Back in February 2015 I reflected on the American ‘Good job!’ versus the Chinese ‘You’re garbarge’ parenting.
Recently two children that had been invited to our daughter’s party were only permitted -by their parents – to attend half of the celebrations …as a form of punishment. That made me think that perhaps it is time for me to reflect on French parenting – especially now that I’ve been living here as a parent for a little while. (I’ve already written a little on the French education system in a previous post entitled ‘What we’ve been up to’ in October 2015).
Actually, French parenting style was very much in the news following Pamela Druckerman’s book release in 2012: Bringing up bebe – One American Woman Discovers The Wisdom of French Parenting. It recounts her experiences raising a child in Paris, where she found French kids to be way more well behaved, polite, autonomous, and willing to eat ‘adult’ food than their American counterparts.
The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids.
How that translates into daily French life is …..well….the parents often seem kind of …..strict and bossy. Kids are instructed on what to wear (so that everything matches of course) and to not get their clothes dirty, are expected to sit at the dinner table for interminable meals, their toys are rarely seen in the living room (they are confined to the bedroom), questioning adults is not encouraged and I’ve heard public comments such as these on more than one occasion towards children: ‘tu me fatigues'(you’re wearing me out), ‘arretes de pleurer’ (stop crying for goodness sake), ‘qu’est-que tu me fais?’ (what are you doing to me?) ‘tu es nul’ (you’re usesless) ‘tu es chiant’ (you’re a pain in the arse) and punishments are handed out …such as my earlier example of not permitting a child to attend a birthday party ….which I incidentally find particularly harsh as it punishes the other children involved who were not implicated in the ‘crime’.
Like other European states, France criminalizes violence against children, but it also allows parents the right to discipline their children at a low level. France is the only country in Europe where spanking is still legal, and, according to surveys in France, it is still commonplace (ahaparenting.com)
And very unlike the Americans who praise everything a child does (whether it’s truly warranted or not) with a loud ‘good job’ and ‘aawwwesome’ the French (generally speaking) are not often heard saying ‘that was really good’ but rather expressions such as ‘pas mal’ (‘not bad’) or ‘tu peux faire mieux’ (‘you could do better’)
To sum it up in a nutshell – and grossly generalizing – I get the feeling that the goal of parenting here is to bring-up a well-behaved child who listens to their teacher and does their homework, who is polite, patient and obedient.
But after reading this article: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/03/the-truth-about-french-parenting-and-i-would-know/254521/ I would have to agree that I don’t think I actually want obedient children, because those are the kind of kids that are more vulnerable to peer pressure. I hope to aim to put an emphasis on kids who are able to think for themselves, who question everything (or almost everything!), and who follow their interests/hearts.
It is interesting to note that there does appear to be a bit of a backlash to the traditional style of parenting with more information appearing around topics such as ‘positive parenting’.
To finish, it is comforting to read what Steve Petersen had to say about children and their upbringing: “development really wants to happen. It takes very impoverished environments to interfere with development … [just] don’t raise your child in a closet, starve them, or hit them on the head with a frying pan“….. so there is nothing to worry about. Carry on!
And speaking of parents…I’ll be visiting mine in Australia in a couple of weeks…I’m looking forward to it mum’n’dad.