7 Quick Takes - French Parenting Style

Joining up with Jen and all her lovely Quick Takers!


I was a HUGE fan of the summer reading program when I was a kid. I already loved to read, but the summer reading program at the library made it seem more challenging. How many points could I rack up? How many books could I check out at a time! Sister Stinky and I have done the baby summer reading program at the County Library the past two summers, and she's won some simple but fun little toys through that. (Again, the kid has inherited her parents' love for books and usually we're trying to cut her off rather than get her to read more. I've already taught her to bring a stack of books to bed with her to read- i.e. page through...she's nowhere near actually reading!- if she can't sleep and that's backfiring...every morning I'm rewarded by having to dig out said books from behind her bed!)


Anyway, there's something deeply satisfying for me about having a stack of library books to read through during the summertime. I just finished this one:

Have you read it yet? Normally I'm not hugely into reading popular books but this one was suggested by some bloggers that I respect so I thought I'd dive in. Basic premise - an American mom and her British husband are raising their three children together in France. The book is all about her comparing French vs. American parenting models, and basically sharing what it is that the French are getting right.


After reading it, I told the Abbot, "I think we're actually French parents."


Undoubtedly, we're more than a little subject to American parenting models. BUT I think that the aspects of French parenting that the author lauds are actually basic, old-fashioned parenting principles that just make sense...and that can also help kids grow in virtue! The biggest thing she talks about is the French concept of a cadre which basically means a balance - a balance between the needs of the parents and the needs of the child, and enforcing proper limits to respect that balance.


So, for example, she describes she and her husband taking their year and a half year old daughter to a restaurant in a French vacation town, and how terribly she behaved compared to the French children sitting around them. What she starts to uncover is that French children are more accustomed to hearing the word "no" and that parents understand that giving a child limits actually makes the child happier (and more pleasant to dine out with). 

Later in the book she explains the French philosophy on limits even more in depth. She describes how French parents see limits on a child's freedom as actually enabling the child to be free rather than enslaved to his or her uncontrollable emotions, whims, and passions. She talks about this with some shock, as if that's a novel concept. But it's not! In fact, it's much in keeping with the training in virtue that's the aim of the two Catholic parents who live in our house. Freedom enabling you to freely choose the good...a perfect goal for toddlers and their parents!!!


Don't get me wrong...Sister Stinky is not perfect (and who knows how her sister will be!) but we've definitely fallen into a good rhythm in our family - one in which we try to have our authority established but also are attune to the needs of our oldest child. (In the end, the author seems to conclude that finding the balance between being too strict and not strict enough lies in between in sync with your child enough that you can tell when she needs to be reprimanded vs. when she needs a hug.) The parenting method the author describes, in fact, is also very Montessorian - the idea that a child is happiest when he or she is both respected and also made to show respect and understand their place in he home. I found a lot of what she described to be very believable because our parenting style is one that blends Montessori and Catholic values. 

I have to admit, Maria Montessori's ideas about children, knowing how the Abbot and I were both raised,  combined with my own desire to help my children grow in self-control and holiness (and also with more than a little bit of Duggar family wisdom thrown in) has led to a balance in our home that I hope we can maintain with future little ones!!


So, in short...I definitely recommend Bringing up Bebe. If your parenting style is like ours, you will feel very affirmed in what you are doing! And even if you parent very differently from the French, I think you'll still find it an interesting reflection on parenting in another culture. :-)


  1. I'm reading that book too! Almost done with it, and I think it's a good read. I like how it's more in story form, and I think she has some good points!

  2. I typically steer clear of popular books as well, but after reading this post I definitely want to check it out! I love the limits-allowing-you-to-be-free concept, it fits right in with my religious values and the virtuous home and family my husband and I are trying to create as well! So awesome :) thanks for this post! I hope baby #2 is on her way (for real) soon!


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