An American Mom's Experiment in Parisian Parenting
By Catherine Crawford
Published by Ballantine Books, March 2013
I laughed till I cried when I read this book.
From the first pages, where she discusses the stereotypical (and seemingly quite accurate) picture of many concerned American parents pandering to their children's every whim, even to the point of packing four different snacks for a child to choose from when being taken home from school , to the seeming indifference of French friends who are parents, who advise that if there is no blood, one should ignore the constant demands for attention from children who do not actually need immediate parental input, this book depicts, discusses and dissects the different approaches to parenting exhibited by the two nations.
It's a truly fascinating comparison. The French treat their children with respect and much love, but they are expected to behave well both in public and at home, to be in turn respectful to all adults, to eat what is put in front of them and to allow their parents some time, space and respite from being constantly at their beck and call.
When Catherine's almost three year old drew in crayon on their apartment wall, she phoned her french friend for advice. Should she talk to her child about the reasons why she felt compelled to decorate the wall ?
Non. She should be given a sponge, a stool and told to scrub.
But the crayon won't scrub off....
Pas de probleme, after a few minutes, she will realise that and it will deter her from doing it again......
And indeed it did. The cultural differences mean that the French are utterly perturbed by the concept of the "terrible two" phase, as it is unheard of among their children, and such behaviour would not be tolerated or pandered to. Conversely, French children are fully included in all aspects of French life and are expected to attend important family functions such as weddings, parties and suchlike with their parents. It is common to see small children at restaurants, enjoying the food and the ambience as much as their parents, without being given different, "children's food".
I don't necessarily agree with everything in the book (whether relating to American or French-style parenting, but I found much of value and use in it. Definitely a keeper!