Are zee French better at being parents?

A friend recommended this story about how French parents bring up bebe differently.

From The Huffington Post:

“Sixteen years ago, when my first child was born in Paris, I baby-proofed our apartment with rubber edge liners, covers on electrical sockets, latches on windows, locks on drawers and toilet seat guards. The parts of our living room that weren’t bound and shackled were filled with happy, fluorescent kiddie toys. My French neighbor Genevieve took one look at our place and said: “Your apartment looks like a psych ward.” This was one of several lessons I’d learn about how the French parent differently from us….”

“Now author and French expatriate Pamela Druckerman brings us her soon-to-be-published “Bringing Up Bebe,” a book exclusively dedicated to this comparative parenting turf. Druckerman, 41, has three kids that she’s been raising in Paris. On the origins of her book, she told the Daily Mail in a recent profile: ‘My French friends didn’t have to hurriedly end phone calls because their kids were shouting for something…They were, overall, just more relaxed. It was a cumulative effect, which lead to a ‘hang on, maybe they’re onto something,’ So I decided to look into it.’ ”

Here are a few of the differences Druckerman found:

- While childhood trumps adulthood in the States, the opposite is largely true in France.

- French parents have boundaries particularly in protecting the sanctity of parents’ private life.

- French women don’t suffer the same guilt about everything.

” ‘The French are absolutely not draconian about their own rules. They actually believe that children are more capable, in some ways, and believe in their autonomy. They just give a clear framework in which they can learn and see it’s a process — you don’t suddenly arrive at being a brilliant parent.’ “

There are a bunch of other examples in the article as well as another funny story at the end.

I would love to relax and act more French with my kids. I am thinking I will try to implement some of the ideas at home – mainly the one where I don’t let the kids in my bedroom anymore.

What do you think? Are the French better parents? How can Americans mimic their laissez-faire attitude?

34 comments Add your comment

karma

January 26th, 2012
6:55 am

Better than you? yes.

Me

January 26th, 2012
7:13 am

I think anyone is capable of going overboard in either direction. While being aware of safety issues and taking necessary precautions is prudent I think being a so-called “Mother Hen” sets a bad example. The earlier offspring can begin figuring things out for themselves the better.

Kat

January 26th, 2012
7:27 am

It must be all the wine that the parents drink in Paris. Certainly, some of the parents on this blog (won’t mention names, but let’s just say they like to toss in the fact that they are due for another baby soon, and this is how they are preparing for the baby, and so on) are annoyingly in your face and others are quite calm and let the chips fall where they may.

Those are two extremes, but most fall somewhere in the middle. I like to think that I fall in the middle.

Augusta

January 26th, 2012
7:57 am

I’m tired of comparing parental skills. We do what works for us..You do what works for you. who gives a flip about what the french do…..How about the hispanics? Are they better parents? The Irish? The English? The Australians??????

Really Theresa???

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 26th, 2012
8:45 am

Augusta – it was a funny story about cultural differences. I loved the first anecdote.

Also for anyone else that uses MotherJane Gooses’s name on the blog you will be immediately banned. I’m done playing that game. I’m tired of it and so is she.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 26th, 2012
8:46 am

Plus I got to write zee in a headline – so there you go!

mom2alex&max

January 26th, 2012
8:46 am

Augusta, if you don’t like the topic, feel free to move on. Defensive, much?

On topic: the Europeans are most definitely more relaxed when it comes to parenting. They do not make child centric families or lives. The children adjust to the family, not the other way around. For that reason, I think, children are more welcomed in a lot of places: because no one expects any kind of special treatment for having a kid. And the center of the family is the marriage (or adult partnership), not the children.

I happen to agree with this. I do not make my children the center of our universe. We love them, we care for them, we do everything we can to provide them with a good environment to grow up in. But the children do not rule the roost and my marriage is a big priority for us.

Lori

January 26th, 2012
8:57 am

I don’t think the French are the only ones who parent that way. I know many Americans who do. I didn’t child-proof my house. Wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, my little boy at 9 months old was opening the so called child-proof cabinets at a friends house! Just put the darn cleaning supplies on the top shelf, problem solved! Boundaries and consistency are all you really need, then don’t be afraid to let your kid make mistakes. Sure, my 5 year old spilled the gallon of milk trying to pour himself some, but after having to clean it up a couple of times, he learned to pour slower!! Let them make the mistakes, then let them take the consequences and learn from them.

Voice of Reason

January 26th, 2012
9:07 am

It comes down to the question of who is in charge here? You the parent? Or your kid?

My job as a parent is to teach them what is right, what is wrong, and that there are consequences of any decision they make to consider before they make it.

You let them walk all over you now and they will be walking all over you for the rest of your life and you will have nobody to blame but yourselves.

K's Mom

January 26th, 2012
9:15 am

@Kat, so sorry that my excitement over my new little one annoys you. Had you been told by numerous physicians that you would never had one kid and are now pregnant with your second you would shout from the rooftops too.

Now onto the subject, @Voice of reason, Mom2alexa nd Lori, I think you are spot on. There is a lot of backlash to helicopter parenting in the States and I see a lot of parents doing it the “french” way. My husband and I are included. I like John Rosemond and the concepts you outline are strikingly similar to his!

K's mom

January 26th, 2012
9:37 am

and @TWG Just got to your last line, it somehow did not show up on my phone. You should read John Rosemond. I know you are Christian and would likely find Parenting by the Book interesting. He recommends strong boundaries and they are all based in scripture. I am generally not a religious wing nut and am usually skeptical of Christian authors, but we loved this book.

jarvis

January 26th, 2012
10:01 am

The only thing the French have ever done well is kiss…..oh, and plunder Italian art.

Working Mom

January 26th, 2012
10:02 am

I think the Europeans tend to be more easy going about things in general.

bessbear

January 26th, 2012
10:03 am

I think the French are doing it right. Americans are way too protective and really are keeping kids from being independent. Someday check out the Free Range Kids blog, written by the woman who let her 10yr old (maybe 9) take the NY subway back home. Recent story on there mentioning a college student who instead of calling 911 during a fire, called the parents. Kids are not learning to be independent – they go off to college not knowing how to cook, clean, balance their checkbook….. And kids don’t get outside enough. Not only do they need exercise, but being in contact with the outside world is so important. We need to let them learn for themselves and stop putting up so many security barriers to them doing so.

Roberta

January 26th, 2012
10:05 am

With only 2 or 3 examples of how French parents raise their children differently than American parents, how can anyone reading this article possibly draw any type of conclusion? I would expect cultural differences in all aspects of life when comparing American culture with that of any other country in the world.

I also agree 100% with both John Rosemond and Clark Howard’s opinions on parents relationships with their children.

Figment

January 26th, 2012
10:06 am

The baby proofing didn’t work for my son, he could open most of the baby proof latches and doors. Gates on stairs are about the only thing I would do again in regards to baby proofing.

My parents didn’t make us children the center of everything and I try not to make my son the family focus. He’s my son and I would do anything for him but he’s not in charge, that’s my title. I let him have too much control when he was a baby and now that he’s almost 4 I’ve having to reign him in a bit to regain my control. He’s responding really well to daily structure and the rules of the house.

When he’s with his dad I have no idea what goes on but I know every time I get him back I have to get him back under control. His dad seems more lax on rules and structure, which is a shame but it’s out of my control.

Augusta

January 26th, 2012
10:29 am

I don’t believe anyone is perfect in the parenting department. We are all flying by the seat of our pants. There is no parental expert. You can read what you want, listen to who you want, but in the end it all comes down to YOU. You have to do what is best for your children, and your situation.

And generally, Europeans are much more relaxed about life than Americans. Nudity for one example. Europeans have no problem with the naked body. Americans are prudish and must cover up. God forbid a child might see a body part, you know like we all have????? I just don’t get it? Every man has a penis, every woman has a vagina. Even in Europe…..why are Americans so focused on NOT allowing our children to appreciate their bodies????? Instead, we march our teenaged daughters to the plastic surgeon for botox and boob jobs.

We all have bodies, and we all have the same parts.

Teacher, Too

January 26th, 2012
10:39 am

I, too, think of John Rosemond when I read this article. I think the reason for many divorces in this country is the fact that some (many) parents put their children first instead of their marriage. You have to tend to your marriage in order to create a secure, loving environment.

My parents had adult time– and trust me, my sister and I knew we were not invited. They loved us, but we were not the center of their universe. They’ve been married 52 years… and never felt unloved or neglected. I did learn how to entertain myself– it was not my parents job to keep me entertained!

jarvis

January 26th, 2012
10:55 am

French divorce rate is 33%. That’s even with a legal minimum of 6 months before a marriage can be disoveld and equal protection of domestic partners (same sex or opposite sex). Less of them get married to begin with and they still have about the same percentage of divorces.

Soccer MILF

January 26th, 2012
12:01 pm

The day the French are better is the day i move to Australia.

Augusta

January 26th, 2012
12:22 pm

Let’s remember that the French are fairly spineless and cowardy. Remember, if it wasn’t for the US, they would be speaking German there.

catlady

January 26th, 2012
12:46 pm

Oh, I hurt my surrendering arm!

catlady

January 26th, 2012
12:49 pm

Theresa–Oh, say, can you zee?

maryann

January 26th, 2012
1:00 pm

Augusta, I won’t say what I am really thinking but completely take offense to your coments!!!! My mother is French and went back during WWII and joined the Free French Army as a nurse and told stories you would not believe about other countries’ soldiers (but not US soldiers). She has been a great mother, great grandmother, and works harder at 88 than I bet you do!!!! I have had enough of people making the comments about the French.

Soccer MILF

January 26th, 2012
1:12 pm

Are the French better parents? It really depends on the parenting subject. If the parenting subject is surrendering yourself to a superior then sure. If the subject is wine, moldy cheese or acting unfriendly then yes. if the subject is protesting if the work week exceeds 20 hours then yes.

If the subject is being an awesome human being who works hard, never gives up and likes to be a social and polite person…..then no.

Sage

January 26th, 2012
1:26 pm

IMO you can’t compare French parenting or even Asian student achievement to anything here in the US. “American” parents come from so many different cutures. This country is not a melting pot and has not been for a long time.

Becky

January 26th, 2012
1:35 pm

@K’s mom..I have been meanng to say this for a while and always seem to keep forgeting..Congrats on the new baby..I’m sure that you are thrilled if that is what the Dr. had told you..I was never blessed enough to have kids, so I wish you, your husband and K all of the best…

As for the topic..I don’t have a clue if they are better parents or not..As has already been mentioned, you do what you can (sometimes) and hope for the very best outcome..

Soccer MILF

January 26th, 2012
2:06 pm

I saw that this was a Huffington Post clip….nuff said.

K's Mom

January 26th, 2012
2:57 pm

Thank you Becky. I am sure I can be a bit annoying in my excitement, but it is genuine. We have 14 more weeks to go and I am so ready meet our new little guy and eat sushi ;o)!

cobb mom

January 26th, 2012
3:28 pm

Congratulations K’s mom. With fertility treatments I was able to have my two healthy children that I am very grateful for. I understand the excitement of having a child when you thought it would never happen.

To the people making the nasty comments about France and surrendering, learn a little history, just a little. When you are completely outmatched you don’t sacrifice your civilians. You are fortunate to live in the US where military spending has always been a priority with a strong economy to pay the bills. We spend more on military than the rest of the world combined. Soccer MILF (really??!! you are comfortable with this moniker?) you need to go troll Fox News.

K's mom

January 26th, 2012
3:40 pm

Thanks to you Cobb Mom. We were so fortunate that after 4 surgeries, I conceived naturally both times. We are just so blessed with these little guys!

motherjanegoose

January 26th, 2012
4:44 pm

I think it is important to compare parental skills; however, I am not necessarily in tune with what the French are doing. I watched what my parents did and , after learning a lot in college and years of working with children, I hardly do anything the way they did. I watched other people ( still do) and observed the way they interacted with their children. I admired children who were well rounded and tried my best to emulate their parent’s format. Yes, I wanted my children to be safe but I also wanted them to learn outcomes. I put up a gate and child proofed my cabinets. I also let them skin their knees and did not rush to school with their homework nor coats left home. They would learn next time. For the most part, I am pleased with the way my two have turned out. They are hard working and kind. Their employers speak well of them as did their teachers. They are both still in school and have interesting and diverse friends. They are fun to be around. They still have their quirks, as do I, and that makes them who they are. Both are very last minute and this is not a trait I passed along but it does run in our family. On the flip side, they got a more laid back aspect from their Dad and not me…so they do not deal with the stress I sometimes cause myself. My job is pretty much finished but I never considered it a crap shoot nor flying by the seat of my pants. I do know that you can do your absolute best and even then…things can fall apart. I also know that you reap what you sow. I have typically been on the strict side a.k.a. MEAN MOM and have had little drama or grief. Tomorrow is another day and so we will see :).

Becky

January 27th, 2012
3:02 am

@K’s mom..People being happy about being pregnant are never annoying to me, except for people in my family, because most of them shouldn’t be having kids..:)

JATL

January 27th, 2012
8:48 am

Wow -it sounds just like parenting in this country before around 1980 when everyone seemed to go nuts about child-rearing and being helicopter parents. I guess we’re French because we have our own lives that we demand stay intact! My kids know better than to interrupt me on the phone or when I’m speaking to another adult unless blood or fire is involved. And I certainly don’t feel guilty about my time, my work or taking trips without them. I love them more than anything, and we spend great time together, but they were brought into my life by me because I wanted them -not to take over my entire existence and swallow me whole. Adults definitely trump children in our family. I believe in giving kids something to look forward to about growing up -they can rule their own roost then. They have plenty of say so at our house and we do things we all enjoy, but they have their place -and it’s not running the show.

The only child proofing we ever did were locks on the cabinets with poison and cleaners in them, some outlet plugs and a baby gate at the top of the stairs, which was as much for the dogs as the kids. They are 3 and 5 now and have never suffered a horrific in-home accident due to negligence.

Parents here today seem to want to find things to worry and obsess about. It’s really bizarre. I can’t help but think the outcome is just going to be a bunch of neurotic, anxiety-filled little pansies.