26 June 2013

French Children Are Perfectly Well-Behaved - Mythbusters

Heck No.

I taught in a French middle school and high school this past year. I am currently the nursery school teacher at my church, and I have plenty of French friends with children, plus my own niece and nephew. Long story short, I'm constantly surrounded by these little boogers. Let me tell you, I've met some real angels and some real little terrorists. Please believe me when I tell you that the woman who wrote the book Bringing Up Bébé knows how to market a product well, and is full of it.


Let's just start by using some good common sense. Do Americans all raise their children the same? Do even half of them raise their kids the same? No. Every parent is really different. In my Family Studies courses at my university, they taught us that that was one of the most common points of conflicts for married couples with kids, because even within the same couple people have trouble agreeing on the methods for raising a child. How on Earth could someone pretend that an entire country raises their children exactly the same?

She's a good writer, and the book is captivating for sure, but it is utter crap. You could retitle this How Americans Would Like To Believe French Parents Raise Their Children. For some odd reason, Americans really love believing in outrageous stereotypes, that have no basis in reality.

Take the example of an acquaintance of mine, who mentioned that it must be difficult for me to handle the smell, because French people don't wear deodorant. Not only is this stereotype incredibly offensive, it's simply not true. I tried to explain that the only people I know who don't wear deodorant here are the homeless people (just like in the states). She looked at me like I was a little slow and goes, "My cousin visited Paris for an entire week last year, and she says that no one even knows what deodorant is there." Not only do people actually believe these crazy things, but they refuse to change their mind when all evidence points to the contrary. Sadly, I have these sorts of conversations all the time.



End Rant.

You should know that this book got excellent reviews on Amazon.fr, because the French found it to be hilarious. They found it interesting that read about how the Americans viewed the French, and felt that it revealed a lot more about Americans than it did the French. To my horror I found out that this woman has also written several other books on French parenting. Let's address a few of her claims, shall we?


French children sleep through the night at 4 months old

My sister-in-law's eyes nearly popped out of her head when I told her that one. She'd never heard of that. Letting children "cry it out" is just as controversial in France as it is in the US.



Breastfeeding is discouraged in France

I can think of four French women I know off the top of my head who are currently breast-feeding. I'm not saying that you don't run into the occasional idiot doctor, but in most regions breast-feeding is highly recommended.
"I gave birth in France, and oh my God how much I heard about breastfeeding! My 'sage-femme' (specially trained nurse for pregnant women) gave two lessons on the advantages and techniques of breastfeeding out of the seven state-reimbursed preparatory courses; in the public hospital where I delivered all walls were covered with posters on the advantages of breastfeeding; during my stay in the hospital the "sage-femme" attended to me every two hours to make sure the baby is "taking well the breast"; and upon my return home another nurse (from the PMI) visited me twice, completely free of charge, to ensure that the breastfeeding is going on well. I was also able to rent a pump maching from the pharmacy, and this is, too, reimbursed by the state. Finally, on every box of artificial milk you have a statement "natural breastfeeding is the best alternative for the baby". So yes, there are fewer French than American women who breastfeed according to the statistics, but please do not try to convey the message that the public sector in France is against breastfeeding!" Via

Plus, French women are told that breastfeeding helps you lose the baby weight, and these women tend to be very conscious of their weight.  I'm not saying that everyone does it, absolutely not. But it's certainly not discouraged.

The only thing I've noticed that is stigmatized is breastfeeding past a certain age. People doctors generally tell women to breastfeed for at least 6 months. Most women stop after that. (Just got done conversing with my husband about this and decided that I'll breastfeed up until they start getting teeth. I had a friend who got bitten once, badly.)


Parents always explain things calmly and gently to their children

If the school systems here are any indication, adults get children to behave by yelling at them, belittling them, and shaming them. I haven't personally seen any parents shaming their children in public. But I sure have seen a lot of yelling and the occasional smack up side the face. Granted, I've seen this just as often in the States.

They've actually released an anti-smacking your kids campaign. Here's the commercial if you're interested:



Friends, this post is getting too long, and I'm sure I'll start touching on quite a few of these subjects again later on. But you should know that moms everywhere are stressed out, really involved in their children's lives, and constantly second guessing if what they're doing is really best for their child. The truth is, nobody's got this whole thing figured out.

France is not a fantasy land.

This myth is: 


And if you're still wondering if French mothers know something you don't, let me tell you about the time where I was invited to eat at someone's house, and they let their children roller skate around the dining table during the meal. They had bare feet at the beginning of dinner and never left their seats. And then, suddenly, children started flying out from underneath the table on roller blades. It was hilarious.

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