What is French-style parenting?
You have probably heard of French-style parenting, maybe from some ex-pat who lived in France long enough to observe their way of parenting—and now swears by its benefits. A growing number of parents choose this approach to parenting—especially those who hope to raise independent and disciplined children who leave them more time for their own interests. Parenting in France tends to emphasize structure, boundaries, respect, self-reliance, and cultivating a love of culture.
Some parents believe French-style parenting places too much pressure and high expectations on children. But if this approach fits well with your family values, it’s worth considering for the abundant benefits it offers toward raising a well-adjusted child.
French-style parenting highlights
1. Setting limits and boundaries
French-style parenting places emphasis on setting clear limits and boundaries for children. This means putting rules in place and setting clear expectations for their behavior, and enforcing consequences for breaking the rules. Parenting in France tends to be firm, but also exhibits consistency and fairness with regard to discipline.
2. Prioritizing manners and social skills
French culture prioritizes manners and social skills, and this is apparent in the parenting style. From a young age, children are taught to be courteous, polite, and respectful—not just to adults, but to other children as well. Saying “please” and “thank you,” showing consideration for others, and waiting their turn to speak are considered basic expectations.
3. Encouraging independence:
French-style parenting highly values independence and self-sufficiency. Children are encouraged to take on responsibilities and to learn to do things independently—such as dressing themselves, cooking simple meals, and cleaning up after themselves. This helps children develop a sense of self-determination and self-sufficiency.
4. Quality over quantity time:
French-style parenting also stresses the importance of spending quality time with children. This means that parents engage with their children in bonding activities such as playing board games, reading books, or cooking together, rather than simply being in the same space together.
5. Eating and enjoying food
French culture in general holds a great appreciation for food and the enjoyment of eating. French-style parenting often includes teaching children to eat a wide variety of foods, to enjoy the experience of eating, and emphasizes the importance of family meal times. This can help children to develop healthy eating habits and perspectives on food, as well as promote a positive relationship with their family.
What are the cons of French-style parenting?
1. Emphasis on obedience
An essential aspect of French-style parenting is a focus on obedience and respect for authority. While this can be a good thing in some contexts—particularly for parents—it can also result in underdeveloped critical thinking in children. This could make children less likely to express their opinions or challenge authority, which may limit their personal growth and creativity.
2. Lack of warmth and emotional support
A French-style parenting approach is sometimes viewed as cold and unemotional, placing a high priority on discipline over affection. While children do need structure and guidance, they also require emotional support and bonding with their parents. It is possible that too much emphasis on discipline and structure may lead children to feel distant from their parents, which could negatively impact their emotional well-being.
3. Pressure to perform
A potential drawback of French-style parenting is that it can place a lot of pressure on children. The focus on structure and discipline can sometimes be at the expense of a child’s creative expression and self-exploration. Children may feel pressure to perform well in order to earn their parents’ approval, which can lead to anxiety and stress.
4. Limited flexibility
The structured, rule-oriented tendencies of French-style parenting might not be the best strategy for all families. Because French parenting focuses less on individual children’s personalities and preferences, it may not be flexible enough to accommodate certain children’s particular needs.
5. Lack of emotional support
French-style parenting may not provide enough support and guidance to children when it comes to managing their emotions, developing healthy coping strategies, and maintaining strong relationships.
People against French-style parenting
French-style parenting has gained popularity with many parents, but it is not without its critics. According to some, this parenting style lacks warmth and emotional support and is overly rigid.
1. Emphasizes obedience over creativity
The main criticism of French parenting is that it places too much emphasis on obedience and structure, and not enough on creativity and self-expression. Critics argue that this can fail to help children fully explore their interests and passions.
2. Too rigid
French-style parenting is known for its emphasis on routine and structure, which can be helpful for some children. However, others argue that this approach can be too rigid, leaving little room for spontaneity and fun.
3. Culturally inappropriate
While French-style parenting may work well in France, some people argue that it may not be culturally appropriate in other countries. Children in some cultures are encouraged to speak and express themselves more, so they may not respond well to the emphasis on obedience and respect for authority found in the French parenting style.
4. May not be suitable for all children
Every child is unique, and some may not respond well to the structure and discipline that French-style parenting promotes. Children who are more sensitive or introverted may be overwhelmed, while more independent or outgoing children may feel detached and distant.
5. May not be effective in the long run
Critics argue that the emphasis on obedience and discipline may not be effective in the long run. When children are overly restricted in their early years, they may rebel against these restrictions in later years, causing conflict between family members.
The benefits of French-style parenti
1. Promotes good behavior and respect
French-style parenting emphasizes the importance of good behavior and respect for authoritative figures. Politeness, patience, and well-mannered behavior are taught to children in France at a young age, which can make them a pleasure to be around and better prepared for school and adult life.
2. Encourages independence and self-control
In France, parents encourage their children to become independent and to self-regulate their behavior rather than relying on constant supervision and direction from adults. This helps children develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed later in their lives.
3. Promotes healthy eating habits
French-style parenting emphasizes the importance of healthy eating habits, including regular meal times, limited snacking, and a varied diet. This can help children develop healthy eating habits and avoid obesity and eating disorders.
4. Helps children develop good sleep habits
French parents prioritize good sleep habits, including a regular bedtime schedule and a consistent bedtime routine. This can promote kids to develop healthy sleep patterns that can benefit them throughout their lives.
5. Reduces stress and conflict
French-style parenting emphasizes the importance of clear structure and consistent boundaries, which can reduce stress and conflict within the family. When everyone knows what is expected of them, there is less room for confusion and arguments.
Books and articles
- Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
- French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon
- French Kids Don’t Throw Food: Parenting Secrets from Paris by Pamela Druckerman
French-style parenting has definite benefits that can enable parents to build more structure and discipline in their children’s lives. While it can be a very effective parenting method, it may not be the best fit for all families. It’s important to consider the potential downsides of any parenting approach and adapt it to meet the unique needs and personalities of individual children and to be open to changing strategies as needed.
Also, check out these posts below for further reading:
- Picky Eater free PDF worksheet—strategies to get your picky eater to eat a variety of foods
- How to talk to your kids about the birds and the bees without blushing
- Positive Parenting Techniques to boost your child’s happiness