It also extends, unsurprisingly, to parenting. And, as it turns out, there are a few distinctive differences in technique between parents in France and their American counterparts. Keep reading to check out what they are.
French parents create strong boundaries for their kids.
In the book “Bringing Up Bebe,” author Pamela Druckerman wrote that French parents establish clear expectations of what is expected and what is unacceptable behavior from their kids at an early age. This creates an authoritative parenting style and leaves little question as to who is in charge in the family.
French children learn four magic words.
In the US, kids generally learn two “magic words,” which are “please” and “thank you.” According to “Bringing Up Bebe,” French children learn four — “s’il vous plaît” (please), “merci” (thank you), “bonjour” (hello), and “au revoir” (goodbye). Although it is polite to say greet people in the US, in France, it is essential.
In “Bringing Up Bebe, Druckerman writes that, in France, “saying bonjour acknowledges the other person’s humanity.” So, it’s important.
Kids eat adult meals.
The concept of a “children’s menu” or “kid’s meal” — which tend to be bedrocks in American restaurants — aren’t as common in France. According to the book “French Kids Eat Everything,” there is very little distinction between what might appear on a parent or child’s plate.
Kids are given strong, mature flavors from a young age (think Roquefort cheese and pate), which gives them time to develop a taste for things that their American counterparts would find “icky.”
Kids eat vegetables, too.
“French Kids Eat Everything” also reveals how French parents get their kids to eat veggies. Apparently, vegetables are usually served at the start of a meal, when kids are hungriest, which ensures that they will have more motivation to eat them.
French kids’ hairstyles don’t have as much variance.
According to the book “Say Bonjour to the Lady: Parenting From Paris to New York,” French parents tend to have their kids stick with one haircut — a classic bob — but anything goes in the US.
French kids sleep through the night.
In “Bringing Up Bebe,” Druckerman says that French parents utilize something called “The Pause.” This is a technique in which parents wait a few minutes before tending to their child if they hear them start to cry, which gives them a chance to “self-soothe.” Over time, this can train kids to sleep through the night on their own.
French kids follow their parents’ schedules.
American parents often find that their weekends are dominated by their kids’ activities, like soccer practice, violin lessons, and tutoring sessions.
According to “Say Bonjour to the Lady: Parenting From Paris to New York,” French parents center their weekends around themselves and simply bring their children along, or, if they’re old enough, let them do their own thing.
French kids are given more responsibility at an earlier age.
Children in France are given much more freedom and responsibility than kids of their own age in the US. According to The Huffington Post, it’s common for kids in France to start walking to school by themselves by age 7 and riding public transportation solo by age 11.
French kids eat fewer snacks than American kids.
According to “Bringing Up Bebe,” French parents generally keep a routine in which kids eat three meals a day, plus one snack in the afternoon.
American kids have more individuality.
In The Atlantic, Megan Mcardle wrote that the strict, authoritative parenting style that is common in France can sometimes veer on the side of being too harsh. This helps minimize temper tantrums and picky eaters, but can leave little room for French kids to reveal their individuality.
French parents are less conflicted about their parenting techniques.
In many ways, guilt seems to be a standard byproduct of American parenting. (Possibly because there is a cottage industry in the states dedicated to proving that everything American parents do is unequivocally wrong.)
In France, there is less of an expectation for parents to do everything and be everything, according to Today, so parents are less likely to feel guilty about the way they raise their kids.
French parents don’t use food as a bribe or punishment.
According to “French Kids Eat Everything,” French parents don’t use food as a bribe, punishment, or reward. This helps French kids from developing strong emotional associations with certain types of food that may impede them from eating it (or, in some cases, could encourage them them to gorge on it), and may lead to an overall healthier relationship with food.
French parents don’t use as many parenting books.
If you’re trying to parent like the French using the help of a book, you may have already missed the point. According to Today, parenting books aren’t as common in France as they are in the US. Instead, parents use their instincts and other culturally-approved techniques, which has helped to create a more nationally cohesive parenting style.
American parents are more patient with their kids.
In an interview with Today, a French mother said that she was impressed by how much time parents give to their children, saying, “Mothers [in the United States] are generally more talkative, and patient, and explain much more about everything to their young children.”
This seems to help American children build up a strong sense of self-confidence, as well as a solid bond with their parents.
French parents have a life outside of their kids.
In France, parents are able to maintain an identity that doesn’t totally belong to their children. In an interview with NPR, Pamela Druckerman, the author of “Bringing Up Bebe,” said, “What French women would tell me over and over is, it’s very important that no part of your life — not being a mom, not being a worker, not being a wife — overwhelms the other part.”
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