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Are the French Better Parents?


When I was growing up, my parents had a busy social life that involved having conversation and coffee several times a week with friends, while we kids played on our own. We were welcome to pop in to say hi, but it was understood they were having adult time. Fast-forward 30 years, when I am a mom to two small children myself, and I don’t think I have ever had an uninterrupted conversation in their presence. Maybe it’s our small living space and lack of a yard which makes it hard to find independence, or it could be my crunchy neighborhood’s embrace of attachment parenting seeping into my own consciousness, but my kids view me as an always-available master of ceremonies.

So it is with intrigue that I’ve been following the recent fascination with hands-off French parenting, which seems like a throwback to my parents’ generation. In The Wall Street Journal, Pamela Bruckman, author of Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, writes about the emphasis on patience through a loving but firm hand, which translates into kids who play independently and behave themselves in restaurants. Janine di Giovanni, an Italian-American living in Paris, shares another take in the Telegraph: although she agrees that French children end up better behaved than their American counterparts, it's through cold and unfeeling mothering.

Does the French style of parenting hold appeal for you? Do you feel like American parents indulge their kids too much?

By the way, if find yourself way too involved in your kids’ lives, you’re not alone. Find out how we got that way, and how you can learn to stop hovering.