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5 Ways Living in France Has Made Me a Better Parent

by Shelley Treadaway Sep 13, 2016

1. I’m less likely to give in.

There is a book written by Pamela Druckerman titled Bringing Up Bébé which details Druckerman’s experience raising children as an American while living in Paris, France. She details the differences in French parenting with emphasis on the aspect where French parents just don’t give in. Children wait their turn, don’t interrupt adults, and play independently by themselves without nagging or whining their way into parent participation. French time is French time, and children do not dictate a parent’s schedule. I have noticed this is so true, and when my son witnesses other children behaving this way, he adopts it as his own. There are still tantrums, but there are significantly less interruptions because I just don’t give in.

2. I’m more relaxed, but not when it comes to discipline.

When I walk the streets of Cannes, Paris, or Nice, I see parents casually dining with their friends and with their children. It is not normal, in my experience, to see children with tablets or zoned into their parent’s phones while they wait for their food. French parents are relaxed and if their children are behaving poorly in public it takes one conversation and one adjustment to correct their bad behavior. The adjustment or conversation doesn’t include yelling and I haven’t yet seen a child spanked. Instead the French come at the problem with sternness and love, a combination that really does work.

I haven’t seen very many French mothers at the grocery store give in to a tantrum. They just simply ignore the child and so does everyone else. It makes for a very short-lived experience.

3. I’m more straight-up honest.

One aspect of French parenting I have found to be extremely refreshing is the outright honesty I have experienced. The French are very direct, and that can come off as rude, but it really isn’t meant to be. For example, many of the French men and women are always very concerned about my 10 month old’s exposed head in the sun. They ask me very directly, and always in French, “where is his hat?” The one time I didn’t have one the gentleman tisk’ed me and shook his head in disbelief; “he needs a hat, the sun is hot!” Obviously, but he also tears the hat off every second he gets the chance. The first time I came across this directness I was offended. Of course I am concerned with my child’s well being!

Over time I realized this is just how they speak, and they genuinely are concerned with my well-being and more importantly with the well-being of my children. I have become appreciative of how conversations don’t beat around the bush and get right to the point.

French parents use this kind of honesty in their parenting style as well. Instead of having a long drawn out conversation with their four year old about being respectful they just get straight to the point.

4. I eat well, and so do my kids.

When we were living in Barcelona there were a lot of temptations; sugary soda, fruit drinks, chips, Cheetos… your basic list of addicting and delicious junk food. I’m not sure if it is because we are currently living in the sleepy beach town of Cannes or if this is true elsewhere, but there isn’t much junk food around to choose from. French plates are brightly colored, always balanced with lots of vegetables and often made with simple, natural, and almost always locally sourced ingredients. My kids are getting a taste of French food and quite surprisingly, they love it.

5. I’m becoming more balanced.

Finding a good balance as a parent is hard. There are books dedicated to different styles, methodologies, and models of parenting that range from Tiger Mom to Doormat Dad; the French seem to have found a great balance between the two.

Tantrums are approached with stern love, which sounds like it would be confusing and conflicting, but it really isn’t. You will see a French Mom give her 100% full attention to her child when she wants to, usually filled with laughter. I look at my phone less and play with my kids more here in France, but I am able to find a balance, too.

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