French Style Parenting Vs. American Parenting — What's The Difference?

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It is no surprise that different countries have wide-ranging differences in culture, cuisine, and entertainment. It looks like even parenting styles can vary widely from one country to another. So when it comes to French style parenting versus American parenting, what are the major differences anyway?

Now, just to clarify, this is not meant to pit two countries against one another in a fight to see who raises the best babies. Both parenting styles have their pros and cons, and parents from any country can pick and choose from the different methods to find an approach to childrearing that works for them.

There are also a couple of caveats when comparing the two styles. Mainly, there are tremendous variations of parenting styles within each country, so that children in different regions of the United States may receive wildly different upbringings. And even children in Paris may be parented differently from their peers in Nice.

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So here is a quick overview of what appear to be the biggest differences in how the French approach parenting differently from Americans. By understanding the many ways other countries approach common childcare quandaries, parents can rethink their methods of dealing with discipline, bedtime routines, and celebrating milestones. Because if there’s one thing that unites parents the world over, it’s a desire to raise happy, healthy children into well-adjusted adults.  

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1French Parents Don't Have Separate 'Kids' Food'

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Picky eating is apparently not well-tolerated in France. "We [Americans] assume ... a little more that kids have inherent likes and dislikes, whereas the French view on food is the parent must educate their child and that appreciation for different food is something you cultivate over time," Pamela Druckerman, an American mother of three who resides in Paris, told NPR. Perhaps chicken nuggets are not the end-all be-all of kid food.

2French Parents Pause Before Nighttime Checks

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This is a little trick that may help some sleep-deprived American moms. As noted in Scholastic, French parents will often wait a minute or two before going to rescue a crying baby at night. This gives the infant time to learn how to self-soothe and go back to sleep if possible.

3French Parents Give Independence Earlier On

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As Kerry Hardy, an American raising two kids in France, noted in The Huffington Post, French children as young as 7 years old are often deemed responsible enough to walk to school or take public transportation alone. Of course, for American parents, your mileage may vary with this technique, depending on where you live (and whether your neighbors are busybodies).

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4American Parents Are More Focused On Individuality

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In The Atlantic, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry said, "American education, flawed though it may be, leaves more room for children to express their individuality." Gobry went on to note that children who are exceptionally well-behaved may simply be browbeaten into submission, and that boisterous children may one day grow up to be secure, productive adults.

5French Parents Trust Their Instincts

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Reading loads of parenting books is probably not high on the to-do list of French moms. As Dominique Misrahi, a French mother who has lived in the US since 1999, said in Today, “We use more of our parenting instincts to guide us. In some cases, you really just have to do what you feel as a parent.” Sometimes maman knows best.

6French Moms Don't Compromise

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In France, mothers do not routinely seek compromise with kids: what mom says goes. As a piece in The Telegraph noted, French children's temper tantrums are not tolerated. Kids are expected to follow their mom's lead.  

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7French Moms Have Less Guilt

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Many American moms have to contend with the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't question of whether to work after having children. But in France, as explained in The Washington Post, there is a tradition of working mothers, so often women do not have to deal with the same guilt of trying to "have it all." (But France also has government-subsidized child care, so that might help the mothers in that country have a little more peace of mind.)

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