From the category archives:

French parenting

French Kids Eat Everything

February 21, 2012

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I know. I know. Discussions about French children, and their behavior, are everywhere right now (including on this very blog). Obviously, it’s a topic I’m curious about while we’re living here in France, so I hope you’ll indulge me. The other day, I heard about a book called French Kids Eat Everything. It’s written by Karen Le Billon, and it comes out in April, so I haven’t read it yet, but the title reminded me of something my children reported — that during school lunches the French kids eat everything on their plate. At every meal.

In several cultural guidebooks, I read the same thing is true for adults — that it’s considered rude not to finish everything on your plate at a restaurant or a neighbor’s home.

At our home, we don’t have the finish-everything-on-your-plate-official-rule, but since we’ve moved here, I notice that my kids do clean their plates. It seems to be a habit they’ve picked up. And I confess: I like it. I feel like they’re more considerate about how much food they serve themselves, knowing they will finish every bite. They seem to be more aware of their portions.

What about you? Do you have any official or unofficial food rules at your house? Do you ever leave unfinished food on your plates? Were you a picky eater as a kid? Are you still one as an adult?

P.S. — Drawings by the lovely Sarah Jane — she illustrated the whole book.

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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. : )

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This article about French mothers has me thinking about the ways different cultures parent. Things like, the French are wonderful about teaching table manners. Jordan told us she was in awe when she visited a Paris pre-school and saw 2 year olds eating bananas — they peeled them without assistance, carefully sliced them with knives and forks, then ate each slice, also with their forks. At age 2!

Or how about Sweden, where there’s a focus on children spending time outside. I was blown away when I learned there are preschools held entirely out-of-doors! Then of course, there are my English friends, who talk about how commonplace the idea of boarding school is. But I don’t personally know a single American family that sends their kids to boarding school. My brain can hardly wrap itself around the concept. : )


Another example has been on my mind all week. Our daughter Olive, age 10, is on a school field trip. She left on Saturday morning, and won’t be back until Friday night. A one-week school trip! They are at a ski resort 9 hours away. Can you imagine? Our other kids have never done anything like this at her age, but here, no one seems to think it’s extraordinary at all.

We miss Olive like crazy, and as usual, the house just doesn’t feel quite right because someone is missing. But we get daily reports that everything is going swimmingly and I’m sure Olive is having the time of her life.

Please share. What parenting styles/techniques from other cultures would you like to copy? Have you ever changed your parenting style when you moved to a new state, or to another country?

P.S. — The article also has me irritated because it makes French mothers sound so mean. I’ve spent time around lots of French mothers this past year and have seen nothing but the typical, compassionate, in-love-with-my-kids mothering that you can find the world over.  Also, the images of the very well-mannered Baby June were taken by Wendy.


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