Parenting the French Way: Is It Better?

Feb 1, 2012 5:28pm

 Parenting the French Way: Is It Better?We covet their food, their wine and their confounding ability to stay slim while consuming both … but should we be admiring the French for their parenting skills, as well?

In her very buzzy new book, “Bringing Up Bebe,” American mom and Paris resident Pamela Druckerman makes the argument that the French have a leg up on rearing their children.

“There’s something about the way the French parent that makes it less of a grind and more of a pleasure,” writes Druckerman, a former Wall Street Journal reporter. She cites a 2009 study finding mothers in Ohio think caring for their children is far less pleasant than mothers in Rennes, France.

What exactly do French parents do that’s so different from their American counterparts? A few examples:

Teaching kids patience and self-control through delayed gratification: French parents teach their children to wait for what they want from an early age  - for a few minutes, usually – instead of immediately giving into tots’ demands.

“I’m now convinced that the secret of why French kids rarely whine or collapse into tantrums – or at least do so less than American kids – is that they’ve developed the internal resources to cope with frustration,” Druckerman writes.

Sleep training often begins at birth: In France, babies are expected to be sleeping through the night by the time they’re four months old. Parents don’t ignore their babies’ cries but they do pause before responding to them.

“French parents believe it’s their job to gently teach babies to sleep well,” she writes. “They don’t view being up half the night with an eight-month-old as a sign of parental commitment. They view it as a sign that the child has a sleep problem and that his family is wildly out of balance.”

Just one snack: French children typically have what’s known as gouter –  a 4 p.m. snack – and that’s it. As a result, Druckerman says, they eat well-rounded meals because they’re “actually hungry.”

They don’t give in to guilt over spending time away from their kids: French women, Druckerman writes, have a conviction that “it’s unhealthy for mothers and children to spend all their time together. … Children – even babies and toddlers – get to cultivate their inner lives without a mother’s constant interference.”

As for moms going back to work after giving birth: “French women work not just for financial security but also for status,” Druckerman writes. “Stay-at-home moms don’t have much in Paris. … They openly question the quality of life if they looked after children all day.”

The book will be published Tuesday, Feb. 7.

ABC News’ Felicia Patinkin contributed to this report.

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