December 16, 2019 2 Comments

For them, "no" is "no."

Different cultures have different parenting styles, but there's a good reason American moms have become obsessed with the European style of parenting—in many ways, it works.

American writer and journalist, Pamela Druckerman (who lives with her family in Paris), discovered this about French moms. In her book Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, she wrote about an epiphany moment in a restaurant when she was wrestling her daughter to eat pasta and bread. When she looked around, however, none of the other parents seemed to be having the same feeding issues as she was. In fact, the French moms seemed to have mealtime well under control as their children behaved and ate the food placed in front of them.

What made the difference? She discovered that French parenting took on approaches that were different from the American way, making a significant impact on their kids’ behavior. Below are some of these differences:

1. What maman eats, bébé eats.

When we say "kid's meal," we refer to fast food, junk food, cereals and absolutely everything else that is colorful, fun to eat and often supremely high in sugar. And if kid food is “fun,” then adult food must be boring for kids. No wonder so many children have zero interest in eating fresh vegetables, lean meats and anything else considered healthy! Health equals serious. Serious equals boring.

But with French moms, a dichotomy does not exist; there is no deliberate line between “kid food” and “adult food.” What parents eat is also what the children eat. The result? French kids develop an appreciation (though in some instances, it might be tolerance rather than appreciation) for different types of food. They learn to eat vegetables at a young age without having their mothers cloak fresh produce in funny names or interesting shapes.

2. Take time before rushing to their crying babies.

French moms are also not quick to rush to their baby’s side when she starts to cry in the middle of the night. The customary practice among Americans moms, on the other hand, is to ensure their child feels safe and secure no matter what and no matter when. This is why most moms will say that sleep disruption is a common occurrence in the early months of parenting.

While ignoring the cries of your baby is difficult and makes you feel like the most horrible parent on the planet, it is important to keep in mind that sleep deprivation can be damaging to moms. Letting your baby cry on his or her own for a short while also trains the baby’s sleep patterns, benefitting the child in the long run. Research shows that if parents let their babies, who are at least 7 months old, cry on their own for a brief time before rushing to their side, babies can learn to soothe themselves. The notion of independence is ingrained very early on.

3. "Yes" to self-expression, but "no" to tantrums or compromises.

In connection to teaching kids about independence whilst still inside their crib, French moms also encourage kids to take part in adult conversations and express themselves. Children are encouraged to spend time cultivating their identity with other kids or by themselves. However, French moms are not afraid to discipline their child in public when he or she throws a tantrum. In contrast, many American parents are prepared to compromise with their kid to stop a tantrum and signal to the child that he or she is being heard. With French parenting, "no" is "no."

4. Don't obsess over the decision to work or stay at home.

A lot of moms in America struggle with the choice of being a career-oriented go-getter or a fully present stay-at-home mom. They try as much as they can to get the benefits of having a work-life balance, but leaving their babies at home can be heart-wrenching. The guilt of leaving one’s child affects the attention women have at work, which creates such a stressful situation. In French culture, the working mom is also the norm, so they feel much less guilt as they return to the workplace post-birth.

In an interview, Druckerman said, “The French view is really one of balance, I think ... What French women would tell me over and over is, it's very important that no part of your life—not being a mom, not being a worker, not being a wife—overwhelms the other part."

While the French parenting style is being hailed as “superior” by some, what remains true is that parenting styles will always differ across the board. You do not need to actually pick a side (American or French?) and judge the other as the “wrong kind of parenting." Simply, more styles mean more options for parents, and a bigger opportunity to tailor your parenting based on your preference, personality and most importantly, your child’s needs.

Written by Fairygodboss for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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2 Responses

Anne-Sophie Strong
Anne-Sophie Strong

December 20, 2019

I am from France and I have been living in the USA since I married my husband who is a U.S. citizen. Discipline is key to sanity for me raising three children 3 and under.
I have actually been raised what you can call “the French way” and I am raising my children the same way, but my husband uses the same discipline. I think it depends on families; the “relax protective” method used by most Americans is very common in France too nowadays.
I personally believe “the French way” is the way that works for me, but each child is different so in the end the approach slightly differs.
I do like my culture being referred as “positive”. Thank you for this nice article about it.

Cassia Reece
Cassia Reece

December 17, 2019

Being from Scotland and living in the USA, as a mamma (4 under 7 with a 5th on the way), I’ve found my own parenting style to differ wildly from my friends here. I can resonate strongly with the ways of French mammas and I’m complimented often including a 15 hour international plane journey on how well my children conduct themselves. My expectations of them are clear from a very young age and they all have their own set of responsibilities too. My aim is to raise confident, independent and productive members of society who love The Lord and others around them.

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