Author Pamela Druckerman caused a firestorm in 2012 when she published an essay in The Wall Street Journal called “Why French Parents are Superior.”
The story, an excerpt from her book “Bringing Up Bébé,” concluded that French kids were better behaved because their parents weren’t obsessive, and because they taught their kids how to wait.
A year later, Druckerman followed up on her WSJ column. She put some of the French parenting strategies she described in her original article to use in her own Paris home, and detailed her interactions with her three kids over the course of a typical weekend.
Here are some of the parenting strategies that were most effective. Her full weekend timeline is worth a read, and can be found here.
- Make it clear that the parents’ bedroom is off-limits to the kids: “Our bedroom is our castle. Or at least we act like it is. Like our French friends, we believe this isn’t just selfishly good for us. It also teaches our kids to cope with boredom, and to understand that we have needs too,” Druckerman writes. Instead of letting them barge in at the crack of dawn, she has taught her kids to play quietly in their own room when they wake up.
- Let the kids pick a vegetable at the grocery store: Having a say will make them more interested once the veggie is on their plates, she writes. And serve the vegetables first; they’re more likely to be eaten when the kids are still hungry.
- Give your kids a responsibility at mealtime: Let them set the table or load the dishwasher. “Autonomy — being able to manage without lots of parental micromanagement — is a big theme in France. It’s also supposed to be good for kids,” Druckerman writes.
- Education vs. Discipline: One of the biggest points in Druckerman’s original article is that French parents don’t discipline, they “educate” them — teaching them to be patient and play alone. In her follow-up article, she elaborates: “When a child interrupts, parents ask her to please wait a minute. And conversely, they try not to interrupt the child. If he’s absorbed in something and playing happily, they don’t barge in and offer her a snack. Of course the child will try to interrupt again. But her parents keep saying, ‘please wait.'”
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