Living in London, I spent my most peaceful years sharing flat with a phenomenal French lady. She was kind, gentle, caring, patient and intelligent- all the qualities I had not necessarily attributed to her French background as much to her individual personality. But when her family came visiting over Christmas, I saw a much different dynamic between each member than the one I was used to; dynamics that made breakfast a work of art and decision making smooth as silk.
It compelled me to take a closer look and engage further with the culture, only to find that the subtle differences in parenting very early on in life made all the difference- not only to the adults they become, but to the ever day experience of parenting as well. French kids seemed a lot more well-mannered in general and the manners were abundant.
I am not saying we all need to pack our bags and move to France, but there are a few tips we could learn from the French- here are eight to start with.
A Strong Sense of Self
Smothering your child 24-7 is a definite no-no when it comes to the French way of parenting. Children are encouraged to not anchor in the actions and words of their parents, and instead explore to anchor in who they discover themselves to be. A strong sense of identity and self is in focus here.
Patience and Composure
Like their art, their children too can be beautifully composed in their behavior, gestures and general response to the world at large. No, I am not saying they are timid, quite the contrary. But even fieriness is channeled into a gentler and calmer way- one that aligns with social expectations and etiquette- by teaching children the importance of patience from day one.
Fixed Meal Times
The French don’t eat just any time of day; that seems to be much too vulgar a way of living to most. Instead meal times are fixed and kids too are expected to follow suit. That means even if a treat is due, they need to wait for the appropriate time to indulge in it- a great way to not just monitor and temper their diets, but also teach them about patience.
Making Sure You Have a Life
Having a child does not mean you need to give up on your whole way of life. Infact having a life is critical to the French way of parenting. Children don’t see their parents as on call maids, doctors and attendants; instead they learn to share their parent’s time in a way that is fair on both parties.
A Natural Instinct for Parenting
The French, it seems, do not raise children; they raise adults in the making. The French don’t treat their kids like lifelong responsibilities, but as independent beings that will come together in time, and need support, love and guidance along the way. This respect for individuality helps the kids gain confidence in themselves, and step out to explore the world beautifully – much like the rest of nature does.
Let Your Voice Do the Talking, Not Your Words
French is arguably one of the most beautiful language to listen to, smooth and fluid in its sounds and delivery. I am not saying the French don’t get angry or lose it; but I feel we can take a cue from the language and its potency, and apply it to our parenting styles. Don’t just chose the right words, be gentle and smooth with your delivery as well; your kids respond more to the tone of your voice than you may realize.
Encourage Human Values Early On
While we are busy raising little kids to excel in the classroom or on the football field, we forget that this time in their lives is just as critical to impress the importance of human values. Whether it be compassion, patience or tolerance, teach your kid these values through direct experiences that are sure to hammer the message home.
Strong Cultural Context
A strong cultural context, in my opinion, goes a long way to not only affirming a sense of connection with those around your kids, but also invites them to explore their origins and surroundings. The world feels a lot more interesting and safer with history, arts, theatre and other human triumphs to back it up.