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French Parents Do It Better? (Video)

Submitted by on February 19, 2012 – 9:01 am12 Comments

child at eiffel tower by knoteuh6 on flickr

French Parenting Advice

I first heard about the book, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman from a journalist friend, Liz, who recently moved with her husband and two small boys from Nashville to Paris.

Her observations on French life often leave me in stitches as I read her Facebook posts. Finally, she has started a public blog: I am Carla Bruni’s Neighbor. (Go read it.)

Liz’s most recent post is basically a rebuttal of Druckerman’s thesis: that the French are fabulous and genius parents, that they “educate” their children by teaching them to wait and that they feel no parenting guilt. Here is a Wall Street Journal book excerpt, if you haven’t seen it.

Liz, who hangs with an international group of expats, writes:

“…they are much more willing to wage emotional and physical warfare with their children than my friends and I are (and remember, I’m representing not an American perspective but an international one). It obviously can’t be said that all French parents are the same, but what passes for acceptable here as a means to make children compliant is unacceptable to every expat parent, no matter the nationality, I know.”

If you have any inkling to go out and buy into Bringing Up Bébé, go read Liz’s essay first. Lots of first-hand look at what parenting in France looks like to an American raising children in France.

On Dominican Parenting

All this on the heels of the The Tiger Mom Amy Chua, who told us Chinese-style parenting was superior…and which many American parents bashed for its strictness.

Bringing the Latino perspective to the topic of the potential French parenting craze, is Carol Cain, in an essay titled: “Are French Parents Superior? Not More So Than My Dominican Ones.”

Carol says she sees similarities between the French method and the way she was raised by her Dominican mom.

We never spoke out of turn. We understood and accepted our place in a room full of adults. Though I remember being loved and nurtured by my mother and know she cared for us deeply, I don’t recall her ever sitting down to play with us or help us do our homework. My siblings and I would have never dared to throw a tantrum in a restaurant or anywhere, and if we did, once was all it took.

Carol says she’s taken the best from her upbringing, but modified it in her own family and she advocates getting rid of the parenting guilt.

…from where I stand, the only difference between the French – and Dominican – way of parenting, is that Americans are riddled with emotional guilt. So much guilt that we look to our children for guidance in how to raise them and give them what they need to be happy and fulfilled.

Cuban Parenting DNA

And me? I did a video (see above) and post a couple of years ago about the push and pull in my own little cabeza between Modern American Parenting and the more “traditional” Cuban-style I grew up with.

Time out? Qué es eso? You’re getting the chancla.
Do you want the pink sippy or the blue sippy? Ha! Te doy lo que te doy, y no jodas.

OK, OK, I exaggerate a tiny bit…but there was way less coddling on some stuff and no real room for negotiation y nada que una buena paliza wouldn’t fix. I would bet my family felt little guilt after discipline was handed down.

I’ve taken the best stuff from the parenting I got (and I include the discipline I got from abuelos and tias and tios) and melded it with what feels right in my heart, and what works best with my own kid.

We don’t spank, we try not to scream and we allow for some conversation and negotiation. But, we’re firm and we take no caca. Sometimes I cave, but ask personal friends and I will likely get voted the Hard Ass Mami — hard ass in comparison to them, I will say.

The longer I am a mother, the more I know I have no idea what works best for other families.

But, I will say that the “real” French way Liz describes gives me the willies.

Y tu?

Are you attracted to the French style of parenting Druckerman describes?

What parenting ideas did you keep from your own upbringing?

What are the benefits of cross-cultural parenting: Taking a little bit of the old and blending it with the new?

Share, por favor!


  • Monica says:

    Hilarious! It is awful being an American Latina mom. I think I must be totally inconsistent. One moment I’m all “Let’s talk about that tone…” and the next time its “Hechate a correr…” Lol!

    I don’t know. I think that here in America we baby our kids too much. There’s too much “Let mommy be your best friend” syndrome. They can always get friends. But they only get one Mami.

    Thanks for sharing, mama.

  • This is really interesting. I don’t have any children yet but I’ve noticed different parenting techniques in my diverse neighborhood in the East Village.

  • Unknown Mami says:

    I’m into DIY parenting. I use what works for me and my family regardless of where the original concept came from: French, Mexican, or Quien sabe…and I dispense with the superiority and inferiority complex. One style of parenting does not fit all.

  • Time out? Qué es eso? You’re getting the chancla…hahaha mi mama solia hacer eso a mi hermana y a mi!!! I dont have any kids, but I think this is a really interesting point of view.

  • Alexandra says:

    The chancla…didn’t everyone have one hanging by it’s lace, up on the kitchen wall.

    We knew to behave, and respect, and it made me a good human being.

    Discipline and coddling, in equal measure.

  • I like american parenting. My husband has a different technique… I’m the crazy histerica latina mom, and he is all about peace, love, calm and dealing.

  • I like american parenting. My husband has a different technique… I’m the crazy histerica latina mom, and he is all about peace, love, calm and negociation.

  • I am closer to the French style than the American style. I was like Carol in that when adults spoke, kids sat perfectly still and quiet. It was about respecting and understanding who was the boss- not me.
    I’m doing my best to raise well adjusted kids and have read several books, all with different styles. I haven’t found the right fit yet and only hope my kids aren’t confused by my new “approach” every couple of months. That can’t be good for anyone!

  • I’m still feeling my way around this mommy role. I am NOW trying to be stern with my voice and not be viewed by my son as the push over parent. He’s two, and I have been really open to letting him explore up to this point…. I am starting to put my foot down to him writing on the walls. :)

  • Eva Smith says:

    I’ve never really bought into the French style or Tiger style or whatever the trend for parenting. I raised my daughter the way my Mexican mother raised us with love. I had very strict parents but I knew that I was loved.

  • As a latina (half Cuban and half Mexican) I can completely relate, as my mom would say: “Te voy a calentar el fondillo!” she’s the Cuban… I don’t spank my kids, but I do a lot of yelling more than I like. My husband is 100% Mexican born and raised in Baja, he however seems more American in his parenting style and that is how he and his 6 siblings were raised, they don’t yell, spank, do time outs… they talk and this is new to me… To this day after 11 years of being married I still can’t get 100% on board with the talking always. :) I am strict however not a tiger mom, but do try to run a tight ship.

  • I´m all over the place…I started out very much in the attachment parenting mode, but am not so calm anymore. The gritona comes out quite often. Nothing I´m proud of, but it works.
    I do feel my daughter needs discipline and limits and looks to us to impose them.
    This parenting thing is so not easy!

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