I’m Starting To Believe The Hype That French Parents Are Perfect

41Kqz4zWX0LA few months ago, I read the book Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman. It’s about a mother who leaves the scurried pace of New York to raise her child in Paris and be amongst all of the women who don’t get fat and parents that know how to do it all. I was sure I would hate it.

I didn’t hate it. In fact, I found myself daydreaming that I was one of these French parents, too. Parents that could bring their toddlers along to fancy restaurants. Parents who could say the word attendez! and have young children actually listen. I’ve tried using the word wait! in my house. It totally doesn’t work. I’m holding out hope, though.

Part of me thinks all of these fairy tales of other cultures doing it better have got to be wrong. The other part of me thinks, well, it’s worth a try. That’s why I was more than a little excited to see an online workshop that the HuffPost started this week called Stress Less Parenting.  Druckerman is our first mentor. She’s teaching us how to get our children to attendez!, or wait a minute!

There are three pieces of advice she offers: give kids lots of chances to practice waiting, treat kids as if they can control themselves, and slow down your response times. I have to admit – this is very sensible advice. It’s also some advice I feel like I can start implementing today.

The thing about teaching patience is – you have to have it to teach it. It takes time to make a child wait and treat them like a civilized little being. Giving into children quickly when they start to melt down makes things progress quicker for everyone, but in the long run you aren’t teaching your child anything but your willingness to cave to his demands.

I moved to New York ten years ago. My pace has steadily increased year after year. There’s no strolling in New York. Everything is a fast-paced race to the finish. I noticed this the first time I landed back in the San Francisco Bay Area. After just a few months immersed in the pace of New York City, I was breezing by people in that Bay Area airport. I was driving faster. The speed of everything I did was pumped up a notch. I’m realizing now that if I am going to teach my little stubborn toddler patience – I’m going to have to slow it down.

I’m normally not one to seek out “how to” guides for parenting. But after reading some of Druckerman’s simple tips, I quickly recognized that I don’t have a patient child – because I am not a patient person myself. It may be corny, but I’m going to take to the Internet for a parenting workshop. It’s worth a try.

(photo: Amazon.com)

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  • FrenchHousewife

    While she has some good tips in her book (from what Ive heard/read in articles), please don’t think that in general french parents are superior in any way over american parents. There are PLENTY of horribly behaved children here. They are not all angels! I think a lot of it comes from necessity: it can be very difficult to find good, affordable babysitters here, so parents are obliged to bring their children with them everywhere. I do see more well-behaved toddlers in restaurants here than I see in the US (that said, we had a dinner party today during which a friend’s child jumped on our couch, climbed on the table, and threw all the pillows on the floor and threw her sticky candy on them, all while the parents said NOTHING), but I also see many more rude and trashy teenagers in France than in the US. So……no one is perfect!

  • Elaine

    The French actually treat their kids like little people and expect the best from them. Often they get it too.

  • K.

    I didn’t mind the book either, and as a manuscript, I thought Druckerman was far from saying that her observations were gospel and she was careful relaying that she was studying a rather small (wealthy, educated) segment of French society.

    The marketing of the book pushes it towards a cultural pronouncement, which I get because “I learned a few things about parenting from living in a different country” is not as good as “The French are better than anyone else” in terms of sales (sales is also probably what expunged that “Marie Claire” article that Druckerman wrote years ago about giving her husband a threesome for his birthday from her website–hard to sell Mrs. Threesome as parenting guru).

    Plus, the vengeful hipster in me loves how she characterizes Park Slope “parsley” parents.

  • BlueBelle

    Just a little “lol” about the, presumably, tongue-in-cheek “French women don’t get fat” part: isn’t France going through a huge obesity epidemic?

    I’ve lived in five different countries and have long-term visited 28ish others (I have an odd job). What I’ve learned from all of this is that the majority of people I’ve met share a view that people everywhere are, by and large, the same. Perhaps a correlation (not a causation), but most of these cultures don’t have a happiness formula or a culture that hinges upon formulas in general: “if you do this and this and this, you will yield this” nor is there a game-like aspect to life like there is in the US (if you are not winning, you are losing; if you are not raising perfect children, you are losing. If you are not following your five year plan, you are losing, if your child is not doing [this], you are losing etc). I’ve noticed a lot of “it is what it is” mentality… something that doesn’t exist in US culture. Here we think we can find a way around anything; change the impossible; cheat death and so on. Is it wrong to be optimistic? No, but accepting things as they are may lead to a more relaxed and less stressed culture. Is that not a cornerstone of patience? Acceptance of something that cannot be addressed or fixed or accomplished right now?

    What drives me nuts is that there is this Us vs Them mentality in the US that harps on the “exotic” yet discourages the actual discovery of things different from us, but rather relies on stereotype and reinforcing the idea of “the other”… this is just another book, as K. said, marketed under the guise of cultural pronouncement–which I think says a lot.

    In any case, I was raised by an Italian father and American mother. He basically taught my mother his own version of this book, although it might have been called “Just Relax: How to Make Measured Decisions and Judgments and How to Have the Confidence to Believe that they will Eventually (not Immediately) Lead to Everything Being Just Fine” (the publisher will want to cut down the title to the Bringing up Bambina).

  • Ale515

    My co-worker is from China and we are both learning French together. I mentioned this book and about how French kids are the best and soooo polite and blah blah blah. My co-worker looked at me and said “That’s funny. Because in China we think American kids are so polite and perfect!” I was shocked. I guess the grass is greener on the other side!