Several years ago, a friend of mine told me about a fascinating book called French Kids Eat Everything. I finally had a chance to pick it up recently, and so far, it’s an interesting read.
In essence, the book describes how one North American family moved to France and soon discovered that picky eating and food tantrums were practically non-existent among French children. Amazed by this phenomenon, mother Karen Le Billon set out on a quest to discover how in the world French parents executed such a feat.
The answer, she found, was largely rooted in French parenting tactics:
“French parents were in charge. This impressed me, because in our family I sometimes wasn’t sure who was in charge. The symptoms were obvious. I cajoled. French parents did not cajole. I wheedled. French parents definitely did not wheedle. I begged, threatened, and bribed my kids. French parents did none of these things (at least as far as I could tell). They calmly and firmly (but usually gently) told their children what was expected, and let their kids know (in no uncertain terms) who was boss. And their children seemed to miraculously comply.”
Le Billon also notes:
“Yet most French parents are not overtly forceful. They’re loving while being firm. And somehow, magically, the children we met were often devoid of the impolite behavior and stubbornness that I saw in my own kids and in so many of their North American friends.”
Le Billon’s observations seem to be in line with what many parents in America are starting to realize, namely, that loving, structured, authoritative parenting is the best way to raise a well-behaved, enjoyable child. As Dr. Leonard Sax noted several months ago:
“Kids need authority, and when parents step back from authority, what’s happened in many cases is that the doctor steps in, and instead of parents setting clear rules of right and wrong, now you’ve got this kid running around, throwing things, and is put on medication.”
Would children, parents, and society in general be happier and better adjusted if more parents stopped trying to be their child’s friend and started being a loving, but firm, authority?
Image Credit: Wayan Vota (cropped) bit.ly/1iowB8m
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.