Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We Might be French.

I have to say, typically I have no interest in highlighting hot topic parenting trends here on the blog, or in life in general for that matter. To each their own, and so on. But with all the hype this new article is getting, I thought it might be fun to review. Especially seeing that I tend to agree with most everything Pamela Druckerman notes in regard to French parenting in excerpts from her book Bringing up Bebe, a literal delve into reasons French children appear more well adjusted, and less self involved than the mass of American babes we are raising. An article I was pleased to read simply because with all the new-age cycles of parental systems that fall in and out of popularity - some of which feel downright divisive by nature - I have always felt outside of, or slightly ashamed by our stripped down "old school" approach to raising kids. An unnamed philosophy we fell into after Arlo was born, where we sought to ensure our kids learn to inhabit a life environment we've created, and not vice versa. A mantra that does not seem all too popular among our current age group. Except, it seems, in France, where they apparently still openly defend the notion that all things "Adult" remain sacred in light of being a parent. That we make the rules, not our children, that we invest conscience effort to keep adult relationships flowing, personal hobbies flourishing, routines and interest in tact and a house that is not brimming from corner to corner with toys at every turn, to respect personal sleep rituals for both parents and children, and to draw significance in our roles as individuals as well as paternal guides.

Others examples I was mighty fond of include:

French Mama's are not afraid of a simple, stern NO in place of long drawn out negotiations between parent and child anytime a confrontation arises. Eating rituals involve three (table meals) and far less snacking in between. Children are given more freedom and autonomy from the start (I am a huge believer in this, instead of going out of your mind trying to baby proof your life, provide boundaries and trust your children will eventually adhere to them) Not allowing interruptions (when adults are talking, you wait your turn. Yes, I believe in this one too!) And lastly, teaching babies, from a young age, to find comfort in their personal sleep space. One of the best gifts I've given myself as a mother is training my boys, from infancy, to put themselves to sleep in their crib or bed during naps and bedtime. A ritual that not only helps keep our sleep solid, but hopefully teaches them to cope with being alone. Singing, or talking in a room by themselves where you might argue that imagination and overall autonomy is allowed to fully blossom. Or at least that's what I believe when I hear them counting sweetly or talking to shadows in the room.

Anyway, that is the very gist of a great article. Well worth the read if you have the time.

And if you are further interested, a fun Q & A with French mother's regarding the article here

In other news, it's raining today. Yay. Finally a taste of winter weather for us dropless Californians!
Happy Tuesday.


  1. Wow, we might be French as well. Is that why my mom and I were named Jacquelyn? :D This is so well written and I so deeply agree with these concepts (and will read the article when I leave your page). Sure I've budged on some here and there, especially the breastfeeding to sleep, but then, it just worked for us. They both have slept well in their own rooms in the dark, their whole small lives. They eat what we eat (I'm completely against cooking separate meals, though I do omit spice for the chicklets).

    My Mama preached to me while I was still pregnant that "these kids are coming into your life. You take em with you wherever you go and they do what you do." She was against baby proofing and was into hand slapping (til mine were red at times) haha, but we learned...

    My only regret is that sometimes I feel that I take this concept too far and don't make enough time for them to be kids and explore and be creative cause they're running through my life with me. It's surely a balance that I'm working on improving all the time
    :D Thanks for the thought provoking!

  2. i LOVE your perspective on parenting. my inclination is to feel the exact same way. of course, i am not a parent quite yet, but our time is coming soon and the values of resiliency and independence in children are very important to me. and also, it is of vital importance to me to keep my own independence and personal space as a woman and a mother and a social creature. i LOVE this article and it is a wonder to me that american parents have managed to keep going the way they are for years now. working in a restaurant for so long was a sad lesson in the worst parenting skills. it made me sick how parents treat their bratty children like little kings, asking them what they want to eat and drink (allowing them to choose virtually anything from a very unhealthy menu) letting them get up and run around, throw food around, perhaps getting exasperated but never putting a stop to any of it. and this would be like, on the way home from a ski trip for the kids and their friends or whatever. so SPOILED! my intentions are to do the exact opposite.

    it is something i am almost shy to talk to most of my friends about. you mention that your parenting philosphies are not too popular amongst your age group, seems the same for me and it is too bad. because maybe people just get caught up in the excitement, but it sure seems like lives revolve around babies once they are born, and often at great expense to the parents. anyway i'll stop rambling on but thank you so much for posting this, and your own feelings on it. as a budding parent it is SO GOOD to hear such a common sense and well rounded approach to the whole experience that allows for better growth for everyone involved.

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  4. That was a fantastic article!!!! I love that they valued the adult time so much and the French Mama at the park was so gently and encouraging with the American Mama.

    I'm in a parenting group on facebook and being new parents, they ask some wonderful questions of each other, but they also ask some, to me, absurd questions, one of which I gladly answered. She said, "my two year old will only drink milk out of this one sippy cup that is falling apart. He freaks out when I take it away, but if I don't give it to him he wont drink milk. I'm worried too, because the cup is falling apart, and I've tried new ones, but he just won't take another cup."
    I was DYING reading this. My response was polite though, and I simply answered that she was indeed the parent and should set the rules. The child won't be harmed without milk and will surely drink it again if he wants it enough. He needs boundaries, even at a young age, and needs you to look out for his best interests even if it seems harsh right now, especially in light of the eroding cup with plastic chunks to be swallowed.
    Lordy, sorry Jessica, apparently I could go on and on about this topic, while I don't claim to be a pro by any means. I just treasure/demand/desire much of the same behaviors described by both you and the article. Again, thanks- good topic :D Come over for some wine soon, we'll let our children play while you, me and the guys enjoy some adult time :D haha

  5. So funny you should post about this! It has been on my mind constantly since I read this yesterday. We get the WSJ delivered to us (my husband's university automatically signed him up for it) and usually I dump it right into the recycling bin (I prefer to read online)- but this article caught my eye and I HAD to read it immediately.

    I think we have a lot in common on this front. I cannot stand watching the "helicopter parenting" that is so common nowadays. I always feel my own anxiety start to rise when I watch other parents do this with their kids. And the funny thing is, those kids are the ones who get hurt most frequently (!) while my sons are jumping off of 3-foot tall walls at the playground and having no problem. Independent play is extremely important to me, and teaching a child to entertain himself and be able to delay gratification is invaluable.

    The sleep front is where I struggle, but I'm getting there. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking about this right now!

  6. Such an interesting article and I love your review of it I've only been a mom for a year so I suspect there's lots more challenges ahead but so far I think I straddle the line- definately not quite French. I agree about the crazy amounts of toys and general catering and spoiling and we're trying not to fall into those traps.

    I'm skeptical on the sleep strategy though. We coslept for the first three months and this is just me, but I don't believe a baby under three months is even capable of self soothing. We slept well all together and didn't have that new parent burn out... and it felt like an important foundation of trust was built in that time. We were warned we'd never get our bed back but as soon as he started being a lighter sleeper and we got cues that he would sleep on his own (a little over 3 mo) we put him in his crib (still nursing and rocking to sleep) and he's now one of the best overnight sleepers I know. My friend, by contrast, put her baby in his own crib very early and at 6 months he still wakes up all night every 2 hrs. Might be luck on our end but i just don't believe that all French kids sleep better for being allowed to cry in their cribs.
    Guess I have a lot more to say on that than I realized! Thanks again- great topic!

  7. Mamma Smith: just to clarify, I too kept my newborns near (or in bed next to me) for the first few months of life for nursing ease but found that the bigger and older they got, the more it started to interfere with our rest & well being. With each baby I became more of a stickler for "baby in bed" routine because as a husband and wife we needed to unwind and relax in our own space, and, well, we were rather exhausted by the end of the day so sleep was a must. Obviously, though, it's whatever works for your family in specific. And I am less impressed by the sleep issue raised than I am the notion that children don't grow up believing the world revolves around them and them alone, but learn to coexist as a participating member in family, society, ect. It's something I've always thought vital and was quite happy to see so eloquently in print. Even if props land far outside the country :/

    1. Thanks- I went on a bit of a rant there :) Your approach sounds very similar to what we did as well. I think the article said something about babies in their own cribs right away and not respinding to every cry and I was just skeptical about that given my friend's sleep battle! I totally agree that whatever works is the best path... and we really like having our night time and bed to ourselves now as well.

  8. Thank God for people like you Jessica!! You don't understand how many friends I have that still let there almost 1 year olds sleep in their room still. It drives me crazy!!! I LOVE your take in the world and I also feel the SAME way! I'm glad there are people like you (us) out there, at least we will have some normal, well behaved, well balanced and independent young adults out there some day!

  9. Fun that you highlighted this! Everyone always has an opinion on parenting huh :) While I agree with much of the french philosophy, I thought Dr. Laura had a great response to the article. Certainly opens it up for further discussion.


  10. julie - yes! who doesn't love a good ol' fashioned debate. Off to check it out now.

  11. Great post. I haven't have the chance to sit down and read the article but I will, you have definitely pique my interest. This is why we parent the way we do and why we homeschool. My children see everyday what needs to be done, not just learning but housework; marketing; meal preparation; caring for siblings/other family members; bill paying. They are completely involved in the family. They know how to interact with adults, join in on a conversation when appropriate, and express their views. They also know there are times when a conversation is stickly for adults. They also know that when the answer is "no" that's all they are going to get and they should listen planation - if Matt and I feel further explanation is needed then we provide it, at our discretion. Meals are family time and everyone eats the same thing, if there is something you don't like you avoid it - simple. I won't say we are French parents, we are just parents growing people who will one day venture off on their own and hopefully we have provided them the tools to succeed - and possibly conquer the Universe.

  12. nice post! i think everyone in the world adheres to these principles except our own :(

  13. I am reading that book now, because I enjoyed the article so much! I guess my parenting style is "common sense." The world DOES revolve around baby for the first few months, but as she gets older, I am helping her be much more independent. At 9 months, I can see she could easily become a tyrant if I don't set some simple boundaries.

  14. Amy, so true! And yes, the first few months belong to baby and getting adjusted. What I find more intriguing is how their older children are expected to adapt to the environment in which they live. I know with three kids this is crucial, the last baby just naturally falls into routine with the others and If you are not in control they will own you and the entire household. And for some, this is ok.

    And believe me, I am by no means claiming to have all the answers. My kids throw tantrums and all that stuff too. I just liked the "common sense" approach here.

  15. So I keep thinking about this topic and actually came across this rebuttal from an American mother raising her kids in France. Also well written and thought provoking so I thought I'd add it to the mix :)


  16. Since I've recently ( as in the past few days) found your blog , I just read this article as well. I completely agree with the article and with you. It's not about "being French" just the way that we "parent". IE parents, raise the children and not the other way around.

  17. Defnitely share your parenting style! Sometimes I feel as if I'm the only parent who doesn't do the whole co-sleeping thing, so thanks :)