Bedtimes are a hassle, crumbs coat every possession you own and you can forget about taking your cute (but tantrum-savvy) toddler out to dinner.
Not according to the French.
Predominantly, French children sit quietly through three-course meals, conversations are not interrupted by screaming and tears and 3-month-old babies sleep soundly through the night. If this sounds too good to be true, flip through Pamela Druckerman's book, Bringing Up Bébé.This American mother learned firsthand the wisdom of French parenting as she raised her family while living in France. While the children of her French friends were inquisitive and creative little explorers, they were also exceptionally well-behaved.
While raising your children completely French is virtually impossible if not living there, implementing some French parenting techniques could make your child-raising days — and nights — much easier.
You are the boss
"I am the one that decides." This French mantra places the parent in charge. A democracy of children being in as much control as parents is absent within the style of French parenting. As a mother or father, bedtimes, mealtimes, playtimes, snacktimes, etc. are your decision.
When you say "no," mean it. This doesn't have so much to do with volume or tone of voice, but with your conviction. Children can sense when you are not sure of a decision and will try to change your mind. Be polite but firm in your decisions.
Just one snack
Routine is crucial within French parenting. Snacktime is a singular event, usually occurring around 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. The fridge and pantry do not serve as an all-access pass for snacks and treats. Without dictating a strict schedule, days are structured into a predictable routine. As much as possible, even babies are nursed at consistent hours. With consistent mealtimes and a small snack in the late afternoon, gone are the days of pleading with your child to eat dinner when they've already filled up on snacks beforehand. It also means no need for baggies of goldfish in every bag, car, backpack and lunchbox imaginable.
Educate, not discipline
Druckerman learned this distinction firsthand: "'Discipline,' I soon realized, is a narrow, seldom-used notion that deals with punishment. Whereas 'educating' (which has nothing to do with school), is something they (French Parents) imagined themselves to be doing all the time."
Teaching your child the direct consequences of his or her outbursts is a way to educate them about poor decisions. A time-out has nothing specifically to do with the crayon scribbles on the walls; having children wash the marks off, however, is directly related, and is an education about consequences.
Patience is more than a virtue
While all parents strive to have patient children, this is a primary focus for French parents. Delaying gratification is a skillset children learn early on. If a little candy or treat it purchased while running errands, the snack is not to be eaten until snacktime, even if 4 p.m. is several hours away. Patience is practiced as children quietly wait for meals to arrive while dining out, or waiting for mom to finish a conversation before asking for help. Learning to be patient eliminates frustrating tantrums and tears when they need to wait a minute for mommy to finish.
French parent and friend of Duckerman said about her young son, "The most important thing is that he learns to be happy by himself." This independence will eliminate the constant stimulation that occupies American parents. If you let him or her, your child will learn to play happily by himself, without needing a stream of toys, games, iPhone apps and snacks to keep him stimulated.
This independence also helps your 3-month-old sleep through the night. French parents utilize "the pause" before rushing to soothe their baby's cries in the night. Oftentimes, babies will soothe themselves and fall back to sleep.
Balance in your own life
A professional life and social scene accompanies your role as a mother. In France, the American idea of helicopter parenting, or allowing your child's schedule to completely overrule your day, is absent. Evening times are for adults, and while your child is welcome to join you and your husband as you talk after dinner, your kids understand that this time is for adults.
Children are taught to always say "please," "thank you," "hello" and "goodbye." While your children can perfectly understand their needs and emotions, emphasizing manners helps your child understand that others have feelings too.
Raising independent little adults
Children have the capacity to be responsible, independent and understanding. While the French institute a firm cadre,or limits about things, there is quite a bit of freedom allowed within those boundaries. Eight-year-olds are frequently seen walking younger siblings home from school, or riding the metro. Within the rulings of their parents, there is a happy independence French children have. There is also a certain level of treating your child as an adult. When it comes to the grocery store, mothers instruct their kids of the purpose behind their visit. For example: "We are here to purchase things we need for the house, not for toys and candy."
While every family and child is unique, French parenting does possess some traits American parents strive for. If appropriate, try adding some of them into your daily routine, as you do your best to raise your children with loving guidance.
Emily is putting her English and Humanities degree to use editing and writing all over the world. Trying to see all 7 world wonders (while visiting as many countries as she can in between), Emily loves wandering alleyways, beautifully photographed food, stumbling upon impromptu flea and food markets. She can usually be found camera in hand, munching on a street food and never has her headphones out of reach.