Le Tigre vs the Tigers: When Mothers Collide

By Kim-Vi Sweetman

Elm Staff Writer

You’re about to get one-upped again in the parenting department. And this time, they’re not even Asian. They’re French!

“Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman claims that French parents are better parents who raise better children. Druckerman also claims that not only are French parents better than American parents, but that they are also better than Chinese parents.

Why is this, you ask? Apparently, French parents actually have authority in their families. They aren’t afraid to say “no” to their children, don’t flip-flop on their policies like politicians, and make their children work for what they want.

This sounds familiar. Oh await, Chinese mothers have very similar ideas! However, the French also openly admit to spanking their children, and don’t breasfeed very much.

What are the benefits? Their children are polite to adults, eat their food without complaint (including spinach), and sleep through the night. If you can get a baby to sleep through the night, you definitely get points in my book! However, while a lot of this benefits the parents such as the mothers lose baby weight faster and feel more confident about their parenting choices, their children sometimes suffer. According to statistics, the French obesity rates are approaching the level of Americans. Yikes.

Apparently, they are also more likely to suffer from depression at least once in their life, as if Americans need anything else to use to pick on them. (Don’t lie, you saw this was about French moms and had a moment of saying “pshht.”) The fact that the French spank their children is also a point of controversy. As we have discovered, using physical means of punishment on a child could have negative effects in the long run, including teaching the child that it is acceptable behavior.

Personally, I still find Asian moms to be superior. You could be the nicest, calmest, most well-behaved person I know, but if you have no way of supporting yourself, then what’s the point? Also, I’d like to apologize in advance because a few of the occupations I am thinking of that involve good social skills are not so savory. Of course, you could go into something where all you do is talk to people all day and need that composure, but I’ve never liked telemarketers. I’ve also found that while yes, you can transfer the skills of one area to another, it is easier to start with a good foundation in academia.

Where both cultures – and likely others that we’ll be hearing about – definitely rise above American parenting culture is this: they don’t see it as a competitive sport. They also don’t worry excessively about how the child will feel to the point that we do. How many of your parents have explained the family finances to you, and at what age did that start? Was it because of financial circumstances, or because that was the norm? How many of you would consider a B/B+/A- to be “good” or even “great” grade? When you compare American culture to foreign culture, Americans assume children are more fragile than the rest of the world does.

How on earth did we start looking to doctors for advice on children to other countries? Of course, not every parent in America needs this kind of help. There are parents who count themselves as “American” and who use “American” parenting skills to raise some very fine children. It seems, however, that more and more parents are attributing their skills to their cultural heritage, rather than “It’s because I’m an American.”

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