French parents put themselves first, let their babies cry and don’t allow snacking. Paris-based American author Pamela Druckerman was a willing convert
French parents have better- behaved children because they look after themselves first. The majority of babies are breastfed in the beginning, but if the mother suffers cracked nipples or any other problem she is encouraged to move on to the bottle. Infants naturally keep parents awake for the first two or three months, but then breastfeeding usually stops. From two to three months, babies are expected to sleep alone in the dark through the night. Parents leave them to cry for longer and longer periods, which teaches babies to comfort themselves and also that they are individuals.
This is just the start of raising French children, who sit patiently at the table awaiting their food because they are on a strict schedule of meals with no snacks in between. They learn about delayed gratification from the start.
French parents never discipline or punish; they “educate” in a loving manner, while also letting children know they are not the centre of their parents’ universe. Children know that a firm “no” means no. US-born Pamela Druckerman, author of French Children Don’t Throw Food, had to be taught to say a firm “no” by a French friend in the playground, who advised that saying it with conviction was what mattered. To her amazement, after several tries, it worked.
Evenings are for the parents to spend time together, so if the younger children are not in bed by 7pm, the older children occupy themselves quietly and don’t disturb “adult time”. “The French assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and there is no need to feel guilty,” she says.
Now compare this to Irish children, who give their parents sleepless nights for years in some cases and even share the parental bed. An Irish child sitting patiently awaiting a meal and eating with a knife and fork? Snacking in front of the TV and eating with fingers is more like it.