On Sunday, I was happily raising my American children when my friend Marinka sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal about a new book that claims French children are far better behaved than American children.
At this point, you are probably familiar with the book, “Bringing up Bebe” since it’s gotten a lot of press. Unless of course you are my mother who over the weekend told me, “I want to see the Super Bowl halftime show so I can check out this Madonna.” My mother, who claims to have never seen a photo or a TV appearance of this up and comer, thought she was really impressive.
Back to the French. Apparently, French children don’t have tantrums at playgrounds. No, they play happily in the sandbox while their parents sip espressos and converse with their friends. They don’t throw food. Instead, they sit patiently at restaurants while their parents dine. They don’t snack all day. They have one snack at 4 pm. They play happily alone. They respect their parents. They are polite. They are born knowing how to play the violin (I may have made that part up).
How do French parents raise such angels? They set limits. They are not afraid to say no. They aren’t helicopter parents like those animal Americans who snack all day and demand everything at once. AT ONCE!!
I couldn’t help but immediately want a French child. But the adoption process is so long.
So I decided to turn my kids into French children this week.
I immediately stopped giving 21-month old Chase and Harlowe so many snacks. They would get one morning snack (okay two) and one afternoon snack (maybe even a croissant to make it super French). The twins were a bit cranky about not being able to eat non-stop and I think I heard Harlowe humming the Star Spangled Banner at one point.
Chase happens to be a big food thrower. So I set the ground rules. I told him, “You do not throw food. You eat your snack happily like a good little French boy. Your mère will be over here reading The New York Post.”
I’ll be honest – it didn’t work out that well.
(My apologies to my French friends for that accent.)
I also decided I would just let my kids play on their own! No more following them around like this numnut who actually crawls through giant play gyms after her children….
But I sort of returned to the role of the helicopter parent after Chase ended up face first in the dirt at the bottom of a tunnel slide.
Still, I wasn’t giving up. My older girls were in trouble with me because they had stayed up way too late talking one night even though I had given them repeated warnings. Finally, I told them, “You have lost dessert tomorrow!” The following day, I wanted to give them a chance to “earn back their dessert” but they continued with their naughty American behavior.
I knew what the French would do. I remained firm and told Rick, “The girls don’t get any dessert tonight” and then I headed out the door to meet friends for drinks and dinner.
I’m sure the French are excellent delegators too.
In the end, I think I am too American to be French but I’m going to keep trying. Because I do think there is merit to sticking to limits, demanding respect and teaching patience and manners. It’s at least something to think about while I eat my freedom fries.
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