I think that by now everyone knows about the famous (infamous?) article on how French parents are superior.
Of course, as a mother living in France, I was sent this article by about ten different people. At first, I sort of skimmed it and dismissed it since I tend to parent in much the same way as the French supposedly do – authoritative no’s and a complete expectation that I will be obeyed.
My youngest is three and he consistently proves me wrong on this point.
But in preparing to write this post, I really gave the article the attention it deserved. I found that there was some value to what she was saying in that teaching children the importance of patience and waiting (for candy, to speak, to get something they want) is to their long-term benefit as much as it is to every mother’s sanity.
But few hear the author’s message because of her choice of the word “superior.”
Sure, in some areas French mothers are forced to step up in ways that are not required in some other cultures, notably in the area of homework. Children are given extensive homework—memorizing poetry, spelling words or reading passages—all of which require the parent’s involvement to listen and correct or to quiz. Unless they go to “Study” after school because their parents work, mothers everywhere in France are given the extra role of “home professor.” The teachers make it clear in no uncertain terms that the parent’s participation is expected.
Sure the French culture does exert influence more strongly on mothers to forbid their children to eat outside of meals or the 4:00 snack, but even most mothers will make an exception to that rule if home-baked cookies are served while playing at a friend’s house. And almost every French mother will set out an astonishing display of marshmallows and sweets at a birthday party that would make even a French dentist cringe.
But something that I do find to be unique to France is seeing mothers examining the school lunch menu every day with their children and discussing what they ate that day. This is not universal, but I see it much more here than I ever would have in the States. French parents include the art of eating well-balanced meals in the education of their children.
Of course when your public school lunch menu (for example, today’s) starts with an appetizer of tomato and cucumbers, followed by fish with tarragon sauce and a broccoli-potato purée and is then topped off with a soft white cheese and chestnut purée for dessert, I would say that there is definitely something in there worth discussing.
But the claim that the French possess superior parenting skills …?
The truth is, French mothers are superior in that they encourage their children’s development through sport teams or music classes at the conservatoire. They want their children to be well-balanced and cultured.
Or they don’t. They just let their child play video games for a rather extended amount of time before going to bed (and raise the most sweet well-mannered, easy-going children).
French mothers are superior in that they dress their children in adorable European outfits with little brown boots and ribbed tights and corduroy skirts with felt flowers.
Or they don’t. They throw jeans and sneakers in their cart at the supermarket knowing that the clothes will just get ruined by a six-year old boy in a matter of weeks, whether bought cheaply or expensively. So what’s the point?
French mothers are superior in that they keep their children in line with authoritative education, saying no firmly or decisively.
Or they don’t. They give in to whatever their child wants, trusting in time and maturity to educate them where firm discipline is lacking.
In reality French mothers are just like mothers everywhere. They just don’t pack their kid’s lunch.
What’s your opinion? Do you think mothers where you live are superior or inferior? What strengths are they known for and what do you think are some of their shortcomings?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Paris, France, Lady Jennie. You can also find her blogging at A Lady in France.
The photo used in this post is credited to Jenny Downing. It has a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.