French small fries are a chip off the good parenting block
You’ve all heard of the helicopter parent and the tiger mum, right? One hovers, the other roars. Most probably do both. Turns out, there are 12 different styles of parenting, which is handy for fickle Fannys like me – one for every month of the year.
There are the obvious A types: attachment, positive, unconditional, authoritative; the esoteric Bs: spiritual, permissive, slow (me with maths homework); the Cs: authoritarian, narcissistic, the aforementioned helicopter; and the Ds: toxic, uninvolved – aka the downright useless, whose failure to use a naughty step has bred a generation of stoners.
The problem with categorising is that it presumes some consistency. All credit to you if you are, but I’m not. One day I’m do-re-mi-ing around the place à la Julie Andrews. The next, I’m a witch. “Don’t come within a metre of me,” I ordered the sprogs recently. “That’s 100cm.” Am I the only woman who has PMT three times a week?
Anyway, good news. The French, apparently, have nailed the art of parenting, as they do most things – being sexy, not getting fat and looking good in matelot tops. According to a new book, the French method of parenting is the style du jour.
Mother-of-three Pamela Druckerman wrote French Children Don’t Throw Food after living in Paris for several years. She found a culture where babies sleep through the night at two months and mothers quickly return to work and a healthy sex life (though, being Gallic, not necessarily with their husbands).
Yes, I feel like thwacking all the Audrey Tautou look-alikes and their Bonpoint-clothed enfants with a baguette. But after a holiday where the common refrain among parents was our kids’ monstrous sense of entitlement, I wonder if the French are on to something.
From birth, bébés aren’t attended to the second they cry; the Gallic use ‘the pause’ to see if they’ll self-soothe. Instead of pussy-footing around with a “Now, Johnny, let’s not put our fingers in the power points,” they snap, “Ça suffit!” (That’s enough!) And, when eating, any hand not in use must be placed flat on the table. (Sounds nuts, but it did bring some refinement to the table du Mollard.)
Druckerman also observes that French kids are better behaved in public. They don’t run through train carriages, rarely interrupt their parents, and learn not to say “I’m bored”. Maman and Papa live by the philosophy ‘C’est moi qui decide’ (it’s me who decides).
According to Paris-based child psychologist Caroline Thompson, French women consider themselves women first, mothers second. In other cultures, she says, mothers want to be liked by their child and often subjugate their own lives to the extent their child becomes “the project”.
Galling, isn’t it? Here they are, the best at wine, fashion, food, art and sex, and now they have to rub garlic into the wound by taking out the trophy for parenting, too.
Look, I like some of their ideas: upping the discipline; limiting choices; shopping for lingerie rather than school shoes. But in creating a bunch of politely spoken mini-mes, I wonder if anyone has much fun.
Catch Angela Mollard every Monday at 9.30am on Mornings, on the Nine Network.
Email email@example.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/angelamollard.
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