February 7, 2012 at 9:30 pm , by Nick Shell
There is a lot of buzz going on right now about a book called Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman, insinuating that the French are better than us Americans at being parents.
My question isn’t whether or not the French are better at raising kids, because not only is “better” a relative term, but it is also pretty generic.
So instead, I’m willing to learn, in what ways the French are perceived as better than we are at parenting. On the flip side, how are Americans better at it?
To educate myself on the subject, I read a blog post written by Paige Bradley Frost, an American woman raising her children in Paris. She shares:
“We therefore define ‘good parenting’ in vastly different ways. A ‘good mother’ in the U.S. (a virtually unattainable state of grace) is, by definition, a deeply involved and engaged mother. A sit-on-the-floor, clap your hands, dig in the sandbox, finger painting kind of gal.”
She goes on to explain that our self-sacrificing, American version of parenting is considered to be “absurd” by the French, who are more structured and less hands-on in raising their children.
From what I am gathering, it appears we as Americans would view the French as cold, militant parents whose children are well-behaved yet practically unloved. Meanwhile, the French view American parents as overly involved to the point our kids don’t respect our authority as they should.
This excerpt is taken from the book description for Bringing Up Bebe:
“…The French children Druckerman knows sleep through the night at two or three months old while those of her American friends take a year or more. French kids eat well-rounded meals that are more likely to include braised leeks than chicken nuggets. And while her American friends spend their visits resolving spats between their kids, her French friends sip coffee while the kids play.”
Based on my experience as an American dad who is extremely observant of what other parents say on Facebook and in parenting blog comments, I would say that most American parents truly desire a balance between the two stereotypes.
We don’t want to be “that parent” who lets their kid run around crazy inside a TJ Maxx, tossing out empty threats of discipline but never following through.
Nor do we want to be uninvolved and apathetic in our children’s personal interests, forcing them to take piano lessons and making all their decisions for them.
I don’t want to be a stereotypical parent, whether it’s French or American. But I do want the best of both worlds in parenting: structured and disciplined yet affectionate and open to my child’s individuality.
As a stereotypical young American who believes I can do anything I put my heart in, I believe I can live in this mythical middle ground.