After spending the weekend next door in Spain with some Irish friends, they, as Mothers were intrigued to know what was my opinion on all these articles and books regarding the fact that French Mummies do it better. Books like Pamela Druckerman's "French Kids Don't Throw Food" and the spate of articles in all the broadsheets that this has spurned has "normal" Irish Mammies wondering what they are doing wrong.
Pamela Druckerman, an American Mom, who, while on holidays in France noted that while her child was firing chips around the place, the equivalent French child was sitting pretty, eating the food quietly and the parents were enjoying their time out in the restaurant. So what did she do about it? She wrote a book on the subject.
Her main conclusions were that:
French children were far more behaved, not only at the dinner table, but also their sleep patterns and manners were much better
French parents do not lose sight of themselves and lose their identity , just because they have children
Life as "le couple" does not change and is just as important après les enfants
So How Do They Do It according to "the expert" Druckerman?
Druckerman maintains that they set standards and very rigorous rules for their children in certain aspects of their lives, like eating, what they wear, bedtime, sleep patterns etc
They don't snack
They spend guilt free time away from their children from an early age
So How Do They Really Do it?
From my experience, I find French parents to be extremely strict. The most obedient child is chastised for doing the slightest teeniest thing wrong. "J'ai dit NON" "NON" "ARRETE DE FAIRE CA" are common refrains wherever one goes; the supermarket, the beach , the restaurant. "NON NON NON"
French children should always look and smell pretty. You do not get your clothes dirty and you are always impeccably turned out. From age zero. This can be a toughie if you are 2 years old and eating an icecream on the beach. Cue "J'ai dit NON" "NON NON NON"
French children are not allowed have a character. The amount of time my neighbours have commented to me " An beh, oui, Elle a du caractère eh?" "Oh bah dis donc, il a du caractere" whilst shaking their heads sadly as if he/she had just contacted leprosy..
French parents, en general, never see their children. School starts at 08h30 until 17h00, with an optional child minding facility until 18h30. Many of the kids in my neighbourhood are at school from 08h30 to 18h30. Wednesday is their day off to do their activities but alot of them go the centre de loisirs for the day. Ditto for the holidays .. So , if you think that French kids are well behaved, you should really give credit to the educational system ...
French parents like to slap their children. Yes, it is true. Only last week, I was waiting for an appointment outside a building when a mother came walking down the street, chasing her little boy and belting him hard. He was terrified. I screamed at her to stop and pretended to be calling the gendarmes. She laughed at me while her little boy cowered beside her. I've witnessed this many times and also parents casually slapping or pinching their kids when we are invited to their house. Respectable people walloping their kids cos they won't sit down for hours to eat their 5 course meal. Charming.
One very very rarely sees a French parent having fun and letting their hair down with their kids. Birthday parties are usually at Play Date centres so the Mommies don't have to get down and dirty with the kids. If the party is on in the house, the beautiful Mommy will feed them up with e-laden sweets and let them run amuck in the house. God forbid she should make a fool of herself playing musical statues or pass the parcel... our kids parties are talked about all year!!! So, French parents are not really "friends" with their kids.. another "good thing" apparently according to Drucker
So yes, our kids have personality and yes, sometimes their food falls on the floor and yes we do like to have fun with them. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding, I say and how they will turn out as young adults ... I'd prefer mine to have personality, a sense of humour and be able to speak their own mind confidently, even if they don't eat their broccoli and green beans....