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Why French Children Don’t Throw Food

Reflections on an American childhood


I am just now learning of the recent book by Pamela Druckerman called Bringing Up Bébé in which she expounds on the many ways that French parents are superior to American parents. Sacre bleu! Can it be true? I really like my American childhood. Yet as I read an excerpt from her book, things began sounding too familiar for comfort. She describes American childhood as tantrums, throwing food, snacking all day, refusing to eat vegetables and fish, constant fighting with siblings, interrupting Mommy on the phone, demanding Daddy get on the floor and build Legos, play kitchens in the living room, teepees in the dining room, toys everywhere, hectic schedules, and constant whining. Then I find out that other counties are chiming in and agreeing with Ms. Druckerman. They also believe they have superior parenting skills and raise less-stressed, happier, more patient, more-resilient children just like the French. Well, I respectfully disagree with this “Axis of Superiority.”

Mrs. Druckerman, you forgot to ask the horribly raised, spoiled, overindulged American children what we think. We love our stressed out, overworked, overindulgent parents. We prefer being picky eaters that snack all day. We enjoy having play kitchens in the living room and teepees in the dining room. We love the lack of firm boundaries and we applaud our parents’ “resistance to unfailingly use absolute authority.” Some American parenting magazines say this fosters creativity. N’est-ce pas? We especially love to interrupt Mommy when she’s on the phone and we need Daddy’s help to make a Lego castle RIGHT NOW! Childhood is brief. We don’t want them to miss a single opportunity to be with us. 

Still I felt compelled to do some French parenting investigative work myself. I just could not believe that French parenting is superior. Now please don’t get me wrong. I love the French. I study their language and I hope to visit France next year.  My littlest cousins (ages 6, 8, and 10) attend the French-American School of Rhode Island. This place is quite impressive and my cousins love it there. Not only are they fluent in French thanks to the school, but my cousin, Courtney, age 8, can even be coaxed into helping me with my own French homework when she’s in a generous mood (I can only hope Mrs. Varrone isn’t reading this). My cousins have many French classmates at school who are raised by French parents and they tell me their French classmates are just as naughty, undisciplined, and demanding as they are. These French tots often get in trouble with their teacher, “Madame,” and they interrupt her constantly (that is when my little cousins aren’t interrupting her first). Now that’s a relief. I just knew French parenting couldn’t be superior. 

Finally, Ms. Druckerman says that we American children and our American parents don’t know anything about the importance of “delayed gratification.” Au contraire. The overwhelming majority of American children grow up to be kind, caring, productive, valuable, and valued members of society who care deeply about each other and our shared world. Yes, American children grow up to be just fine and when we do we usually turn around and thank our parents who truly deserve the credit for that. Our parents usually feel pretty gratified when we do, as delayed as it may be.            

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Kimberly R. Ragosta March 19, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Perfect timing for me to read this blog Andrew! I am about half way through 'Bringing Up Bebe'. I put my 2 toddlers down for their naps at 12 noon today and while I was doing the dishes I told myself that I was going to stop reading this book! Everyone is raving about it...however I feel as though it is making me feel like a bad mommy...when in fact I give mommyhood 110% effort 24 hours each and every day. The author has irritated me several times and I've almost closed the book mid-chapter. Your blog made me feel confident in my decision to stop reading this 'let's make American mom's feel like garbage' book. Parents...do not read this...all it will make you feel is GUILT. Guilt for picking up your baby if they are crying...guilt for letting them have 2 snacks between meals (mind you I give my children extremely healthy snacks!)...guilt for caring for and putting your children first before yourself...too much unecessary GUILT! I've come to the conclusion that I am doing the best I can as a mommy and I feel my children are happy, respectful, healthy, and intelligent toddlers. I've decided...no more mommy books...it's a waste of time I don't have! I am also pregnant with our 3rd child (a little girl this time..Lily Grace..due in June)...and I've boycotted pregnancy books as they create too much stress. American moms need to enjoy being pregnant and being a mommy to young ones. The only opinions I need are from my husband and myself when it comes to raising my kids!
EGMama23 March 19, 2012 at 08:22 PM
You are so right, Kim! Throw the parenting books away! Trust your instincts. Glad to see American kids sticking up for their American parents. Well done, Andrew!
ELM March 20, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I think we can learn A LOT by studying how other cultures raise their children. We don't do everything right and many American parents are far too indulgent.

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