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Why French Parents Aren’t Superior

 

This week I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Why French Parents are Superior by Pamela Druckerman who recently published the book Bringing Up Bebe. Upon first reading it, I, like many others, was feeling a bit overwhelmed and confused about my own style of parenting. Of course, it was February vacation. Roozle was home. Eating crackers for breakfast and watching Mary Poppins on my laptop while MCB and I scrambled around the house to get ready for the day without too many tantrums caused by a disrupted routine. I felt judged. Quickly, though I realized, I wasn’t alone. There were lots of other mothers looking at this article and lucky for me, they have the time and resources to do a much better job of saying what I really want to say. She is wrong. Her definition of superior is different than mine and one I want nothing to do with.

It turns out, these magical French children are amazing in restaurants and give loads of time to their parents to chat on their own, but 80% of those same parents admit that they hit their children from time to time. So it seems, not only do these amazing children have occasional tantrums (because tantrums are normal), but they are strongly disciplined for it. In a way that I am very much uncomfortable with.

Elaine Sciolino writes in her New York Times review of Druckerman’s new book, “One way French parents try to keep their children in line is with an occasional whack on the side of the head, the arm or the bottom. More than 80 percent of French parents, according to polls over the last decade, slap or spank their children from time to time.”

The thing is, I don’t want to hit my child. I don’t want to not ever play with her or explore with her. As it is, our time together is so limited, I try to spend as much time with her as I can. There are certainly times that she wanders off and does her own work. We encourage that, and she is a Montessori student anyway, but for the most part I would rather work side by side with her. Both of us learning from each other as we go. I have plenty of time at work or after bed for conversations with grown ups. I didn’t choose to become a parent for that.

She also points out some other common practices in French parenting: formula feeding, cry it out, and automatic epidurals. Druckerman herself also mentions that the French children only eat four times a day and how that teaches children to wait. Really? If my daughter is hungry for a healthy snack at 10am and I give it to her, I am raising her to be impatient? That is ridiculous. Roozle is learning patience all day long. Through her experiences. Not because she is hungry.

What seems to be a part of the French Standard for parenting, according to this article, is absolutely not what I want for my family. And the fact that all these items were off the table but that the French were deemed Superior just based on the fact that their children can eat quietly in restaurants and don’t have tantrums is wrong to me. If my child were afraid to be spanked, she would probably act a little better at a restaurant too, but the truth is, I will take the tantrums any day if losing them meant that I ever had to hit my child.

Additional Reading

Book review of Bringing Up Bebe
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/books/review/pamela-druckermans-bringing-up-bebe.html

Building Self-Control
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/opinion/sunday/building-self-control-the-american-way.html?pagewanted=all

“French methods like forcing children to follow schedules and wait for attention. But in the school system, this strict approach translates to a rigid curriculum with an emphasis on memorization.” Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang

Who Says American Parents are Inferior?
http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/06/who-says-american-parents-are-inferior/

What’s Behind a Temper Tantrum?
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/05/143062378/whats-behind-a-temper-tantrum-scientists-deconstruct-the-screams

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