a second that she would prefer mac&cheese to a chicken and roasted vegetable dinner so veggies and garlic are not a foreign thing for her.

I know I might be coming across as a “momster” but I’m not I understand people have different ways to parent and the most important thing is to do it with love. Desiring the best for your kids, to grow as independent and happy people.

Great topic!


29 Mary--The Yellow Door Paperie February 7, 2012 at 9:39 am

I love the level headedness to it all. Educating is what we’re doing. We’re raising human beings– people who will need to be independent. I do love the idea of attachment parenting. But there has to be a good balance. Learning to wait, be polite and not be selfish. These are huge things.


30 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag February 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

Just saw this yesterday via friend on Facebook and I loved it! I thought it was a fascinating article — not much to add to what’s been said other than I have to say — have you read anything about what french school kids eat for lunch? AMAZING! I want to be a french school kid!


31 Jessy February 7, 2012 at 9:45 am

I have been finding this whole conversation so interesting. I live in Canada and work as nanny, and have seen so many different kinds of parents, as I’m sure we all have.
I definitely have tried to cultivate a philosophy of the “cadre” with the kids I work with. I set up a framework of the important things that are and are not done, and within that, try to give them as much freedom as possible. And when some correction or redirection is needed, I have found that a firm voice with conviction is often enough.
I hope to be able to do the same with my children some day, as well as instill in them a sense of patience by modelling it for them and setting up a framework that teaches it as an important part of life.
Much like Esther said above, empathy and patience are two skills that parents need to impart to their children, and I will sure try hard to teach and model those for them.


32 Frumptastic February 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

My friend sent me the article yesterday and although I did find some things helpful/interesting, I am at the point where if I see one more article or book about how French women are the best at being skinny/eating/parenting/topic of the month, I am going to SCREAM! I have absolutely nothing against the French (my mother’s side came from France) but honestly. I think a lot of the recent writings about the French oversimplify a culture and make it seem like the French method is the absolute ideal. I think I am now rambling mais je ne sais pas.


33 Amy3 February 7, 2012 at 11:27 am

I have to agree! While I appreciate the approach taken by many French parents, it seems in the US we have this annoying interest in how the French do everything. What about other countries and cultures? We’re not so consumed with how the Poles are turning out great kids.


34 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 2:49 am

We (as in many Americans) do seem pretty obsessed with all things French right now. Have you noticed we seem to do the same thing with New York? If it’s based in New York (Brooklyn too!), or made in New York, or being talked about in New York, we practically worship it. : )

I wonder what (or where) our next obsession will be.


35 MB February 7, 2012 at 9:53 am

Thank you for sharing this article! Fascinating! I too have spent time in France and find their parenting intriguing. I especially love that from very early on they teach their children proper grammar and annunciation. Before my French was up to par, if I couldn’t understand what an adult had said I would ask a nearby child. They were way easier to understand because they had been taught from birth to speak properly.
One question I have is if we want to teach our children to delay gratification, be patient and wait their turn don’t we have to be that way first?
In observing parents and children, I can’t help but notice that the faults (as well as the virtues) of the parents are magnified in the children. Maybe as adults we could pass the actual marshmallow test, but could we pass the test if it were the adult equivalent of a marshmallow?


36 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 2:50 am

Hah! Good point. I wonder how many adults could resist their iPhone (instead of a marshmallow).


37 Cammie February 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

I make my children wait. If I give them a treat while we are out I don’t let them munch on it right away, they must wait until we are all sitting and can enjoy the treat together. The other day my 18 month old had a sucker. We were in a store and he kept attempting to unwrap it. I kept encouraging him to “wait.” He kept getting frustrated and held onto his sucker for dear life. After checking out, and paying for the sucker, we found a bench and sat down. He joyfully unwrapped and devoured it.
I don’t know if it makes much of a difference, but I hope I’m helping him learn a valuable lesson. I can’t imagine the self control it takes am 18 month old to keep that sucker out of his mouth, but he can do it. So could my 5 and 4 year olds. I hope those simple lessons of “waiting” will benefit them in the future.


38 M. Peterson February 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

We subscribe to the Journal, so I read this on Saturday morning, as did my husband. And we laughed. And laughed and laughed. I’m sorry, but it’s basically an article written by a really crappy, lazy, ineffective American mother. She can’t keep her child from ripping open sugar packets at a restaurant? She’s amazed by using the word “no”? Seriously?

The way she paints French parenting is really just good parenting. Or any parenting at all. To not set limits and teach your child proper behavior is not parenting. It’s existing in the same realm as a small human you created.

The article disgusted me – and that’s not easy. I hate that this woman is essentially suggesting that all American parents are as lazy and permissive as she and her husband. You don’t have to kick kids (as per your first French parenting article), but you certainly need to use a firm “no”. And, yes, they should be taught that they need to wait. We didn’t end up with a bunch of entitled Occupy Wall Streeters through proper parenting – we ended up with them thanks to generations of parents letting their children be in charge and catering to their every whim.

I love my children and they very much know they are loved. I even “spoil” them with surprise treats more than I probably should, but they know who is the boss and they know the limits. I’d love to see all American parents revert back to 50s parenting (albeit with less spanking and yelling) when children were expected to heed requests and discipline.


39 Sarah Jane February 7, 2012 at 10:34 am



40 Christine February 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm



41 Genevieve February 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Love your Occupy Wall Streeters comment! That is the truth!


42 dunski February 8, 2012 at 4:04 am

yes! it’s not french! it’s called education and parenting.. ;)


43 Rosa February 7, 2012 at 10:00 am

There was an interview on the Today Show.

I was fascinated because a lot of what was being said, I am already doing or rather, did with my older two children. My youngest is throwing me for a loop. I used some of the tips learned from the interview to get my “terrible-three-year-old” ready for school.

I am starting to realize that I need to “educate” and not “discipline” my children. And another thing I learned is that I have to teach my kids 4 (French) words instead of 2 American words (please and thank you), but include Hello and Goodbye, which my shy kids can’t seem to do.

Thanks for these discussions. I hope you include more in the future.


44 Meg@thisweekendlife February 7, 2012 at 10:05 am

I find myself repeating “Patience is a virtue!” to my toddler AND my husband once a day at least. I’m currently reading Children: The Challenge (which is pretty old) and the key message in it is to encourage children towards independence and self-sufficiency, which is what I’m trying to focus on with both my toddler and my babe. Sounds like something the author came across in France.


45 Zina February 7, 2012 at 10:05 am

Here was my comment when my friend posted that article on Facebook:

To be honest, it made me feel good about my parenting style, which I think is fairly similar to the one she describes. (Not because I learned it from France, but from other sources. And I did sometimes witness horrible parenting when I was a missionary in France.) I do have the problem of my kids constantly interrupting me on the phone, so I guess I need to increase my “conviction” on that issue. :) But one time Dean was out of town and I took my kids out to dinner, and realized afterward that the kids had all been quiet, well-behaved, and pleasant throughout the meal. Not every outing is that successful, but I’ve at least had some experience with it being possible for young kids to be well-behaved in public.

Also, when my oldest was a toddler I used to put a baby gate across his door and leave him to play by himself in his room for a couple of hours at a time. Our neighbors [in the apartment building] would walk by and see him playing, and one said to me, “Oh, my kids could never entertain themselves so well for that long.” I wanted to ask, “Well, have you ever tried it? Have you ever left them to their own devices until they figured it out?” [End of facebook comment.]

A long time ago I read that studies showed that children turned out just as well in families with a lot of structure as in families with less structure, as long as there was plenty of love. My family growing up was pretty chaotic, and I’ve wanted much more structure for my own family–and bedtime is very consistent for us, as well as regular chore time. I think it’s good for my kids. We do have a lot of fun, too–although I’m sure my kids would love having more fun and less structure. But my kids are spread somewhat widely (oldest is 14, youngest is almost 3) and I knew I was in this parenting thing for the long haul, so I’ve tried to make it a really liveable lifestyle.

I read the previous article, too, and I think it gives balance–that there are good things we can learn from French parenting, but that at the extreme it can be unkind or even abusive. There’s going to be a wide range, from happy to dysfunctional, in families anywhere in the world.


46 Denise Laborde February 7, 2012 at 10:10 am

Your previous post on French parents got this conversation started in my house. It’s definitely worth examining.


47 Lauren February 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

This is so interesting! My husband came home from work yesterday and asked that I read this article because he knew I would enjoy it. Thanks for sharing and for opening up the conversation for different viewpoints!


48 Aimee February 7, 2012 at 10:32 am

I think figuring out some goals with your partner before those little ones make their way into the world can be a huge help. If you want happy, obedient, patient, creative children it takes a good working plan, effort and consistency. Being firm but kind (you know like Mary Poppins) can go a long way with kids. Unfortunately many parents get caught up with all the extras and then put their lives on auto pilot. Then when their little bundle of joy starts throwing a fit they don’t seem to know what to do about it but to appease. French or not thinking ahead can be such a rewarding and helpful thing!


49 Aimee February 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm

“There needs to be a homemaker exercising some measure of skill, imagination, creativity, desire to fulfill needs and give pleasure to others in the family.

How precious a thing is the human family…. Does anything come forth without work?

The family is an art form.

And if human relationships are to be beautiful on a wider form,

the individual families making up a society have to be really worked on by someone who understands that

artists have to work to produce their art.”

~ Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?


50 nichshee February 7, 2012 at 10:34 am

Would be very interested in hearing how Design Mom’s kids find French school, in comparison to American, is it stricter, is there more homework?


51 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:00 am

Hi nichshee. I’ve written a few reports about schools here. (Type in French schools in my search bar and the links should come up.) My kids really enjoy school — both here and in the States. So maybe they would give positive reports no matter what. Here’s what they say about strictness and homework:

My kids report: the same amount of homework, but the French school day is longer, and the longer hours include study periods for the students to get most of their homework done.

My kids report: much stricter teachers, especially in elementary school. In middle school, they are less strict. (We don’t have anyone in high school yet.)


52 Sarah Jane February 7, 2012 at 10:37 am

OK…I know I’ve already commented, but since I have two little ones, this is a huge topic for me. I just wanted to say that Boundaries with Kids is one of the best level-headed, rational parenting books I’ve ever read. It’s similar to Love and Logic, if you’re familiar with that concept. It gives great examples for all ages, and discusses attitude adjustments and even how to help various personality types improve their weaknesses. Anyway, not affiliated in any way, but I’ve read it several times and intend to keep it close by as I raise my children!


53 Janan W February 7, 2012 at 10:54 am

It seems to me in every culture/country some parents get it wrong and some get it right. And it has nothing to do with being American or French or Chinese.


54 Beluka February 7, 2012 at 11:07 am

I have been following your blog for some months now and do really love it. Anyway, this is the first time I’ve decided to comment, but I’d like to point out something rather important about the article that seems to have been overlooked: the word “discipline” has different meanings in English than it has in romance languages. I am Spanish and in my language the word does exist, but “disciplina” is applied to a rather severe concept of behavioural education: it usually has to do with punishment. But “education” is a broader term which refers to both cultural/school education and the result of good parenting.
Anyway… It is important to learn how to wait and we certainly do spend some time on it! It takes time and effort, but I believe it is just as important as every other aspect of education (the broader term).
Thanks for your words!


55 Frumptastic February 7, 2012 at 11:11 am

I just wanted to add that this article (and others) made me remember this article below which took me awhile to dig up. It’s a bit off topic (I think the essence of the article is correct regarding parenting) but it’s part of my “stop idolizing X group” because not everything is as awesome as it seems.


56 Frumptastic February 7, 2012 at 11:19 am
57 Julia February 7, 2012 at 11:23 am

teaching a child self-control is an important, but we should asses are we doing it to benefit them or our own ego. I personally don’t believe in “sleep training” before a baby is 12months.


58 Sarah February 7, 2012 at 11:27 am

I think that picture is perfect for the article…June is waiting patiently for you to take the picture so she can remove that darling hat. ;)


59 Anne February 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

I don’t agree with the premise that there’s one right way, and that the French have It All Figured Out.
I do agree, though, that American culture is getting a little too permissive. I feel like an abnormal ogre for (kindly) insisting that children don’t jump on the furniture. Most parents visiting at my house have sheepishly told me, “oh, he can do that at home.” ?? Couches are for sitting and if you want to jump off something, we have a nice shady backyard.
And the all-day snacking is a recipe for acting up at mealtime, but it seems like all the parenting advice I read says, “don’t let kids get hungry, have snacks on hand, etc.” My youngest just turned three and I don’t believe that he needs to be constantly chomping on goldfish to get through the day. We are a LONG way from his eating on demand when he was 3 months old! But again, I feel like the only mom who goes to the neighborhood playground without provisions, and my kids do notice they’re the “only ones” without something to snack on or drink.
/unplanned rant


60 Anonymous February 8, 2012 at 1:09 am

ME TOO! I’m not anti-snacking, but I feel like we can survive a trip to the park without snacks–but since all the other moms bring snacks, my kids end up begging the other moms for their kids’ snacks.


61 Lizzi February 7, 2012 at 11:47 am

I’m not a mother yet, but I love reading about parenting. The conclusions I come back too after I read about how parents in other countries parent, or how a neuropsychologist says we should parent, etc. etc. is that I think it’s important to do what you want to do as a parent, and to feel confident in those desires. I imagine that I would love having kids who are patient and have an ability to entertain themselves (I know there are times when I would love to have neices and nephews who could display that ability :), but I guess I’m just American enough that I don’t love the idea of my kids feeling like I’m not available to climb the jungle gym with them at a park because I’m an adult and adults don’t climb jungle gyms. It’s not true, I climb them! And I love it, I think it’s a blast!

So I think as I (hopefully) near parent-dom I’ll take the ideas that I like, and leave the ones that I don’t. I think the hardest thing will be convincing myself that I’m doing the right thing! That’s probably the thing I envy about the parents the most in that article. Oh, to have conviction!! :)


62 Joanne February 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Adorable photo of June. Teaching your kids to wait is the hardest thing to do. I think we pick them up to comfort them so quickly because they are cute or because we have a need to comfort. I do like the idea about waiting ’til mealtime to eat. How much better off we all would be if we did that! I recently posted about my daughter’s desire to snack getting out of control due to boredom. Can’t wait to check out the article link.


63 Susan R. February 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I read the “French Parenting” article about this on Yahoo news this morning and I have to respectfully disagree. How can people slap a label on parenting and call it better?
I read “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” and found her parenting techniques shameful at best. If the end result is to create a bunch of stepford children, then bravo to their tecnhiques. Next week we’re going to hear about how superior Italian, Irish, German, Russian,etc… parenting is. Parenting is successful when you can see the fruits of your labor become respectful, responsible, happy and loving individuals. I don’t feel that any specific nationality has more value than another over parenting methods or techniques.


64 Jayne February 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I just spent 4 rare, lovely days with 5 of my 6 grown children, 4 spouses of those children and 5 little grandboys (2 infants, a 1 1/2, 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 year old). Sometimes they were tired and a bit fussy, but through museum visits, train shows, car rides, no naps and different beds, they said thank you, enjoyed activities, were patient, waited endlessly while all the grownups talked and were generally well behaved. Every child has the occasional “moment”, some more than others. But in the time I lived in France, I saw no fewer spoiled children – whatever that is – and a great deal more of the seen/not heard European tradition than fits my own preference. I came from a more no-nonsense family and I was far more indulgent mother than my parents (and soooo not perfect), but I still get compliments on my social, responsible brood. Mothering as guide, not so much ruler seems more comfortable to me. But then you can ask my children who on some days will mock my “rules”.

I wonder why we choose cultures and glorify them at the cost of our own, rather than appreciating what we see of value in both. It seems to be a scary and sometimes insulting trend.


65 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:02 am

“I wonder why we choose cultures and glorify them at the cost of our own, rather than appreciating what we see of value in both. It seems to be a scary and sometimes insulting trend.”

Well put, Jayne. (The title of the article was especially ridiculous link-bait.)


66 Celeste February 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm

After reading this and the previous article on French parenting, it seems to me that the point is not that the parenting is French or inherently inferior or superior. Nor, in my opinion, is the point that American parenting is uniformly bad. The point is that the French parenting each author sees is different than what she typically sees or experiences in America. Why should we not learn from other cultures? Why should we not be willing to admit our own cultural follies?

American life can be very insular. Young mothers can also feel a tremendous amount of pressure to do everything the “right” way. Looking at parenting through a different cultural lens may provide a bit of clarity and perspective. For some, it may even provide a glimmer of hope.

To those who would dismiss or disparage this particular article, I would say that I do not find it polite or helpful to scoff at the “Aha!” moments of others.

Thank you, Gabrielle, for sparking this discussion!


67 val February 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm


I wholeheartedly agree! Thanks for saying exactly what I was thinking, and in such clear and beautiful words.


68 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:03 am

I love your comment, Celeste!


69 carole February 7, 2012 at 12:58 pm

first of all, i love your blog. i’m a french mother of 2 children (loise 7 and jules 5). this topic is very very interesting. since they are very young, we go in restaurant with our children. i take for them some toys so they can wait in silent not to disturb the other people. that the same on each place like church : sometimes you can yell and sometimes you have to make silent. the most important for me : you have to explain most of the things as soon as possible !… (so sorry for my bad english !)


70 DENISE. February 7, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I’m loving reading everyone’s comments. I think it’s funny that Americans are always trying to learn from {insert any country here} & I can’t imagine the French writing a big article about how to be like Americans. I’ve been reading a lot about human nature and psychology lately and I’m wondering how this parenting style leads to behaviors that affect your adult life. Sure, they might be more well-behaved (according to adults) now but what will they be like as adults? Thanks for sharing the article!


71 Charissa February 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Loved this article. I think it hit on great points. Children grow and are much better behaved when they must wait for things (or earn them…I have 4 teens and don’t like the feeling of entitlement that many teens have…thinking their parents must give them everything! I want my children to work and feel success come to them through their own efforts–not just my charitable handouts)


72 Mercedes February 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I really liked the article. I read it before I saw your post. I have been impressed with things I have read and heard on French parenting. My husband and I have worked hard on teaching our children patience and good manners. They are still very young, and will hopefully continue to learn as they grow. I agree that a lot of the parents in America seem to lack the ability to educate their kids in some essential areas of life, but I don’t think this style of parenting is found only in France. I think it is just not as common in the US. Why? I have no idea. I think culturally we parent differently, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You just have to decide what you feel is most important to teach to your children.


73 Linnea February 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Just read the article you linked – I love this part:
“…even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and…there is no need to feel guilty about this.” It makes me feel encouraged about the ways that I already “parent” though I am not yet a mama to my own.


74 juliagblair February 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I LOVE the photo of precious Junie! She is so adorable and loveable!
I am a non-proponent of “Instant Gratification” for all of us. Things usually don’t really need to be done IMMEDIATELY!


75 Julie February 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

The photo of June is so adorable – I love a good hat with personality!


76 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:05 am

Thanks, Julie! I think June is my first child to like hats. Thank goodness, because it’s cold here! : )


77 Cecilia Madden February 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

What a lively discussion! I happen to think that French v. American is an overly simplistic way of analyzing parenthood. And I also think that parenting skills cannot be neatly organized into right v. wrong. While it’s fascinating to explore another cultures’ way of doing things so as to push us out of our comfort zone and give us a fresh perspective, it shouldn’t wear away at our own confidence as parents.

One thing that’s reiterated in a lot of parenting literature is the importance of projecting confidence to our children. If we’re constantly second guessing ourselves and being second-guessed by everyone around us, our children are sure to pick up on that uncertainty and think, “hey, maybe i am charge.” The article references how supported French mothers are, and even your sister posted the other day about how she feels more supported as a mother. Maybe it’s the judgement and constant parenting criticism/comparison/resentment that’s missing from the “French” parenting culture that the author feels is superior.


78 Susan February 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm

This article and Today show interview was quite the topic at the school bus stop this morning. Most of the mom’s were in agreement. It’s something we could definately use more of, polite children who realized we are their parents, and not their staff.


79 SuzyB February 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I lived in France. I felt that the parents were quite indulgent with their children. What I did like in my observations, was that they set a good example in behavior. The adults were not loud and impulsive, used soft tones when speaking. I would imagine that the kids learn this by example. Also, I noticed that most babysitters were adults, not other children. Also, families spent a lot of time outdoors, not cooped up with a television or computer…even in Winter. Any social time we spent with other families happened over hours and was calm and enjoyable, not quick and over-stimulating. Also, it seemed many parents were on the older side. I imagine the expense of children makes it hard for young couples to have children. Just a few thoughts.


80 scherry February 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I read this article and had mixed feelings. I like the parenting method it was talking about it, but I couldn’t help but think that the problem with American parenting is that we think we are so worried about being the best parents in the world. Would the French ever publish an article called “Why American parenting is Superior?” I don’t think so. First we suck compared to the Chinese, now we suck compared to the French; let’s just not have a contest. I get exhausted by the condescending headlines.


81 Mary February 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I wonder about your interest in this topic, Gabby. I dare say most of us readers are fans as much b/c of the content of your blog, but also for who you are. We love the little glimpses into your family life and are inspired by some of the brave and fun things we see the Blairs do (creating a career from blogging, to name one). So, I can’t help but wonder, how do you and Ben Blair think you appear to your French neighbors? Are you assimilating into French culture and family-life or are you the obviously foreign neighbors? And what about the complimentary topic of educating our youth? Obvious differences between French and American schooling, but what have you learned that works for your family?


82 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:13 am

Great questions, Mary!

I think we are definitely the “obviously foreign neighbors” but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I feel like the friends and neighbors and teachers we interact with make huge and generous allowances for us culturally — and I appreciate it! Though, where we can adopt French customs — like celebrating Crepe Day, or serving Gouter (snack/tea) at 4:00 to any visitors — I go for it. Of course, I’m sure it would feel silly to any of us to move to a new country and then try and live a fully American life.


83 lula February 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I don’t think that it is unusual for US parents to have their babies self-soothe or cry it out. I was one of the only mothers who actually did not try the technique. (my research in brain development and how the body responds to cortisol or adrenalin made the approach seem biological unsound so I never even attempted it) I think that there is a huge difference between self-soothing techniques or crying it out because frankly self-soothing is often just a lovely way of saying the baby will cry until it stops and goes to sleep or will cry for a few moments as the parent counts down a set number of minutes before comforting the child in hopes that the child will sleep through the night sooner etc being used on a baby and telling a three year old to wait for a treat. The differences between a baby and a three year old are extreme both in terms of comprehension and ability. I make my three year old wait and learn how to wait I didn’t make my baby wait for me to pick him up while he was crying. The two are not incompatible. In this article I see a huge inability to alter one’s parenting to match the stage of the child. Frankly, I think it made French mothers look ridiculous (which I don’t think is true) and unable to look at their children as anything other than mini-adults and kids just aren’t actually mini-adults developmentally.


84 Jillian February 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I think you’re right that infants and 3 year olds are very different in how they learn behaviors- and that “sleep training” and “self-soothing” is not what it appears to be. You might find the research by Dr. James McKenna of the University of Notre Dame to be interesting. He runs a mother-baby sleep lab and studies SIDS (among other things) and suggests that letting babies cry it out can be physiologically harmful to babies.


85 JenG February 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I love reading these kinds of articles, very interesting. I’e heard before that there is no real snacking, just the 3 square meals. Is that what you have observed too? Very curious.


86 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:19 am

This is what we’ve observed here in the countryside:
- light breakfasts, like a croissant and hot cocoa/coffee
- long, full lunches — the kids get a 2-hour lunch break at school
- long, full dinners that start at around 8:00pm
- a snack or gouter at around 4:00, typically something sweet
- food is almost never eaten on the go (like while driving, or walking down the street), it’s eaten while sitting at the table — even if you bought something at a restaurant drive-thru, you wouldn’t eat it in the car, you would take it home to eat it properly


87 Laura February 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm

It strikes me that the difference between the so-called American and so-called French parenting styles simply reflect the different values of each culture. France (and Europe more generally) values the collective, and so it is important to teach children to be polite to others, respect other people when they are talking, etc. The U.S. is all about the individual, and so we often treat our children as if they and their desires are the most important or special and should come first. The French value food and mealtimes as sacred, so they teach their children to treat them with the appropriate deference. I could go on… Your parenting style is simply a reflection of your values, no matter where you come from, but different does not necessarily mean better or worse.


88 Johanna February 7, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Thank you for sharing. Just as we all believe we’re above average drivers, some of us like to think we’re all above average parents. As a parent, I know that I’ll always be learning and growing. Reading about different styles of parenting (even, or especially, when that perspective appears to mirror my own but with different success) will help me always be a better mom tomorrow than I was yesterday.


89 christina February 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm

I think it shouldn’t be a case of where if someone does something that you disapprove of (eg: spanking) they are mean; and if their kids behave a bit better it’s suddenly magnificent parenting. I found this second article a very interesting read and there are definitely some good tips to be found, but I wouldn’t really want to go out and suddenly become a “French parent” – I mean, what’s really wrong with my Malaysian way? Or for that matter how my friends that are German/Austrian/Chinese parent? There may be some cultural differences, but every parent does their best, based on their own set of values and principles.


90 Genevieve February 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm

What a great discussion! We are having issues here and we know it is because we have fallen down on the delayed gratification issue, not necessarily because we are not French. It is an issue with us falling down on the job of good parenting. We had a much easier night tonight because we were sweetly stern with the kids. It worked! We were glad to be reminded by this article and discussion.


91 Stephanie February 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm

If we didn’t have to pay for pre-school, college, and worry about health insurance, I wouldn’t have to work! During the 4 waking hours a day we get with our 3 year old, we try to cram a lot of parenting in…it’s not always good, but we try! Routine, firm boundaries, and manners are very important to me. Although the article is intriguing, it’s pretty incomplete. The author glosses over the public services factor, and she is honest about excluding non-middle class families. I’m not going to dwell on my inferiority to the French, nobody is perfect!


92 Jillian February 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Very interesting! Though I’m not convinced that leaving a baby to cry itself to sleep as an infant is a good thing. There is not much evidence-based research supporting this kind of “controlled crying.” Dr. James McKenna of the University of Notre Dame, who runs a mother-baby sleep lap and studies SIDS, actually suggests that controlled crying can be physiologically harmful to babies.


93 Sabine February 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm

I like Ana’s comment. There should be discipline or education or whatever you call it, but it should be addressed with love. I don’t believe it is ‘personality’ because that is formed from experience. Some people have said that the French write up is incorrect well, I have definitely seen kids who do not scream and act up in public in other countries like Asia and Africa. This proves that it is environment and upbringing that controls their behaviour not personality.


94 Elizabeth February 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm

I found the article tiresome — like I find so many articles about parenting tiresome. They seem to be written for the leisure class and regurgitate the same old stuff and conflicts, over and over and over. On top of it all, everyone seems to take themselves entirely too seriously. Ugh. All around ugh.


95 pat February 8, 2012 at 12:04 am

Anything goes as long as it’s done with love.


96 The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful February 8, 2012 at 12:10 am

When I “educate” my kids it is usually in a firm Swahili voice which they feign not understanding. I intend to next try a ululating South African Khosa with clicks and all. IF that doesn’t work I’m going to slip gin into their juice boxes.


97 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:22 am

: )


98 Sabine February 8, 2012 at 12:47 am

testing testing! Sorry if multiple posts!


99 Sabine February 8, 2012 at 12:49 am

Apologies for nonsensical ‘testing’ post as I think my proper post ended up in your spam and simply wasn’t showing up. I didn’t expect that one to be accepted either!


100 Design Mom February 8, 2012 at 3:22 am

I’ll see if I can find your missing comment in spam, Sabine.


101 Naomi February 8, 2012 at 4:52 am

I may risk a comment… Because my baby is only 6 months old and I’m pretty sure I’m still learning how to parent. I am Brazilian, my parents are Japanese and I live in Italy, plus I read a lot of American blogs. So you can imagine how many different things I read/heard this past 6 months or more. I still don’t sleep through the night. AND my little one sleeps with me in the bed.

The one thing I learned say is that each baby/toddler/kid is different. One thing I always ask other moms (including mine and my in-law) is how the son/daughter was as a baby. Each one is different and I think there’s no such thing as “the right way” to do something. My baby won’t sleep alone in the crib (from the beginning) and I’m not comfortable in letting him cry his lungs out. But he is learning to sleep on his own, it happens sometimes without forcing him to. So that’s one lesson my mom taught me and I’m seeing it happening. He WILL sleep on his own when it’s time for that. I prefer to love him a lot and not letting him uncomfortable in any situation.

But I’m sure it’s just an opinion. And JUST ONE of the ways of parenting. But that’s the way I’m comfortable with and also my baby (and I think that’s the most important thing).


102 Heather February 8, 2012 at 6:50 am

Love the photo of Baby June!
The article was interesting. Honestly, I get a little defensive when I read stuff like this (“Battle Hymn…” and this one). Parenting should be individual. Yes, we can learn things/techniques from others but ultimately we need to know ourselves as parents and know our children. I don’t believe that I am anywhere near being a “perfect” parent, but I am confident that I am always doing my best, and constantly adapting to help my children grow to be their best selves.
PS I am happy to say (brag?) that my son plays so well by himself. ;)


103 Amy February 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

This paragraph struck a chord with me: “Of course, the French have all kinds of public services that help to make having kids more appealing and less stressful. Parents don’t have to pay for preschool, worry about health insurance or save for college. Many get monthly cash allotments—wired directly into their bank accounts—just for having kids.”

My kids are in high school and junior high, and looking back to when they were younger, I really believe my husband and I would have been more together parents if we weren’t stressed about paying for preschool, or saving for college, or figuring out health insurance. A monthly bump in out bank accounts each month simply for being parents would have been nice, too! We are solidly middle class (upper middle class by some standards) and have worked incredibly hard for the past 25 years with the main goals of providing good educations for our kids – both while they are at home and in anticipation of college – as well as our secure retirement. If those aspects had been paid for, it boggles my mind to imagine the time we would have had to chill out, enjoy the moment, and not be so future-oriented.

Having said that, we have always prized the same things that were mentioned in the article. Patience, playing by oneself, manners, etc. Perhaps because my husband is Italian and shares some of the European ideals of childraising? They seem fairly similar to my ideals, though, and I was raised in the midwestern US.

Great article and discussion. It makes me sad, though, that the US values childrearing so little. We profess to love children and families, but we don’t put our money where our mouths are in terms of helping families with high-quality daycare, liberal maternity and paternity laws, education, etc.


104 Janssen February 8, 2012 at 8:22 am

I just loved this article too and am now eagerly awaiting the arrival of the book!


105 Stephanie@Glass Peacock February 8, 2012 at 10:00 am

Wonderful, thought-provoking topic, Gabrielle! I read the article you referenced…then I followed links to other similar articles! As someone who is currently in the midst of re-thinking her parenting technique, I found the ideas here very much in accord with many of those I am considering. My daughter, the oldest, is 11 and was my easy child. I had to do very little active parenting w/ her. My 5 year old son, on the other hand…is a handful. I have had to alter and change my way of parenting him, specifically in the area of discipline. I was so drawn to the part of the article that pointed out the differences between disciplining a child and educating him. I think my family would benefit from such a paradigm shift.

I have come to realize that there is no one perfect, all-encompassing parenting method. Just like me, my parenting skills are a work in progress. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I fail. But I am always learning.

Thank you for sharing this article!


106 caroline February 8, 2012 at 10:57 am

IRRESISTIBLE … yes !!! :)


107 Jacki February 8, 2012 at 11:14 am

We are Americans living in southern Italy now for 14 years. Our children are currently 15, 13, and 11, so they’ve grown up here, not in the US. There are many things about Italian child raising which we appreciate: babysitters are rare (children go everywhere with their parents) and so learn to interact with adults as well as peers, waiting is common, and children are seen as ultra-valuable. However Italian parenting tends to be rather lax in the discipline area, and it’s nearly a crime to make a child be upset or cry, and so we would tend to categorize them as indulgent. Social interaction on all age levels is a high priority, and so we love when we’re back in the states and see our children happy to hang out with the grown-ups too, unlike many american teens.


108 Martha February 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm

when i saw her on the today show, i thought, yeah right, no way! but i think it says something about expectations. if i expect my kid to interrupt me, i’m going to let her get away with it. but maybe if i act like i expect her to wait and really drill that in (like i do other things that i think are important), she will learn to come talk to me when i’m off the phone. some good things to think about. i’d love to know how to teach solo-play. maybe that’s another expectation thing, like you just explain to the child that every morning while mommy gets ready, you get to do anything you want in your room (that idea of having freedom within boundaries). i’m kind of excited to try some of these ideas!


109 Ann February 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Just finished the article – I hope I am NOT THAT BAD!!!

I do think the article make lots of great points.


Ideally we are raising our children to be the adults we aspire them to be, right?!


110 ivonne February 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm

My grandmother was born in Argentina but his parents were French. She used to repeat time and again that after seven thirty children should be in bed, it was no longer time for children but for adults. Now I understand where it comes from …
About teaching children to wait, there’s a very interesting scientific article on an investigation in 2010 which is based on the studies of Mr. W. The article “Don’ t” was published in the book “The Best American Science and Nature Writing” by Freeman Dyson.


111 Patricia February 9, 2012 at 8:49 am

I read this and I see that French parents are very similar to Latin American parents. Ever since I can remember, i grew up playing by myself, asking for things and patiently waiting for them. Kids had their place and adults theirs, even though we were our parent’s jewels. I just never have dissected this issue before, it is what is it to us. I have certainly notice that American parents seem to find childrearing so exhausting and challenging, whereas LatinAmerican parents may have an easier time because boundaries are set up naturally since they are infants. It’s little things like waiting to eat a piece of sweet or playing by yourself that builds this sense of self-authority that helps children mature. I have notice that in my family everyone has a place, an identity and a role, and this maybe is part of this educating that takes place early on.


112 Michelle February 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Interesting article, but I’m a bit skeptical about a couple of things. Admittedly, I’m a mother who parents my son mostly through instinct. My son is 5, atttends a French immersion school in the States, and is well-behaved just about wherever we go. He plays by himself and with others equally well. He rarely has a tantrum, one in the past 3 years!? I was and am a firm believer in comforting infants and toddlers when they cry no matter when and what the reason. I did. It wasn’t easy. There were nights of broken sleep. The deal is, though, kids don’t have verbal skills and they don’t have reasoning power when they are tiny–annoying but true. They require more physical attention then. If they get plenty of it, they will be so much more calm and happy as young children. (Many studies have shown the highly positive effects of cuddling and touch on the very young). France has a pretty high rate of suicide(17.25 per 100, 000) and depression and I have to wonder if culturally, there might be a reason for it. Maybe attempting to train kids too early to delay gratification? Letting them wait a while before comforting them when they cry, showing them that there’s adult time and kid’s time at the expense of the kids might be convenient for adults but hurtful to the tiny ones? Patience seems like a mighty important skill but not for infants and toddlers!


113 Angela February 10, 2012 at 1:13 am

A 2003 poll found that 84 percent of French parents admit to slapping or spanking their child. I feel pity with these children and I do not envy them at all. Spanking and slapping parents usually “produce” agressive children who go on slapping and spanking their own children and even other people as well. It´s like a vicious circle. Nothing to be really proud of I´m afraid.


114 nadege February 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I have never left a comment on any blog but I was sent this article by a friend and happen to see it here today as well on my weekly excursion on the blog(absolutely delightful blog, beauty, practicality and discovery all in one).
I am French, my husband is American and after living in France we are currently in the US. I often wonder if the slight differences in parenting techniques arise from personality or cultural upbringing. I do agree that there is very little interest, if any, in declaring a culture above another on such subjective matters. I have seen my share of badly behaved kids in France ( and being a teacher I have been in contact with a lot of children and their parents both in the US and in France). I was surprised by the article, I do not see this(alleged) parenting gap. I do not find French kids to be either more polite or more patient than their American counterparts.I do think, though, that French parents and American parents are not dealt the same cards, it seems to all boil down to a radically different approach to food and time. Children in the States are on schedules, and tight ones with that, they are constantly on the go. The school days might be shorter but it makes my head spin to see all we try to cram in a ,say 34 minute, lunch break. If lunch breaks in France were to be shortened to half an hour, you would have demos in the streets. It seems to me that for kids to be patient they need to have time to be bored, they might wait more willingly if they know their free time is not going to run out without them getting to what they want.
As for the snacking, well, I am appalled by what children eat here, at school, in the cars, opening fridges left and right and this strange concept of the ‘Kid menu’, French kids better in restaurants? probably because they know it takes time to make food and that being young is not a condition that requires a special diet. As for the rest kids are kids the world over and parents too.


115 Martina February 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I love this concept. I hate when people use the term discipline for what they mean to be punishment. Discipline is training that happens continuously. Also, I love the idea of teaching patience from an early age. I believe my husband and I have done that just by being laid back ourselves. Definitely not the jump out of bed and run to the crib at the first cry kind of people, which may be partly why our daughter is so good at falling asleep on her own. Some of our friends might secretly think that’s cruel but we’re all sleeping through the night and they’re not…which I think is cruel! :)


116 Earendil February 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm

i don’t have kids yet and i don’t know enough about the USA to comment on the american side of things but since I am french, i can say that it is true (in my family at least!) that parents usually let their kids cry if they know it’s just a tantrum of theirs (not if they’re hungry or something like that, so it’s not torture ^^).
it is also true we learn behaving during meals quite early, but it is also part of the french culture to spend some hours at the table each day (but it is also the same thing in spain or in italy for example, places where we tend to worship food… or something similar to worship ;) ) and it is the place where the family is reunited and where everyone talks about their day.
I don’t remember any of my parents giving me a slap, maybe a spank or two, but it probably wasn’t very hard, i just knew what i could do and couldn’t do (in front of them at least ^^)
i went on my first school trip at the age of 3 (it lasted 3 days and it is actually my first “real” memory!)! My mother didn’t really want to let me go but i told her i really wanted to go and she let me. We used to have a school trip nearly every year, and we always had a great time: it’s very nice to be away from home, even when you’re 10 or less! :)

i always have fun reading articles like this one and reading all the comments below, it’s always very interesting!


117 stephmodo February 11, 2012 at 9:57 am

When we lived there Ben and I constantly had discussions about why our kids didn’t behave as well as French children. It kind of made me crazy amidst all the stress of the renovation. If I gave my toddler a little basket of wild strawberries at the market people laughed and pointed. I was confused as to why that was so comical and of interest to anyone, but soon realized that French children had to wait until they were sitting at a table to eat. No snacking (the exception at this was at school…my kids received a “goutez” after school at 4 pm…chocolate and a baguette…a fresh peach, etc.). I could go on about this but I’ll end here for the sake of space :)


118 Justine February 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I agree that we are seeing an American obsession with French culture and parenting recently. I love Celeste’s comment and think we can certainly learn from each other and from other cultures. Thank you for sharing the article. You might also be interested in this NPR story from a few days ago featuring Pamela Druckerman’s book:

Three cheers to the robust intellect of your group of commenters!


119 Vicki February 11, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I read it and was so envious!


120 welovecitrus February 14, 2012 at 12:43 am

I feel that some parents feel that they have to entertain and caterer to their kids 24/7, so kids expect it and if that doesn’t happen they become impatient. I also have a hard time understanding how some kids are so over scheduled , little kids as early as 3 involved in far too many activities (music, sports, language, etc.). Aren’t we pushing our kids too hard? Kids need time to play, to lay low, to be creative or to just be peaceful piggies. Ana


121 Fashion for the Rest of Us February 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I believe in discipline and not spoiling your kids rotten, but I do not buy completely into Pamela’s argument…


122 jen February 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm

wow – i just read the article and i am amazed at how much i am like a french parent! not completely but the framework is there….we are still a bit goofy and try to push the boundaries sometimes…..i actually feel a little better about the whole things…thank you.


123 Carey February 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Oooh… convicting! I like to think that I’m on the strict side but I find myself losing my patience with two wailing children at my feet FAR too often to really believe it. I’m not sure I could be as detached as some of the examples in the initially discussed article seem to portray but I could definitely stand to be a bit more authoritarian… after all, the entire household would benefit! Knowing that gratification delayers are more successful in life, it’s a worthwhile habit to instill.


124 Antoaneta April 3, 2012 at 11:44 am

Here in Bulgaria we have same methods and most young mothers call it now old fashioned grandma rules or what is worse communist discipline.
İt has nothing to do with politics its just simple discipline modern moms dont like cos its not written in the books we read.


125 Maria April 27, 2012 at 6:25 am

I lived in Europe for a couple years and it was only in France when I witnessed parents hitting and slapping their kids. It was very shocking. My impression was that they ruled with an iron fist. I realize not everyone is the same, but I did notice it a lot. Also, I agree that most Europeans don’t bring their kids out to do stuff like dinners and coffee. We often felt judged for having our kids with us! Still, Europe is incredible and full of warm lovely people. I guess we are all dif. I vote for more engaged parenting and less distracted, frantic helicopter parents.


126 Sarah May 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm

wow, that is such a timely article! That was completely me at the park with my 21 month old the other day……………. thanks


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: