Thursday, February 23, 2012

Even the French Are Awesome

We recently established here at Langue or Parole? that the French language is awesome. It was not my intent to argue for the awesomeness of France or the French people, given that the French language extends for beyond the Hexagon. Yet according to a recent book excerpt in the Wall Street Journal, French parents (and by extension can't we assume pretty much all French people?) rock.

Yes, this totally ignores many social problems in France. But there were two salient points to this article for me (as a parent).

1. We parents do not need to feel pressure to be constantly "present" with one's child (e.g., it's okay for my son to play alone sometimes; I don't have to be constantly entertaining him).
2. We parents should have definite, clear rules and parameters, but within those we should give a lot more liberty.

These two boil down to the "French" approach to parenting, distinct from the "American" approach (whatever those are): don't stress over every little thing. Will your children survive if you don't use a fence at the top of your stairs? Yes. What if you don't cover all of the electrical outlets in the house? Yes. Will they develop into normal human beings if we don't take them to weekly music and sports lessons from the age of 3? Yes. What we should really be concerned about (and here is where my agreement comes in as a Christian) is their development in regard to patience, self-control, and respect for authority.

Thus, even the French people are awesome.


  1. I read this article a few weeks ago, too, and I've thought about it many times since. I'm sure there's a bigger picture; it was such a small article.

    So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep this article in mind as you yourself spend a year in France. Evaluate it and then produce your own analysis—where are French parents typically better than their American counterparts, and where is the reverse true?

    1. Yeah, there has to be a bigger picture. When I first saw the article, I (metaphorically) rolled my eyes and thought back to last year's Wall Street Journal excerpt from Tiger Mother, about why Chinese mothers are allegedly superior (they're actually not).

      These headlines are merely meant to grab our attention, I suppose (I speak as a former copy editor and headline writer). But if we read the articles, and especially if we read the books, we get a whole lot more nuance (some truth, and some definite error).

      All that said, I definitely am provoked to thought as a parent when I read these articles.

      I'll have to try a little personal research while I'm in France as you suggest--I actually had not even thought much about that, but I'll get to observe what Druckerman has observed!