3 French Parenting Rules Americans Would Never Go For (But Maybe Should)
Food, fashion, parenting—you name it. The French always seem to have that certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to how they navigate life’s many choices. On the child-rearing front in particular, we’ve been obsessed with their tactics ever since Bringing Up BéBé entered the zeitgeist back in 2012. But what’s au courant when it comes to parenting the French way these days? We reached out to Isabelle Bertolami, an American expat and influencer on TikTok and Instagram, who has been living in Paris with her family—including her three-year-old daughter—for the last five years to find out.
1. ‘Gentle Parenting’ is Out, ‘Little Adulting’ is In
Courses for discipline, eating, sleep training…they don’t really exist in France, says Bertolami. “I’ve never been marketed anything like that in France,” she says. Instead, it’s an adult world and French kids are just living in it. “It has a lot to do with the school situation,” she suggests. “At age 3, they’re in a kindergarten setting that would be what you’d expect for a 5- or 6-year old in the United States,” she explains. “They’re feeding themselves, pouring their own water—my own daughter took the metro at age three on a field trip. They’re pushed faster to gain independence and children just learn to adapt.”
2. No Screens at Restaurants
Paw Patrol over coq au vin? Mais non, says Bertolami who maintains that you really don’t see French families dining out with kids glued to an iPad and headphones. Instead, they’re just along for the ride. “Even on Saturday nights, you don’t see a ton of French parents booking sitters—the kids just come along to whatever the parents are doing. If that means there’s a child falling asleep on someone’s couch, that’s just what happens. Parents do what they want to do, but the kids are more flexible and go-with-the-flow as a result.” That’s not to say that a French toddler is joining their parents for a three-hour restaurant meal, Bertolami adds. But if they’re at their grandparents’ house, kids are expected to stay at or near the table for the length of the meal and stay well-behaved throughout.
3. No After-School Snacks
In France, you don’t snack, you have your meals, which is why Bertolami says that post-pickup, her daughter has something called a goûter, which is seen as a 4:30 p.m. meal. “This starts at childhood and continues through your whole life—my husband still wants a goûter mid-afternoon,” she laughs. (Often times, this meal consists of something sweet and savory—like a baguette with chocolate and butter.) Also, the timing of the after-school meal means that dinner happens later for kids, typically around 7:30 or 8, which pushes bedtime back, too. The upside? French kids love to sleep in.
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