Parisian vs. American parenting

by lisacng / 5 comments / Read comments or add one!

I wanted so bad to comment on the Tiger Mom debate of last year but missed the boat! So I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and provide my two cents on the Parisian vs American parenting discussion before it’s yesterday’s news. I’d love to hear your two cents too!

An American named Pamela Druckerman, living in Paris with her British husband and their kids, wrote a book called Bringing Up Bebe, which describes the differences she’s observed between Parisian vs American parenting. I originally came across the WSJ article from Mommy Shorts, and then found posts on BlogHer and A Cup of Jo. Mommy Shorts believes pastries and Nutella are the reasons Parisian kids are better behaved than American kids. Josette over at BlogHer says that actually, all parents are better than you. And finally, A Cup of Jo takes a sincere approach and lists some takeaways from the book excerpt. *Note, the posts by Mommy Shorts and Josette are supposed to be taken with a grain of salt and also preferably with a sense of humor!*

So here’s my two-cents.

When I first read the WSJ article, my first reaction was WHOA! So many points about “American kids” and “American parenting” are true for me. My 18-month-old (J) doesn’t sit in the high chair very long. At restaurants, I am speed-eating while simultaneously giving him things to play with and removing objects from his reach. He also has his moments in the tantrum-department.

What we’re doing wrong (and apparently Parisian parents are doing right), according to Druckerman, is that Parisian parents instinctively teach their children patience and independence. This helps with reducing tantrums and allows parents to have lives that almost resemble what life was like before children. Could you imagine being able to eat out peacefully and to have uninterrupted conversations with other adults even when your children around?

I agree with Druckerman that I, like many American parents, may be “overparenting, hyperparenting, and helicopter parenting”. While I don’t want J to feel like he’s always by himself when we’re at home, I realize that I hardly leave his side. It’s kinda ironic that my good intentions of helicoptering may also be contributing to J’s unwanted behavior. While I want to be around him, not just for his safety but also to interact with him, he’s not learning to play independently or deal with toddler-sized challenges (like shape sorting or how to turn a toy on).

How can he learn patience if I’m a split-second away from helping him fit that square peg into a round hole?

How can he learn to entertain himself if I’m constantly talking, singing, and over-stimulating him?

How can I expect J to be patient for his meal and entertain himself at a restaurant (so I can eat) if I don’t teach him those skills all the time?

Now, I didn’t do a complete-180 after I asked myself these questions, but I did start stepping away from J’s side from time to time. Last night, I actually prepped dinner while J entertained himself. It was kinda amazing and freeing. Gosh, I just remembered that a few weeks ago, I let him discover and play with his Megabloks by himself. He must have entertained himself for a good 15-minutes!

Maybe the timing of this article and J’s development are just right because now I see that not only is J ready to be independent, but I’m also ready to let him be.

I also agree with Druckerman that my “no’s” (and general authority) may not be taken seriously. Of course, part of that is J naturally wanting to test his limits. But part of it is me yelling across the room, “No”, “Don’t touch that”, “Don’t play with that”, “Be gentle with the puppy”, “Careful”, etc. and not following through.Interestingly from Baby Center, my “no’s” also may not be taken seriously because I don’t take his no’s seriously! After reading Druckerman’s and Baby Center’s articles, I’m learning to be patient with J. I’m learning to give him (and let him) make choices.

Even though I may have to wait 5 extra minutes for him to sit down while I put his shoes on, he’s much happier (and so am I) than if I were chasing him around the living room.¬†

Even though I have to tell him not to grab the puppy 10 times in a row, at least he’s learning that it’s never ok to grab the puppy (not just ok when Mommy’s tired of saying no).

I’m not saying that everything in Druckerman’s article and/or book will ring true for me, but these three Parisian parenting traits (patience, independence, and no’s) I have found so useful.

What did you think about the article?
What could Parisian parents learn from American parents?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan February 16, 2012 at 3:22 am

Enjoyed this post!


Greta February 16, 2012 at 3:29 am

I didn’t read the original article, just Mommy Shorts’ take on it. After reading this, though, I can see her points! My kids (thankfully) have always been pretty good at playing solo, and maybe that’s why they’re pretty good in restaurants. Who knows, but I will definitely try these things!


Mommy Shorts February 16, 2012 at 5:02 am

I let Mazzy play solo all the time but she still has temper tantrums and gets super frustrated when she can’t fit the square peg in the triangular hole.

I have, however, taken the “no” thing very seriously. Mainly because I realized that Mazzy does not take my “no” seriously. The scary thing, I have been saying it more and more forcefully and I still don’t think it is sinking in. Today I got to a level that felt very uncomfortable and unnatural for me. I’m still not sure if it registered with her but it must have a little because I finally was able to get her to stay still enough to change her diaper.

I don’t know if this is the right thing to do or not but the book has definitely got a lot of parents thinking.


TalkingThirty February 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Thank you so much for this post. This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now. I’m very much like you in that I feel the need to constantly be at my baby’s side, playing with him, making sure he’s safe, and of course stimulating his mind and his senses. I feel guilty if I put him in his swing for 3 minutes while I empty the dishwasher, for example. My husband, on the other hand, feels like we should continue to live life as we did before the baby came along and let baby learn to entertain himself. So we’re constantly debating this. I do believe that I need to give the baby some space and quiet time to assert his independence. Your post is a good reminder. Really enjoyed reading it.


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