Bringing up Crazy
I wasn't originally planning on writing about this topic at all, because 1) I don't have kids and 2) It just seemed like another one of those "X country does Y thing better" books. But then I saw an interview with the author on the Today Show, and it kind of irked me. They filmed her in Paris, wearing a beret of course. She talks about how French parents have a well-defined "box" of rules, but that there is freedom inside that box. They show her kids eating broccoli and she of course takes credit for this - whereas my first thought was whatever lady - that ain't thanks to you, that's thanks to the French school lunch system. Kids here learn to eat a wide variety of foods from a very young age. And then she shows up live on the Today Show (again with the damn beret!) to expound on her previous statements.
As an interesting side note - in the US, this book is called "Bringing Up Bébé", whereas in the UK, it's called "French Children Don't Throw Food". I find it really interesting that they felt the need to change the name for the British market. But then again, ever since I moved to France, all I have heard from the Brits is how well-behaved French children are.
I've always wondered where that myth comes from. I mean, sure maybe the French children of 50 years ago were meant to be seen and not heard, but in my experience, after living in France for coming up on 9 years now, that is definitely not the case. I've taught in the French school system and been around plenty of children in Fab's family and now in C's family, and frankly, I don't understand what the big fuss is about. The kids just seem like normal kids. Sometimes they're good and sweet and sometimes they scream, whine and throw fits.
And hey, if all French kids are so perfect, why would M6 need to have a SuperNanny show? It was extremely popular, and ran for six years - and would probably still be on today if the SuperNanny hadn't passed away in 2010. I watched some of them, and man, did some of those kids need an attitude adjustment.
I also found it extremely ironic that she said that French parents insisted their children always say "Hello" to others, as a way to pull them out of their self-centeredness and remind them that others have needs too. This literally made me laugh out loud. If that were indeed the case, they would also be reminding their kids to hold the doors for others, to not stand in the middle of the sidewalk/doorway/escalators and to not stare. But none of that happens - France is not a "Put yourself in someone else's shoes" society. And before anyone starts on me for criticizing France, it's not a criticism, it's the way people are raised here. If anything, they are teaching their kids to say "Hello" because it's a cultural expectation and you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of non-service if you don't start every sentence with "Bonjour".
She also brings up the example of a child interrupting a parent. She says that Americans think that there is nothing that they can do about a child interrupting and so they just have to live with it. Um hello? (or should that be Bonjour?). I grew up with my mother telling me all the time to stop interrupting and wait until her conversation was done. This lady just seems like her parenting skills weren't that great to start off with. She says however that a French parent will take the time to gently explain the child needs to wait. I don't know about you guys, but this has not been my experience at all. I've mainly seen the kids saying "Maman. Maman. Maman. Mamaaaaannnnn" with increasing urgency, all the while the parent is ignoring them until the explode and say "Come on Quentin, stop being so annoying, can't you see that I'm talking?". And then the kid sulks away, pouting.
Which brings me to the whole yelling factor. That is one of the biggest differences I have noticed in child-adult interactions here. So much of it seems to be adults yelling at the children and belittling them into submission. Not that I think the kids suffer from it, just that it is not seen as necessarily a bad thing to call a child stupid or tell them they asked a dumb question.
In fact, I found this whole idea of "French parents are calm" so ridiculous that I posted it on twitter. Here are some of the answers I got back:
ChezLoulou: Oh r-e-a-l-l-y? Then why is that I hear French parents yelling at their kids all the time?
Ella: Lol! She should spend a weekend at MF's family's house and she'd write a whole other book! Where is she getting her facts?
Ashley: ugh. Read lots of things about that book. Sound like a complete over generalization of one population. yuck.
AnnMah: Ha ha. I think this is the newest "X parenting is superior." But that it's French, does make me laugh.
KarenLeBillon: French aren't perfect, but DO have gr8 approach to #kidsfood. See amazing French school menus! bit.ly/xrcoDm
There were a few detractors however:
TheBoldSoul: I think they do it less than American parents, frankly. And the French little ones ARE generally better behaved in public
Ednacz: I think they do it less than American parents, frankly. And the French little ones ARE generally better behaved in public
So that leads me to believe that there are both well-behaved and misbehaved kids here, just as there are in every other country in the world. But I thought I'd put together a little quiz to see what the rest of you think:
Update - It's also crazy that she has removed her past books from her website, including the one on infidelity. According to a commenter below, she also asked Marie Claire to remove her article on how she gave her husband a threesome for his 40th birthday. And we're supposed to take parenting advice from this lady??