First it was the Chinese. In January of 2011, the Wall Street Journal excerpted a section of Amy Chua‘s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother with the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” If you missed the ensuing media frenzy around the strict regimes of Asian parents, you probably had your head down changing a newborn. You also missed an opportunity to feel bad about your lackadaisical, liberal Western parenting.
Now that the hype has died down, a new super-parent has emerged to make us feel like we suck: The French Parent. Oh, it’s not bad enough that The French are thinner than you (think: French Women Don’t Get Fat), that they have benefits (like mother’s helpers and other government support) that make the Canadian system look downright, um, American — no! It’s not enough that they have the best brie and baguettes either (without getting fat, may I remind you), but apparently, they also have the BEST parents.
In a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Why French Parents Are Superior,” American-born, Paris-living author, Pamela Druckerman, gives convincingly argues that French children are generally better behaved. She describes the French parent’s goal to raise independent kids who have high levels of self-restraint. French children wait patiently: for maman to get off the phone, for their next meal and so on.
Full disclosure: I love France. But do I want to be compared to a French parent? No, because life à la française is pretty different in general (try 35-hour work-weeks and five weeks of vacation for starters) and we need to cut ourselves some slack as a result. Although there were parts of the article that made me think, “Hmm, she has a point,” and parts that made me think, “Hmm, I think we’re good at that,” there were also parts when I felt like a failure.
While it’s true that teaching children to wait is a grand skill (one the French view as education, not discipline), do we really need to feel worse about all the negotiating we’re doing on this side of the pond? Are most of us really that bad?
That being said, perhaps we shouldn’t be so sensitive. Maybe we should view these articles as something to learn from, rather than a total derision of how we’re raising our kids. Just yesterday, I caught my kids playing quietly on their own as I cooked (good self-control), so a reminder to stand my ground when constantly asked for treats and snacks is welcome.
So what do you think? Are all these articles touting culturally superior parents a good thing, or do they just make you feel inferior?
Edited to add: Anne Kingston has an interview with Pamela Druckerman up at Macleans on this topic, if anyone wants more.