They eat their greens, don't throw tantrums and go to bed on time... How French mothers' 'tough love' means their children never step out of line
By JR on Wednesday, January 04, 2012
French women are tougher on their children who have fewer tantrums than British and American youngsters, according to a new book.
American mother-of-three Pamela Druckerman, who lives in Paris, claims French children sleep through the night at two months, don't squabble or create scenes in public, are not fussy eaters and go to bed without any problems.
Now, after spending months observing mothers across the Channel, she has revealed their secrets in the book French Children Don't Throw Food.
In it she also notes that while French children tow the line, mothers 'continue looking so cool and sexy' unlike their British and French counterparts.
Revealing the secret to the French's apparent success in raising children, she says French parents are tougher, opting to use discipline and the smacked bottom over 'mollycoddling' and gentle persuasion and encouragement.
Ms Druckerman told The Bookseller the French's attitude to raising their children puts the parent in the driving seat and summarised it as 'it's me who decides.'
She said she began looking into how French parents raise their children following a challenging experience on holiday when took her 18-month-old daughter into a restaurant twice a day and noticed French children were far better behaved, sitting nicely at the table while they ate their food.
She said: 'I found this society of children who sleep extremely well, eat extremely well and are very well behaved and I worked backwards to figure out how they got that way. So I was certain of the result; I just wasn't sure how parents got those results so consistently.'
France's approach to their education system may also influence children's behaviour as it tends to place creativity and expression below manners and mathematics, The Observer said.
French schools also place huge importance on a child's ability to perfect grammar and writing over more pastoral aspects of their education.
In addition, French children are not considered equal but small human beings, while one French child psychologist believes French mothers view and define themselves more as 'women' rather than 'mothers' and have an increased sense of detachment from their children compared to mothers in America and Britain.
Lise Fuccellaro, mother of four children aged eight, 12, 14 and 16, lived in England for seven years before returning to live near Paris. She told the newspaper that she was struck by how patient and gentle English mothers were compared with French parents. She said: 'It's remarkable how British children just don't sit nicely and aren't taught any respect for people around them. It would be unthinkable to most French parents to inflict their children on other people.'
In addition, Bénédicte Justan, 37, who lives in west London with her three boys under 10 agrees there is a different approach in France and said she feels like she is often the only parent shouting at her children in the street in Britain.
Another parent believes the tide turned against the laissez-faire attitude which emerged following the student riots in France in 1968 which she said led to children being bought up without certain vital boundaries. She said children in France blossom 'because of, not in spite of, authority'.