French Parents are Better at Discipline

French parents are better at discipline

A few weeks ago, we discussed an article that made French mothers sound a bit monstrous. Well apparently, French parenting is a hot topic. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal printed this article about how French parenting is better, and it’s so positive that it’s practically glowing. Here’s an excerpt:

“When I asked French parents how they disciplined their children, it took them a few beats just to understand what I meant. “Ah, you mean how do we educate them?” they asked. “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 imagined themselves to be doing all the time.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don’t pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat.”

What do you think? Do you purposely and pointedly teach the ability-to-wait-nicely to your children? I can’t say I’ve been particularly good at it. But it does seem like such a valuable real-life skill!

The article isn’t too long, but it definitely has me examining my parenting methods. I hope you have a few minutes to give it a read — I’d love to hear what you think of it. Do you agree French parents are better?

128 thoughts on “French Parents are Better at Discipline”

  1. I read this article with a lot of interest, and immediately thought of an interview on NPR I heard last fall with the authors of a new book called Welcome to Your Child’s Brain, in which they said that two things really important that children do not just naturally learn as their brains develop, and that it is critical that children learn from their parents, are empathy and self-control. (The interview is here: )

    Helping children learn to wait politely seems to connect really strongly to these two qualities–the child learns to think about what mommy is doing and whether or not she is available, and also to control her own desires and defer her gratification a little.

    This is something I’ve tried to work on with my kids, but I’m definitely going to be thinking about it more and working on it harder based on that WSJ article and the NPR interview. :)

  2. I live in Paris and I’d love to know where ARE these toddlers sitting happily and quietly in restaurants, bcs I have yet to see them. The truth is kids don’t eat out with their parents as much as in the US (or the rest of Europe). But when they do, they’re kids. Like all kids.

    I did see a mom really spank her kid HARD after school pick up yesterday. This happens more here than in the US. And kids are much more violent on the playground than in the US I think — I mean, their parents lets kids do way more real pushing and real hitting. Not just little stuff. That took some getting used to.

    And snacking? Seriously? Every parent/nanny has their gouter in their hands at school pick up, waiting for their kid to yell for it. Cookies, pastries, everything. I mean, they have a WORD for it! No snacking — please, thats’ crazy.

    1. Thanks, Morgan! The minute I read this I thought, hang on, this can’t be right! No way babies all babies sleep through after not picking them up; I cannot imagine a toddler sitting still in a restaurant; and not snacking? Please, even doctors will tell you toddlers will need 5 not 3 meals a day. Really Morgan, thank you for putting this article into perspective! I’m so relieved! : )))

    2. First, in the article, she said that children eat three meals AND a gouter after school at 4 hence the cookies and pastries at the school gate. This is a basic rule of French life- you are allowed a guilt-free snack and a break at 4. Its funny that even in offices, people have a tendency to get up from their desks for a stretch and a coffee break at 4, just showing how their childhood habits are still there.
      I have to disagree about naughty children in cafes. First off, because of the availability of garderie and creche (daycare) none of the French women I know would bother making plans to meet up for coffee when they have their kids- they do things like this when the kids are in daycare OR you meet at someone’s home. Also, there is a much stricter idea about places being appropriate for kids and places which are adults only. You don’t take your small children out to eat in the evening because that is an adult activity in an adult space.

      1. I agree, Nicole. Afterschool snack. But I guess I’m confused about life in America bcs that’s what we did there too! 3 meals and an afterschool snack!

        My kids are in school 4 days a week (or 4.5 days for my older kids) so I see kids out when I’m with MY kids out — on wednesdays/the weekends.

        But I totally agree that all this is so much easier when your kids are in the hands of the schools for so many hours a week starting from a young age. I wonder if this book should be praising the school system more than the moms! (altho, to be honest, I have issues with the schools!)

  3. I definitely try to teach patience – being able to wait is a valuable skill for a kid to have! Restaurants are difficult at 3, but we try – within reason, think Bertuccis rather than the lovely Italian place downtown or Cheesecake Factory versus the organic local joint. Basically, we try to keep it age appropriate while pushing the envelope. Like the BabbyDaddy took the Babby to a movie in a theatre in an art museum – but it was a family movie and he reported she wasn’t the loudest one there!

  4. One of the things that I can relate to in this article is the importance of having children be able to play by themselves. I have two duaghters – 10 and 3 – and my husband and I have encouraged both of them to play on their own. I think having children be able to entertain themselves is a true gift. When we all play together it is very fun and bonding… but having them be able to truly entertain themselves is wonderful. I would imagine it is exhausting to have to entertain your kids from sun up to sun down.

  5. My husband and I were both very intrigued by the Wall Street Journal article – I like the idea of teaching patience and of using a forceful no & speaking with confidence like you mean it. I think there is a fine line. I doubt ALL french parents have it all figured out – or that no American parents do. But I like the sentiment behind it – finding some moderate balance between the two I think would be perfection – I don’t know that I want to ONLY give my kids one snack at 4pm every day, but not snacking all day makes sense to me also. Everything in moderation.

  6. Thank you for the article.
    I love studies / articles that highlight the cultural differences, I find it fascinating.

    I am French and part of my family is from North America. My cousins ​​live in Canada and their mother is American.

    When I was 15, I was shocked of the crises/ anger of my cousins ​​when they were 2/3 years old. They had no patience, while for the same things my parents would have simply told me to wait.

    I remember an episode when we all ent camping. There were 4 adults and 8 children (me and my brother, my cousins​​, they are 3 and 3 children of my step mom who have 3 girls of the same aga as my cousins)

    One morning, my cousins ​​screamed and cried because she wanted so much the blue bowl to eat their cereals … my aunt insisted that gave her the blue bowl (which was used by another child) because my cousin insisted on … I was like , ok she is 3 and we do excatly what she wants..on demand… very strange from my point of view and very different from the way I was brought up.

    So I can totally relate to this article.

    Thanks for you blog.
    I love reading your thoughts and views on France ;-)

  7. One of the main differences that I have found travelling in Europe with my family is that social life is not as segregated by age as it is here in North America. In other words, people from different ages mix regularly in public.

    Here it seems like you are grouped into “young families”, or “older adults”, or “teenagers”. It is much more rare to see, for example, a restaurant with customers of a huge range of ages.

    And because of that mixing, I think that (sweeping generalization alert!) kids are more used to being in adult/grown up situations and behave accordingly. They are included BUT it doesn’t revolve around them.

  8. I agree with the reader who mentioned the spanking. We spent some time in the Middle East and there were many French moms living in our community and there was quite a bit of spanking/slapping when kids misbehaved. It never seemed horrible just not very American. But it sure got kids to behave quickly! They seemed to leave that out of the article. I’m curious if you see that there?

  9. This morning I saw Pam Druckerman on The Today Show, and immediately thought of Designmom, and the previous conversations regarding French parenting. I agree with an earlier comment–Nobody has it all figured out. I do love the idea of teaching children to wait. My youngest is 13, and she routinely interrupts me when I am on the phone…I guess I didn’t teach her too well! Alas, I’m a work-in-progress as a parent/educator…I will say that my daughter just spent an evening with a friend, who has a Chinese mother and a French father. She loved spending time at their home. She said…”They talk to us like we’re adults!” They also sat at the dinner table for two hours after dinner for conversation. Lovely!

  10. super intriguing article. these qualities they’re describing being taught to french children are important to me as well, and i’ve really been struggling lately with how to impart such qualities (as well as other ‘non-tangibles,’ such as true gratitude) to my child. while there were a few examples of how some french parents ‘educated’ their children, i’d love more practical advice and tips. anyone have recommendations for reading material that covers teaching toddlers/young children things like self control, how to play by oneself, and gratitude? i’m hoping to create habits early (my son is 2), rather than try to retroactively teach such things to an older child.

  11. I read that article and then downloaded her book to my kindle. I’m really excited to read it. Sometimes I don’t feel like I fit the “mommy mold” because I don’t enjoy being strapped to my son every single second of the day. It makes me feel guilty and I think this book is going to give me the validation and confidence that I need to be ok with my style of parenting.

  12. It’s definitely an interesting article. In a way I agree with French parents. Kids have to learn patience. It’s hard to learn but quite important in everybody’s life.

    I love it when she wrote that French parents love talking to their kids and reading them lots of books. It’s not everything about television in France.

    “Yet the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive.” – I think this is really important. “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.” They don’t do overparenting.

  13. I loved this article! Thank you for sharing. I like the idea of having a firm “no” instead of shouting and chasing, the idea of the parent being in control of meals and teaching children from a very young age to wait, gently, but firmly. I ordered the book.

  14. I love these types of articles! We are so used to what we are familiar with, and sometimes forget that there are other ways to parent.

    My downfall is worrying too much about other people, and I find myself almost apologizing for taking up space with 2 little kids sometimes, so I may allow them to have 3 lollipops while we food shop because it allows us to get through it. And my kids aren’t terrors, throwing tantrums or anything. They just see ALL THE CANDY and I let them have some.

    It’s such a relief sometimes to just be with other families who understand the craziness of young kids, and not have to feel the need to explain or excuse.

  15. June gets more darling every day! Such a cute photo. Archie has a very similar hat.

    Apparently I am French (who knew?) but I also had almost 30 (!!!) years of teaching/coaching/volunteering/Sunday school leading/babysitting under my belt before I had my first child. Firm, loving, consistent direction works on all kids. Not right away, of course – but eventually. It’s training. Like a marathon. I saw Pamela Druckerman on the TODAY SHOW this morning and she was discussing how French parents get their babies to sleep through the night. It’s the same technique that was in my parenting book – not a French book – and I used it. He slept through the night at 7 weeks (though I also think the good Lord knows what a 40 year old mom can handle.) :)

  16. I find this article particularly interesting, after just spending what I hoped would be an enjoyable weekend with my sister and niece…and what turned into be a hellish weekend spent with a complete brat. My husband and I have spent many hours discussing what we can do to keep our own daughter, only a year old right now, from becoming such an…outspoken at best…toddler. How much of it is personality and how much of it is letting her get away with whatever she wants? We both feel like we have “better” ideas of how we’ll handle things, but I, especially, wonder if we’re just being naive. Is that kind of behavior inevitable?

    Anyway, this article gives such an interesting view on that very topic, and is I think what we strive to be to our daughter…loving, engaged parents who are in fact IN CHARGE. We don’t want to dread time with our daughter as she grows up. I wonder if it’s possible for us to be this kind of parents or not. I hope it is. I think she’ll begin testing us any day now, and I want to be ready. Being a VERY impatient person myself though, one who RARELY delays gratification, I wonder if I’ll be able to be a good example or end up becoming a bad one?

  17. Do you know the word “discipline” means to teach?

    Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin disciplina teaching, learning, from discipulus pupil
    First Known Use: 13th century (Merrian-Webster Dictionary)

    Since knowing discipline means to teach, I’ve appreciated the word and act of disciplining my children as positive. Helping them learn, teachable moments.

    Completely different topic, but this conversation makes me think of a conversation this past Summer when we visited France. A man working at an art gallery said, “in France, we would never ask someone what they do for a living. Instead, we say, how are you?”

  18. I didn’t read the whole article, but just from the excerpt you posted, I can tell the French and I would get a long just fine! Being a school teacher, I’ve seen too many teens who were “indulged” most of their lives and have no idea how to be polite, be responsible for themselves, or even sit still through a class. After dealing with these frustrations, I was/am determined that my children will be the opposite. My two year old is already responsible for many things. She is expected to be independent and self-sufficient (age-appropriate of course). And you know what, she’s a really happy, strong, confident child. I don’t believe in indulging and spoiling children. We are only setting them up for failure in “real life” by doing so. There is no reason a two year old can’t say please and thank you and help you put their toys away and be patient. If they don’t learn these principals at home, where will they? Can you tell I feel strongly about this topic?! My son (11 months old) was sick this past week and therefore was held A LOT! He got spoiled and now wants to be held all the time, but that’s not healthy for him or for me. So I stopped picking him up when he cried, and now he’s playing independently and HAPPILY again! Everyone wins!

  19. In that case I parent in a very French way. I don’t understand sometimes why all my friends are frantic, they all have non-sleepers/picky eaters. I understand it has a lot to do with personality and that cannot be changed but I let my daughter self-sooth, it doesn’t mean I didn’t want to get out of bed, I actually did every time but I just waited for a few minutes before I took her out of the crib. She is also a good eater because we sit down to eat together, I never though for a second that she would prefer mac&cheese to a chicken and roasted vegetable dinner so veggies and garlic are not a foreign thing for her.

    I know I might be coming across as a “momster” but I’m not I understand people have different ways to parent and the most important thing is to do it with love. Desiring the best for your kids, to grow as independent and happy people.

    Great topic!

  20. I love the level headedness to it all. Educating is what we’re doing. We’re raising human beings– people who will need to be independent. I do love the idea of attachment parenting. But there has to be a good balance. Learning to wait, be polite and not be selfish. These are huge things.

  21. Just saw this yesterday via friend on Facebook and I loved it! I thought it was a fascinating article — not much to add to what’s been said other than I have to say — have you read anything about what french school kids eat for lunch? AMAZING! I want to be a french school kid!

  22. I have been finding this whole conversation so interesting. I live in Canada and work as nanny, and have seen so many different kinds of parents, as I’m sure we all have.
    I definitely have tried to cultivate a philosophy of the “cadre” with the kids I work with. I set up a framework of the important things that are and are not done, and within that, try to give them as much freedom as possible. And when some correction or redirection is needed, I have found that a firm voice with conviction is often enough.
    I hope to be able to do the same with my children some day, as well as instill in them a sense of patience by modelling it for them and setting up a framework that teaches it as an important part of life.
    Much like Esther said above, empathy and patience are two skills that parents need to impart to their children, and I will sure try hard to teach and model those for them.

  23. My friend sent me the article yesterday and although I did find some things helpful/interesting, I am at the point where if I see one more article or book about how French women are the best at being skinny/eating/parenting/topic of the month, I am going to SCREAM! I have absolutely nothing against the French (my mother’s side came from France) but honestly. I think a lot of the recent writings about the French oversimplify a culture and make it seem like the French method is the absolute ideal. I think I am now rambling mais je ne sais pas.

    1. I have to agree! While I appreciate the approach taken by many French parents, it seems in the US we have this annoying interest in how the French do everything. What about other countries and cultures? We’re not so consumed with how the Poles are turning out great kids.

    2. We (as in many Americans) do seem pretty obsessed with all things French right now. Have you noticed we seem to do the same thing with New York? If it’s based in New York (Brooklyn too!), or made in New York, or being talked about in New York, we practically worship it. : )

      I wonder what (or where) our next obsession will be.

  24. Thank you for sharing this article! Fascinating! I too have spent time in France and find their parenting intriguing. I especially love that from very early on they teach their children proper grammar and annunciation. Before my French was up to par, if I couldn’t understand what an adult had said I would ask a nearby child. They were way easier to understand because they had been taught from birth to speak properly.
    One question I have is if we want to teach our children to delay gratification, be patient and wait their turn don’t we have to be that way first?
    In observing parents and children, I can’t help but notice that the faults (as well as the virtues) of the parents are magnified in the children. Maybe as adults we could pass the actual marshmallow test, but could we pass the test if it were the adult equivalent of a marshmallow?

  25. I make my children wait. If I give them a treat while we are out I don’t let them munch on it right away, they must wait until we are all sitting and can enjoy the treat together. The other day my 18 month old had a sucker. We were in a store and he kept attempting to unwrap it. I kept encouraging him to “wait.” He kept getting frustrated and held onto his sucker for dear life. After checking out, and paying for the sucker, we found a bench and sat down. He joyfully unwrapped and devoured it.
    I don’t know if it makes much of a difference, but I hope I’m helping him learn a valuable lesson. I can’t imagine the self control it takes am 18 month old to keep that sucker out of his mouth, but he can do it. So could my 5 and 4 year olds. I hope those simple lessons of “waiting” will benefit them in the future.

  26. We subscribe to the Journal, so I read this on Saturday morning, as did my husband. And we laughed. And laughed and laughed. I’m sorry, but it’s basically an article written by a really crappy, lazy, ineffective American mother. She can’t keep her child from ripping open sugar packets at a restaurant? She’s amazed by using the word “no”? Seriously?

    The way she paints French parenting is really just good parenting. Or any parenting at all. To not set limits and teach your child proper behavior is not parenting. It’s existing in the same realm as a small human you created.

    The article disgusted me – and that’s not easy. I hate that this woman is essentially suggesting that all American parents are as lazy and permissive as she and her husband. You don’t have to kick kids (as per your first French parenting article), but you certainly need to use a firm “no”. And, yes, they should be taught that they need to wait. We didn’t end up with a bunch of entitled Occupy Wall Streeters through proper parenting – we ended up with them thanks to generations of parents letting their children be in charge and catering to their every whim.

    I love my children and they very much know they are loved. I even “spoil” them with surprise treats more than I probably should, but they know who is the boss and they know the limits. I’d love to see all American parents revert back to 50s parenting (albeit with less spanking and yelling) when children were expected to heed requests and discipline.

  27. There was an interview on the Today Show.

    I was fascinated because a lot of what was being said, I am already doing or rather, did with my older two children. My youngest is throwing me for a loop. I used some of the tips learned from the interview to get my “terrible-three-year-old” ready for school.

    I am starting to realize that I need to “educate” and not “discipline” my children. And another thing I learned is that I have to teach my kids 4 (French) words instead of 2 American words (please and thank you), but include Hello and Goodbye, which my shy kids can’t seem to do.

    Thanks for these discussions. I hope you include more in the future.

  28. I find myself repeating “Patience is a virtue!” to my toddler AND my husband once a day at least. I’m currently reading Children: The Challenge (which is pretty old) and the key message in it is to encourage children towards independence and self-sufficiency, which is what I’m trying to focus on with both my toddler and my babe. Sounds like something the author came across in France.

  29. Here was my comment when my friend posted that article on Facebook:

    To be honest, it made me feel good about my parenting style, which I think is fairly similar to the one she describes. (Not because I learned it from France, but from other sources. And I did sometimes witness horrible parenting when I was a missionary in France.) I do have the problem of my kids constantly interrupting me on the phone, so I guess I need to increase my “conviction” on that issue. :) But one time Dean was out of town and I took my kids out to dinner, and realized afterward that the kids had all been quiet, well-behaved, and pleasant throughout the meal. Not every outing is that successful, but I’ve at least had some experience with it being possible for young kids to be well-behaved in public.

    Also, when my oldest was a toddler I used to put a baby gate across his door and leave him to play by himself in his room for a couple of hours at a time. Our neighbors [in the apartment building] would walk by and see him playing, and one said to me, “Oh, my kids could never entertain themselves so well for that long.” I wanted to ask, “Well, have you ever tried it? Have you ever left them to their own devices until they figured it out?” [End of facebook comment.]

    A long time ago I read that studies showed that children turned out just as well in families with a lot of structure as in families with less structure, as long as there was plenty of love. My family growing up was pretty chaotic, and I’ve wanted much more structure for my own family–and bedtime is very consistent for us, as well as regular chore time. I think it’s good for my kids. We do have a lot of fun, too–although I’m sure my kids would love having more fun and less structure. But my kids are spread somewhat widely (oldest is 14, youngest is almost 3) and I knew I was in this parenting thing for the long haul, so I’ve tried to make it a really liveable lifestyle.

    I read the previous article, too, and I think it gives balance–that there are good things we can learn from French parenting, but that at the extreme it can be unkind or even abusive. There’s going to be a wide range, from happy to dysfunctional, in families anywhere in the world.

  30. This is so interesting! My husband came home from work yesterday and asked that I read this article because he knew I would enjoy it. Thanks for sharing and for opening up the conversation for different viewpoints!

  31. I think figuring out some goals with your partner before those little ones make their way into the world can be a huge help. If you want happy, obedient, patient, creative children it takes a good working plan, effort and consistency. Being firm but kind (you know like Mary Poppins) can go a long way with kids. Unfortunately many parents get caught up with all the extras and then put their lives on auto pilot. Then when their little bundle of joy starts throwing a fit they don’t seem to know what to do about it but to appease. French or not thinking ahead can be such a rewarding and helpful thing!

    1. “There needs to be a homemaker exercising some measure of skill, imagination, creativity, desire to fulfill needs and give pleasure to others in the family.

      How precious a thing is the human family…. Does anything come forth without work?

      The family is an art form.

      And if human relationships are to be beautiful on a wider form,

      the individual families making up a society have to be really worked on by someone who understands that

      artists have to work to produce their art.”

      ~ Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

  32. Would be very interested in hearing how Design Mom’s kids find French school, in comparison to American, is it stricter, is there more homework?

    1. Hi nichshee. I’ve written a few reports about schools here. (Type in French schools in my search bar and the links should come up.) My kids really enjoy school — both here and in the States. So maybe they would give positive reports no matter what. Here’s what they say about strictness and homework:

      My kids report: the same amount of homework, but the French school day is longer, and the longer hours include study periods for the students to get most of their homework done.

      My kids report: much stricter teachers, especially in elementary school. In middle school, they are less strict. (We don’t have anyone in high school yet.)

  33. OK…I know I’ve already commented, but since I have two little ones, this is a huge topic for me. I just wanted to say that Boundaries with Kids is one of the best level-headed, rational parenting books I’ve ever read. It’s similar to Love and Logic, if you’re familiar with that concept. It gives great examples for all ages, and discusses attitude adjustments and even how to help various personality types improve their weaknesses. Anyway, not affiliated in any way, but I’ve read it several times and intend to keep it close by as I raise my children!

  34. It seems to me in every culture/country some parents get it wrong and some get it right. And it has nothing to do with being American or French or Chinese.

  35. I have been following your blog for some months now and do really love it. Anyway, this is the first time I’ve decided to comment, but I’d like to point out something rather important about the article that seems to have been overlooked: the word “discipline” has different meanings in English than it has in romance languages. I am Spanish and in my language the word does exist, but “disciplina” is applied to a rather severe concept of behavioural education: it usually has to do with punishment. But “education” is a broader term which refers to both cultural/school education and the result of good parenting.
    Anyway… It is important to learn how to wait and we certainly do spend some time on it! It takes time and effort, but I believe it is just as important as every other aspect of education (the broader term).
    Thanks for your words!

  36. teaching a child self-control is an important, but we should asses are we doing it to benefit them or our own ego. I personally don’t believe in “sleep training” before a baby is 12months.

  37. I think that picture is perfect for the article…June is waiting patiently for you to take the picture so she can remove that darling hat. ;)

  38. I don’t agree with the premise that there’s one right way, and that the French have It All Figured Out.
    I do agree, though, that American culture is getting a little too permissive. I feel like an abnormal ogre for (kindly) insisting that children don’t jump on the furniture. Most parents visiting at my house have sheepishly told me, “oh, he can do that at home.” ?? Couches are for sitting and if you want to jump off something, we have a nice shady backyard.
    And the all-day snacking is a recipe for acting up at mealtime, but it seems like all the parenting advice I read says, “don’t let kids get hungry, have snacks on hand, etc.” My youngest just turned three and I don’t believe that he needs to be constantly chomping on goldfish to get through the day. We are a LONG way from his eating on demand when he was 3 months old! But again, I feel like the only mom who goes to the neighborhood playground without provisions, and my kids do notice they’re the “only ones” without something to snack on or drink.
    /unplanned rant

    1. ME TOO! I’m not anti-snacking, but I feel like we can survive a trip to the park without snacks–but since all the other moms bring snacks, my kids end up begging the other moms for their kids’ snacks.

  39. I’m not a mother yet, but I love reading about parenting. The conclusions I come back too after I read about how parents in other countries parent, or how a neuropsychologist says we should parent, etc. etc. is that I think it’s important to do what you want to do as a parent, and to feel confident in those desires. I imagine that I would love having kids who are patient and have an ability to entertain themselves (I know there are times when I would love to have neices and nephews who could display that ability :), but I guess I’m just American enough that I don’t love the idea of my kids feeling like I’m not available to climb the jungle gym with them at a park because I’m an adult and adults don’t climb jungle gyms. It’s not true, I climb them! And I love it, I think it’s a blast!

    So I think as I (hopefully) near parent-dom I’ll take the ideas that I like, and leave the ones that I don’t. I think the hardest thing will be convincing myself that I’m doing the right thing! That’s probably the thing I envy about the parents the most in that article. Oh, to have conviction!! :)

  40. Adorable photo of June. Teaching your kids to wait is the hardest thing to do. I think we pick them up to comfort them so quickly because they are cute or because we have a need to comfort. I do like the idea about waiting ’til mealtime to eat. How much better off we all would be if we did that! I recently posted about my daughter’s desire to snack getting out of control due to boredom. Can’t wait to check out the article link.

  41. I read the “French Parenting” article about this on Yahoo news this morning and I have to respectfully disagree. How can people slap a label on parenting and call it better?
    I read “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” and found her parenting techniques shameful at best. If the end result is to create a bunch of stepford children, then bravo to their tecnhiques. Next week we’re going to hear about how superior Italian, Irish, German, Russian,etc… parenting is. Parenting is successful when you can see the fruits of your labor become respectful, responsible, happy and loving individuals. I don’t feel that any specific nationality has more value than another over parenting methods or techniques.

  42. I just spent 4 rare, lovely days with 5 of my 6 grown children, 4 spouses of those children and 5 little grandboys (2 infants, a 1 1/2, 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 year old). Sometimes they were tired and a bit fussy, but through museum visits, train shows, car rides, no naps and different beds, they said thank you, enjoyed activities, were patient, waited endlessly while all the grownups talked and were generally well behaved. Every child has the occasional “moment”, some more than others. But in the time I lived in France, I saw no fewer spoiled children – whatever that is – and a great deal more of the seen/not heard European tradition than fits my own preference. I came from a more no-nonsense family and I was far more indulgent mother than my parents (and soooo not perfect), but I still get compliments on my social, responsible brood. Mothering as guide, not so much ruler seems more comfortable to me. But then you can ask my children who on some days will mock my “rules”.

    I wonder why we choose cultures and glorify them at the cost of our own, rather than appreciating what we see of value in both. It seems to be a scary and sometimes insulting trend.

    1. “I wonder why we choose cultures and glorify them at the cost of our own, rather than appreciating what we see of value in both. It seems to be a scary and sometimes insulting trend.”

      Well put, Jayne. (The title of the article was especially ridiculous link-bait.)

  43. After reading this and the previous article on French parenting, it seems to me that the point is not that the parenting is French or inherently inferior or superior. Nor, in my opinion, is the point that American parenting is uniformly bad. The point is that the French parenting each author sees is different than what she typically sees or experiences in America. Why should we not learn from other cultures? Why should we not be willing to admit our own cultural follies?

    American life can be very insular. Young mothers can also feel a tremendous amount of pressure to do everything the “right” way. Looking at parenting through a different cultural lens may provide a bit of clarity and perspective. For some, it may even provide a glimmer of hope.

    To those who would dismiss or disparage this particular article, I would say that I do not find it polite or helpful to scoff at the “Aha!” moments of others.

    Thank you, Gabrielle, for sparking this discussion!

  44. first of all, i love your blog. i’m a french mother of 2 children (loise 7 and jules 5). this topic is very very interesting. since they are very young, we go in restaurant with our children. i take for them some toys so they can wait in silent not to disturb the other people. that the same on each place like church : sometimes you can yell and sometimes you have to make silent. the most important for me : you have to explain most of the things as soon as possible !… (so sorry for my bad english !)

  45. I’m loving reading everyone’s comments. I think it’s funny that Americans are always trying to learn from {insert any country here} & I can’t imagine the French writing a big article about how to be like Americans. I’ve been reading a lot about human nature and psychology lately and I’m wondering how this parenting style leads to behaviors that affect your adult life. Sure, they might be more well-behaved (according to adults) now but what will they be like as adults? Thanks for sharing the article!

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