Lifestyle

French savoir faire of raising well-behaved children

The French introduce lots of different foods at an early age and favour a variety of tasty vegetables.
The French introduce lots of different foods at an early age and favour a variety of tasty vegetables. Vadim Ponomarenko

FASHION, food, cafe culture, the Eiffel Tower and a big bike race - the French are admired for many things, and author Pamela Druckerman has added one more to the list: their parenting style.

While living in Paris with her young family, the American-born journalist began asking herself how the French managed to raise such well-behaved children.

She turned her insights into a book, French Children Don't Throw Food.

Her new book, French Parents Don't Give In, boils child-rearing down to 100 tips of what she describes as "the smartest and most salient principles about parenting" that she has learned from French parents and childcare experts.

The book is a handbook on how to get away from the sort of kid-centred "intensive" outcome-focused parenting that has found favour during the past 20 years with parents who want kids who can read by the age of six and score the best university places.

Instead, the French focus is on how to raise a human being who is polite, respectful, independent, can have fun, can work out their own problems and disputes - and eat all their vegetables.

Druckerman's take on French parenting will bring relief to parents who feel guilty because they haven't read all the books on a parenting or secured every cupboard in the house with childproof locks.

The French tips provided by Druckerman are very much common sense "things that French parents do by intuition, tradition or trial-and-error" but which she notes are now backed up by research.

And the message against over-intellectualising and micro-managing the parenthood gig is evident from the first tip: Pregnancy is not a research project.

"French mothers-to-be might read a baby book or two but they don't baby proof their homes beyond recognition, or select a stroller as if they were choosing a husband," Druckerman writes.

"Making a baby is more mysterious and meaningful than anything you've ever done. You can dwell on the enormity of that without trying to micromanage your pregnancy and without anointing a personal guru. The most important voice to have in your head is your own."

 

Take a tip from the French

 

Be polite to your baby

French parents tend not to speak down to their infants in song-song baby talk but they do pay them the courtesy of saying "bonjour", "please" and "thank you".

If you believe that your baby understands you, it's never too early to start modelling good manners.

Vegetables are a French child's first food

If your baby's first food is bland rice cereal, she'll probably take to it. But why not start with something more exciting.

French parents usually feed their babies flavour-packed pureed spinach, carrots, courgettes and other vegetables.

By introducing lots of different foods at an early age, they are trying to launch their children on a lifelong relationship with these flavours and introduce them to the pleasures of eating.

Serve food in courses, vegetables first

Your family meals don't need to be fancy. Just bring out some vegetables before anything else.

If your kids haven't been snacking all day, they will be hungry and more likely to eat what's put in front of them first.

A vegetable starter doesn't have to be elaborate.

It can be a bowl of sugar-snap peas, some cut up cherry tomatoes with a dash of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar, or some sauteed broccoli.

Just put a serving on each child's plate and wait. Then follow with a main course and dessert.

Leave time for play

A few music or dance classes are fine. But the French believe in giving little children lots of free time.

"When the child plays, he constructs himself," one of my daughter's Parisian nursery teachers explained.

Extra-curricular activities are for pleasure, not competitive advantage

You're not building a bionic child. Choose activities that you child enjoys, then let him do them at his own pace.

Don't be the referee

French parents try to avoid becoming the arbiters of all disputes - whether between siblings, playmates, or new acquaintances at the playground.

They try to empower their children with the authority and know-how to work things out on their own.

Birthday parties are for children

In Paris, from about the age of three, birthday parties and play dates are usually drop-offs.

French mothers don't feel they must supervise another adult supervising their child.

It's a practical way of coping with the fact that all parents are extremely busy and that - while we're delighted that our kids get along - we're not all actually friends.

Pretend to agree

No matter how misguided your partner's proclamations about the household rules are, never contradict him in front of the children. Wait and speak to him in private.

He should do the same for you. That way, you'll build up complicity between you.

And since the rules aren't up for discussion, they'll have more force.

Explain the reason behind the rule

When you say "no", you should always explain why. You're not trying to scare your child into obeying you.

Rather, you want to create a world that's coherent and predictable to her, and to show that you respect their autonomy and intelligence.

You're not disciplining, you're educating

The next time your child speaks with a mouth full of pasta, remember that you're teaching her table manners gradually, in the same way that you would teach her maths.

In other words, the learning doesn't happen all at once.

Don't jump on your child for every offence. Save your punishments for the felonies.

It will help her learn what is important. 

SOURCE: French Parents Don't Give In, Doubleday, $27.95.

 

>> To read more lifestyle stories

Topics:  children france lifestyle parenting


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Facing up to the music

SOUR NOTE: Scott Cooper at The Mecca.

Lismore Music Festival organisers apologise for event cancellation

NORPA founder brings us Opera Australia

FOR KIDS: James Payne as Troll and Ruth Strutt as Ferdinand in El Kid, Opera Australia's production for primary schools.

El Kid comes to Albert Park Public School

Women's Expo to open the festival

Lismore's Women's Festival.

A day long event for the wellbeing of women in Lismore

Local Partners

MP calls for croc shooting safaris

Far-north Queensland MP Bob Katter says solution to crocs is a "swift, fast bullet"

REVIEW: Under the Gun doco looks at right to bear arms

ARMED: A still from the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun by Stephanie Soechtig.

An in-depth look into America's gun culture.

Messing with your head

MIND BLOWN: What could be weirder than the realisation that we have another completely separate brain and nervous system than the one originating in our heads?

Fascinating connection between your gut and your brain

Sir Elton John coming to Mackay: What you need to know

Sir Elton will come to Mackay and Cairns in September.

Tickets to the concert go on sale on March 14

Bindi Irwin's birthday tribute to her dad

BINDI Irwin has paid tribute to her late dad, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, on what would have been his 55th birthday.

Reality TV show gives Maryborough a boost

*WARNING EMBARGOED until 9.15pm Monday January 30* Sean Hollands and Susan Rawlings pictured after their wedding on the TV series Married At First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.

Maryborough looks good on reality TV show.

Buderim dad rejects gay son's emotional plea for second time

LOVERS: Grant and Chris have been together for more than three years, and Chris' parents refuse to acknowledge their son's fiance.

Son’s emotional plea rejected again by unmoved father

What's on the big screen this week

Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in a scene from the movie T2: Trainspotting.

This week's new releases offer plenty of variety for movie buffs.

REVIEW: Under the Gun doco looks at right to bear arms

ARMED: A still from the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun by Stephanie Soechtig.

An in-depth look into America's gun culture.

Hodges proud to be part of first channel dedicated to NRL

Justin Hodges is gearing up for his new gig on Fox League.

Footy star hopes to provide a voice for players on new NRL channel

NORPA founder brings us Opera Australia

FOR KIDS: James Payne as Troll and Ruth Strutt as Ferdinand in El Kid, Opera Australia's production for primary schools.

El Kid comes to Albert Park Public School

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

He had what he calls "the tenants from hell"

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Popular island resort sells to loaded international investor

OUR PICK: Chris Foey's colourful shot of one of Gladstone's great tourism hot spots, Heron Island.

International investor snaps up piece of Gladstone paradise.

Potential home buyers punished for doing the 'right thing'

Should I go to university or buy a house?

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!