Why French Parents Are Superior. Saying ‘non’ with authority…

“…While Americans fret over modern parenthood, the French are raising happy, well-behaved children without all the anxiety.

…I started noticing that the French families around us (at restaurants in France) didn’t look like they were sharing our mealtime agony.  Weirdly, they looked like they were on vacation.  French toddlers, were sitting contently in their high chairs, waiting for their food, or eating fish and even vegetables.  There was no shrieking or whining.  And there was no debris around their tables.

…a 2009 study compared child-care experiences of similarly situated mothers in Columbus, OH and Rennes, France.  Researchers found that American moms considered it more than twice as unpleasant to deal with their kids.  In a different study by the same economists, working mothers in Texas said that even housework was more pleasant than childcare…

…one of the keys to this education (of children) is the simple act of learning how to wait.  It is why the French babies sleep through the night from two to three months old.  Their parents don’t pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep.  It is also why French toddlers will sit happily in a restaurant.  Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat.

…Most French descriptions of American kids include the phrase “n’importe quoi,” meaning “whatever” or “anything they like.”  It suggests that American kids don’t have firm boundaries, that their parents lack authority, and that anything goes.  It’s the antithesis of the French ideal of cadre, or frame, that French parents often talk about.  Cadre means that kids have very firm limits…and that parents strictly enforce these.  But inside their cadre, French parents entrust their kids with quite a lot of freedom and authority.”

…Authority is one of the most impressive parts of French parenting – and perhaps the toughest one to master.  Many French parents I meet have an easy, calm authority with their children I can only envy.  Their kids actually listen to them.  French children aren’t constantly dashing off, talking back, or engaging in prolonged negotiations….

For Video: Why French Parents Are Superior

For Full Article: Wall Street Journal –  Why French Parents Are Superior


  1. A very good read. More important, there is a world of wisdom in all you shared. Americans have lost the art of parenting. It’s about American’s now being “friends with their children” opposed to being parents of their children. I have said for so long now that the people who try and raise our children through their advice do not understand parenthood, rather, they’re part of the imposing problem of child immorality, disobedience and education. Glad to see someone knows the difference and isn’t afraid to annouce it.


  2. Being of French heritage, I grew up under this type of parenting. I try to do the same with my children, but it has been challenging. Now I understand better, why…. we are in America 🙂 !
    But I must say though, that I have experienced American parents at restaurants that looked like they had it all under control, when I felt my kids were out of control. So, there are American parents who do a wonderful job. I know, I have friends and I have watched them. Hooray to the French!!! 🙂 (I like altruistico’c comment)


  3. Nice post. Although I’m not a parent yet, I’m thankful for your insight into the subject. Also, I always find cultural differences interesting. It definitely seems like the French have a one-up on the Americans in this case.


  4. As a photographer – and therefore a visual observer – I could write at great length on this topic, but because it is a “reply” will keep it relatively brief…

    Being a child of WW2 (just) and raised during food rationing and no television, I naturally ate at table – and not on the sofa in front of the tube – and of necessity ate every scrap of very basic meals. And being a child of that period I was not allowed to talk at the table unless spoken to. It was not a strict regimen, simply correct and one of good manners. It did not harm nor hinder me, but provided me with an upbringing of showing respect and politeness to elders and authority.

    Roll-on half a century… I have now been a resident of France for a decade and see similar respect from many, if not most, children. But that is only part of the equation… everybody I walk past in town on my side of the street offers a handshake and a few words of conversation after a polite greeting… or from the opposite sidewalk just a “Bonjour monsieur” and usually a smile. And even teenagers with piercings in their ears, noses, lips and goodness knows where else, will shake hands with everyone of all ages in the local bar before they think of ordering their drinks!

    OK, I do not live in crowded cosmopolitan Paris or Marseille, but a small country town of 1,500 folk who basically all know one another at least by sight. But it is a welcome contrast to my five years in a leafy suburb of London, UK back in the ’70s where no-one, not even my immediate neighbors, offered a word of greeting on a regular basis… and if they rarely did engage in conversation it did not include a polite greeting beforehand.

    But why is this? Many years ago I read and immediately understood a few words in a book by John Ardagh – a noted writer of the definitive study of a changing France – where he observed an important difference between those who lived in Mediterranean bordering countries to those in the more northerly climes of Europe. Southern races drank the grape (wine) whilst northern races drank the grain (whisky), and in a curious way it summed them up… people in those southern countries were generally warm and gentle whilst those in the north were colder and hard. I’m not implying that’s a rigid rule… but as an observation – especially on the subject of family matters and manners – I find it generally correct.


  5. Like the article. I agree with your view. It seems we tend to exercise discipline randomnly with different levels of restrictions (thus not clearly defining their autonomy). I like the concept of clearly defininf the boundaries and then expand them as children mature. In szch way, the children realize their expanded opportunity for freedom and independency. It is like at work, as managers, we expand the responsibilitiies and empowerment as the employees expand their sense of confidence.


  6. I like the idea of teaching the children the ‘act of learning how to wait’. Great post! 🙂


  7. What infuriates me about this article & about this book is not its content or its purpose, but that the author & most people it seems have no clue that everything the author describes as “french parenting ” is not! I am Latino, born & raised in NY USA. My parents were from Puerto Rico , poor moderately educated immigrants. Having zero connection to french culture. Yet whats described in this book was the standard when I was being raised.

    Everything from the stern looks, direct “No” , to the consistent rules everyone in the house followed. No crying all night long , no tantrums, nor food phobias & I learning to play by myself. And most importantly no need for yelling nor constant hitting!

    That was me growing up & it was just the standard parenting form that my orphaned illiterate grandmother had used with my mother. My parents were not my friends & they never ran to meet my every whim. But they were my rock & all I have achieved is thanks to them. In later years as old age caught up with them we did become friends. This was thanks to the fact that they never made me feel, as an adult, that I was still their “little helpless baby”. Again they showed good parenting & treated me like they had my back & that I could trust them. I only hope I can be half that much with my own kids.

    Its not the “french way” its just the right way!!!



  8. American parents are too busy trying to be their children’s friends and make sure their children like them. This actually does more harm that good because these spoiled children expect that the world will also indulge them and don’t know how to handle the word NO.

    I say we should go back to basics like the French.

    Great post.


  9. Thanks. That made a good read although I am not a parent. Sharing this on my WordPress as well.



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