Pamela Druckerman details her observations on why French kids seem to behave better and throw fewer tantrums. She also looks at how French mothers are able to maintain their pre-children life after having children.
"The French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive," she wrote. "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. 'For me, the evenings are for the parents,' one Parisian mother told me. 'My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it's adult time.' French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are--by design--toddling around by themselves."
Do you think American parenting needs to change?
You can read up about Druckerman's book in this review from the WSJ.
Can you ask Druckerman why she so negates French governmental policies when talking about French parenting?
Wouldn't French-style parenting be easier if we had 16-36 weeks off, too, instead of just 6? Or if we knew that we had just a few short years until they began a free, quality childcare?
I second the comment about govt. policies. I have lived in Europe, and there is more time off, more day care, maternity leave, paternity leave, e.g. more support policies... as an American parent, I have to do TWICE the work balancing kids and work that my European counterparts do... culture matters, but so do policies.
When will Americans stop simply paying lip service to family values and actually provide more family supportive policies? I'd love to give my kids a 5 course meal at noon for two hours, finishing with a fruit plate and cheese, but this is never going to happen even if I wanted to do it...
Pamela Druckerman, Kerri's guest, looking very cosmopolitan.
@KerriMPR Ah, the arrogance of the French! My kids do all that they claim
The New Yorker on willpower and kids.
Francoise Dolto, little known in America, a titan in France.
I've got two well adjusted and wonderful late teens--we basically raised them as your author suggests, and we got a lot of flak in Minnesota for not including our kids in all of our social events and making them the center of our existence.
We did not 100% reconfigure our home or our lives when we had kids, and we had (and have) great sleepers, eaters, and patient, well behaved kids who know how to interact with adults and their peers. I have loved the teen years and I think our approach to them as youngsters has contributed to how great our kids are turning out.
All of this parenting talk sure sounds a lot like my Montessori education, would the guest link the two?
@stephcurtis she is conflating her parenting skills with ALL americans' parenting skills
Any evidence that french kids turn out better? French work ethic??? HAHA!
French parents sound like American grandparents - as a grandparent I can take things slower, be more relaxed, give my grandson more space, and really enjoy being part of their development.
@KerriMPR This sounds pretty much how I grew up in MN. I played by myself all the time! I didnt know that it wasn't the norm. Way to go Mom!
Listening more to Mrs. Druckerman I do agree in part on culture; American parents are so focused on more, faster, better, instant gratification and that we don't teach children to be patient and work things out themselves, but isn't this in part due to the prevailing culture of parenting in America where parents are chided if they aren't constantly engaged with their kids? With "quality time" and always "being there" for their kids?
How do French parents handle teenagers differently? Is there the same obsession with having their kids being super busy all the time? (sports, volunteering etc. outside of schoolwork).
And RadioLab weighs in on the marshmallow test.
How are American parents supposed to teach "patience" when a majority of American parents don't have patience themselves?
I completely agree with Ms. Druckerman. I feel guilty sitting on the bench at the park.
There are so many other mothers that I know that are giving so much to their children that they seem to lose themselves. Often times I feel like it's wrong to pursue my own interests like music & work.
This style of parenting just seems like common sense to me, but I do agree the Europeans make it much easier for parents with paid maternity leave, better benefits, etc.
Digested version of Druckerman from The Guardian.
As a first-time mom of a 5 week old, there is so much contradictory information on parenting. Interesting subject, but I think you still need to go with your gut.
Lack of routine is my main challenge. When I grew up, dinner was @ 5:30 EVERY night and kids were expected to help w/ weekly chores every Sat. before they were free to "play".
Now, with 3 children, all in different activities, dinner can't possibly be at 5:30 each night (if we want to eat together), etc.
If there's no routine to stick to, chores don't get done and kids don't feel responsible to "pitch in". This feeds into the narcisism of the child and frustration of the parent. A tough balance to figure out ...
I think this is not only French parenting, but a lost art just the same. I was raised and raised my 2 children that the world does NOT revolve around them.
This is an adult world and we need to raise children to function in it. Now I work in a High School and there are so many kids who have never heard the word NO.
Can the author comment on exclusive breastfeeding and French parents?
Research definitely supports exclusive breastfeeding is BETTER than formula and I'm having trouble seeing how this "French style" of parenting would incorporate breastfeeding on demand? Thanks.
I'm wondering if Ms. Druckerman has any comments on Polly Platt's theories that French parents believe they are raising a citizen, a subject of the state, whereas American parents are raising individuals.
To the comments regarding French work ethic, the author is gravely misinformed. The French are 4th/5th economy in the world when it comes to per capita GDP.
I'd like to understand the working siutation of French Families better.
Are both parents working? My husband and I both have pretty successful careers, we're working to save for retirement, save for college, and have a preschooler and an infant in Montessori.
We have little time to spend with our kids and when we do there's pressure for it to be quality, peaceful time. If I was at home full time, then maybe I would be napping at the merry go round.
(Limoges, France- Assistant English teacher in a public high school) I would say there isn't only support with in just the family unit but a large majority of children are taught life lessons from their community here. Many parents and children aren't on their own.
Tradition is also a large factor. Sitting in a park on a Sunday afternoon will show that bondage. From children learning to walk to grandparents trying to keep up.
as regards food, if we do not offer "kids food" our kids will eat real food. It's not a mystery!
Is this a basic difference in philosophy? Some people feel the kids needs come before their's and the kids lives take priority, others feel they are first and the kids second.
I lived with a French family with small children for a full year and have been back many times.
These are lovely people, but the French parenting style can be difficult to watch. Corporal punishment, yelling, very authoritarian, distanced/cold. I've seen it often in France in other families as well. I think the author is idealizing the French way to critique the worst of the American ways.
I am a mother who was living in Europe for several years while my children were small. I think that Druckerman's book is fascinating.
I experienced the same observations which she explores in this book. American mothers AND fathers need to loosen up, take a leadership role in parenting and not be so dominated by their young children.
This doesn't mean being bullies or abusive; it does mean being more confident in themselves and not to think of a child as the center of the universe. Children need to learn that others have feelings and they need to be respectful. Parents also need to let their kids be kids and not micromanage their children. I think that American parents would enjoy parenthood more if they just loosened up.
in my limited experience- French families don't seem to see any value in what I would call community spirit or the idea you would do something to accomidate someone else just because it would be polite- I've had to walk around french kids becuase they won't put their legs down in an isle, I've been stuck on planes as the French famliy slowly packs up, blocking all passages- there seems to be an attitude of "it's all about me- you just deal" (or maybe that's a refection on my American lack of patience : )
"To the comments regarding French work ethic, the author is gravely misinformed. The French are 4th/5th economy in the world when it comes to per capita GDP." What is the US ranking?
I think kids in High School in France have limited freedoms compared to the US and the french system is very strict so eventually it creates what the first caller's talked about. Personally I was a quiet student until I reached 14 but after years of sitting down and being silent there was a point where I became rebellious...
The "french" parenting described is the way our house has operated. We are not French. I think you are describing some parents but certainly not most.
Our child has always eaten bleu cheese, attended concerts (quietly), never asked for treats in a store. As with many parenting books, I think the author is describing herself and some of her American friends. You know the saying "I never woulda seen it if I hadn't believed it."
I agree with most of this... and think I raised my child this way. But I also witnessed similar parenting in Norway so I suggest that the author has not researched this widely, as it may be more of a western or perhaps just a non-American approach.
I do not belief it is only a french thing.
On the other hand, I had a wonderful french 16 yr old live with me for a year and she behaved perfectly. I had another french 11 yr old for 3 wks and she and her french classmates misbehaved the minute they were unsupervised. I had another 20 yr old french person live with me for several months who was very not self-sufficient yet very strong-willed and independent.
So although I am sure all she writes about in her book is true and well-analyzed, I think similar parenting in other places.
When I was a child - my parents taught us to eat with this same grace. Once a month we practiced good manners and dining on new foods. We had to dress up and sit at the table and engage in conversation while trying several courses with my parents adult guests. We've tried the same with our children and feel that they are very well prepared to be in various social situations.
Pamela Druckerman recommends having children bake REALLY young. 4. Here's a recipe similar to the one she has in her book.
I quick google; wikipedia says France is 20th in per capita GDP and another web site say 35th. Where did you see 4th or 5th?
I don't want to be rude but the author sounds like a naive, perhaps "ugly American" her first years in France: e.g., eating out with the kids and leaving a mess. Even in America that is bothersome and should not be acceptable but poor decision-making by parents has become the norm.
Our children eat what I make. I'm always reminded of the ramifications of becoming a short-order cook when the girls have friends over for dinner. They tend to not eat anything other than pizza and mac-n-cheese.
I wonder: Do French parents (as a general term for this conversation) lather their children with hand sanitizer? I remember basically eating dirt with a mid-afternoon snack when I was younger, really only having to wash my hands before dinner. Pretty sure my immune system has always thanked me for it.
Oh, we are such "francophiles" and even have our 5 year old loving to wear his beret. I am, however a little perplexed as to what age should I introduce smoking to him. He rolls cigarettes for me now,... I'm so proud. If only I could totally trust him with matches, then we could light up together!
I have two sons, one is 8 the other 6. My 8yo is very polite and would sit in front of a marshmallow for days if asked. His 6yo brother is just the opposite, they have been raised the same...how is this explained?
I LOVE this conversation.
I had my 1st of 4 daughters in the 1990's when attachment parenting was supposed to be the "best way." About 6 months in, I just couldn't do it anymore.
I was sick of her stuck to me all the time, not being able to sit down, ever, and not being able to sleep (we co-slept) or have my own personal space.
Unfortunately, I guilted myself into continuing this crazy lifestyle for another year until I had a miscarriage.
It really affected my relationship with my daughter. We had so few moments that we enjoyed, and I think it is because we were always in each other's faces and both of us are introverted people. She's 14 now.
Bravo, Ms. Druckerman! I am 62 and raised 3 children. The advice in your book sounds like the way I was raised in the 50s, small town, loving but strict parenting. I notice today how often a child is allowed to interrupt an adult. THanks for the common sense French parenting tips.
I was an exchange student in France, and now visit as often as possible.
This last time, I brought my 7 yr old daughter and we spent several days with my "host brother" and his 3 children. One of many things that impressed me about parenting in France was that all extracurricular activities happen after school but before dinner. Parents are not taxis all evening - at least not in Normandy.
And no, they don't obsess about sanitizing everything. Moms work, but they come home at the same time the extracurricular activities end, so everyone is home together from dinner on. It felt so much more balanced.
As parents of 3 young kids, our goal on a daily basis is to ignore the pressures of the American parenting trap, which wants you to satisfy their every desire at every minute to keep them "happy".
It can be difficult at times, but we don't mind being the odd ducks on the block by teaching our kids to be happy with what they have/don't have and by refusing to overschedule their days with all manner of extracurricular activities.
Since when is it good to make sure kids as young as kindergarten have schedules as full as any busy adult?
It's not a French thing.
This is the type of parenting we learn about and share in our ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) classes.
One parent shared her philosophy of "benign neglect" with us when my child were young. I've taken that and run with it. I feel our Minnesotan, US children are not dissimilar to the French the author describes.
I've raised 2 sons and feel today's parents need to do something differently. I may have to read this book and recommend it to friends with younger children. The key is to start early and be consistent.
Wondering what the French think of the home schooling trend here?
Why are we discussing French parenting?? I miss Gary and the discussion of real topics that matter. All do respect Stephanie.
I wonder how many grandparents like me would love to give this book to the parents of our grandchildren, but fear being considered judgmental and resented.
French parents are doting, too, but more as regards food and the importance of family meals. The french are less involved in after school sports with fast food dinners and more one-on-one family time and meals at home.
Overprotective parenting, I think, changed in the wake of the child-abduction panic in the 1970s. Remember the milk-carton photos of kidnapped kids?
But all but a fraction of kidnappings are not committed by strangers, but family members or friends.
Now, in many circles it's considered child abuse to let kids run off to play alone in their neighborhoods. When I was in 2nd grage, my Dad took me on a week's trip to Chicago. Each morning he dropped me off on the steps of the Museum of Science and industry, and returned in the late afternoon to pick me up. I spent hours and hours just wanderfing through th exhibits. Heaven!
I find it interesting that the author calls this "French" parenting. I would call it American parenting in the 1960s and 1970s! It fits my own parents parenting style and that of everyone I know who grew up then!
And it is my experience, having friends from several European countries, that parenting in many European countries focuses on teaching children to be independent.
In the USA, I see a trend toward the opposite - parents are anxious when their children play alone in the front yard! College students phone home daily, don't know how to apply for jobs, seems completely dependent. I am working hard to take this approach I've seen in Europe, as it seems to make a heckuva lot more sense.
Has Pamela Druckerman considered the parallel philosophies of raising children with that of Montessori educational approach?
I am a mother of two children, 2 and 4 yo, and the director of a Montessori school - SO MUCH of this conversation resonates with me because of the Montessori undertones: self-construction, self-discipline, independence, development of the will, etc.. I am currently reading Bringing Up Bébé, and while I completely agree with the culturally
American examples cited in the book, I am waiting for Montessori to receive some credit, as this is what our teachers aim to develop and strengthen in the children in our schools.
I'm taking care of two toddlers right now and if you don't think this is an important topic, then you have never been a parent. My wife is at work right now, I often work from home and take care of the kids. This is one of the most important conversations I've heard as a parent.
I travel to Paris for work and noticed immediately how the children and parents interact. It's like adults having a conversation--quiet, mature, in the present moment with each other.
Also, seeing adults on cell phones isn't nearly as common here and so children aren't hooked up either.
I'm a flight attendant and have witnessed the difference on the airplane -- American children are constantly hooked up and when needing to shut down the electronics, tantrums are common and parents wonder how we expect them to control their children if they can't have the device. French children are reading books and quiet.
@Marly, if it's a current bestseller, why wouldn't they want to read it? Though I do understand your dilemma.
Just a question: Do we have any information on whether French children turn out any "better" as adults?
And what does "better" mean? Isn't that the end result we are looking for as parents? America does have it's own ways of raising children, but we turn out some pretty incredible, productive, creative, successful adults.
American women cannot win. The stress and peer pressure I observe is amazing.
Just watch the hockey mom's hauling bags. The scrapbooking etc.
The key to parenting is balance, restraint, openness, and engage you kids. Don't do your kids homework, make excuses for them, and live vicariously through them.
Let them experience the world.
Let them fail.
I have four very cool teenagers.
Kids need to be a part of your life, but not your life.
Part of your identity, but not your identity.
My wife and I are a team and we pass the ball between each other and share the same goal. Making sure that our two sons are happy, but also making sure that we don't lose sight of our personal interests. Our advice to new parents is to recognize that you have this added responsibility, but don't forget who you are. We each get out one night a week alone, and once a month or so we have a date night. But y'know, the best times are when all four of us are together.
Holy buckets! Yes, I entertain my child too much. But she's an only child, so I feel GUILT when she says that she has "no one too play with..." How can I reverse my errors when she's already 4 and expects Mommy's attention all the time?
I'm a 61 year old dad and I find this conversation reminds me of a couple of old sayings, What goes around comes around and there is nothing new under the sun.
I'm a 29 year old professional woman and am so disinterested in having kids due to all the "baby crazyiness" I see all around me.
I don't want to change my lifestyle or eating habits to become a baby sitter and caterer to some small person that is ruining my life! Modern day parenting has become such a turn-off.... My attitude now is "who needs it!"
This may have been shared but a documentary movie that helped us, although after six months of the new parent worries, was "Babies".
My wife is French and we have two sons, 7 & 9. When I said that our life would be about our kids until they left the house she completely disagreed. I'm happy that I listened to her. We do balance our life between kids and couple.