How much do we conform?
Over the past few weeks there have been a number of articles in the national press about Pamela Druckerman’s book called French Children Don’t Throw Food. A few of my comments were in the Daily Mirror in Tanith Carey’s article – So Why Don’t French Kids Throw Food? Which of course I am thrilled about as my photo was in it with a mention of my book Bringing Up Brits ! I said a few more comments when they asked me which were not printed (i’m sure due to space and relevance) so wanted to mention them here and to elaborate.
Parents naturally want to fit in with their peers and when they are living and raising their children in a foreign culture, they change or adapt their parenting styles in order to be accepted and to look ‘normal’. I think that’s something we do without even realizing it. At the same time, we want to retain our own culture and ways of doing things and this is one of the hardest aspects of raising children in a foreign country.
So If I were living in France, would I conform to the French parenting model? It’s hard to say but I do know I would feel pressure to do so just as I feel pressure here to be more British and to do things the British way. Here, I feel parenting in general is very relaxed and laid back compared with parenting in the States. For example, parents tend to give their children the benefit of the doubt more so than in the Staes. Parents are less quick to reprimand and prefer to see how the situation evolves. They will intercede (although not always) when necessary, but getting to that stage is slower. Even the way parents interact with other parents is very different. Play dates and get togethers happen more organically and ‘by chance’ rather than in a more open and direct way. I have learned this the hard way and have now almost completely conformed to the British way! However when it comes to disciplining my children either at home or in public, I don’t feel I conform to the British way at all. I feel I am a strict parent compared to the British parents I know. Conversely, I am not nearly (or even at all close) as strict as my parents were when I was a child growing up in America. Like Druckerman says “And unlike in the UK, where ‘no’ can mean ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘maybe later’, in France ‘non’ means ‘absolutely not'”, this would apply to American parenting as well. British parents are less willing to establish absolutes which leads to children thinking that ‘no’ doesn’t actually mean no at all.
My husband sometimes thinks I am too strict on our children but when I explain my reasoning for it, he usually agrees with me. We do have different parenting styles simply becuase of (but not only due to) a cultural divide. And at times I am calmed by my husband’s more relaxed, laid back and (let’s face it – more fun) approach to parenting. I do get frustrated sometimes and feel that I should just give in and be more ‘British’.
To see the article in the Daily Mirror, please click on the image below.