We noticed it first thing when we started visiting France. Really you can’t miss it.
French children are incredibly, amazingly, unbelievably well-behaved. They are not uptight or repressed, they’re simply mature, respectful, calm, and polite. There are exceptions of course, but not many.
How DO the French do it?
That’s what American expat Pamela Druckerman wondered, when she moved to Paris with her young daughter. “Why was it,” she asks, “in the hundreds of hours I'd clocked at French playgrounds, I'd never seen a child (except my own) throw a temper tantrum? Why didn't my French friends ever need to rush off the phone because their kids were demanding something? Why hadn't their living rooms been taken over by teepees and toy kitchens, the way ours had?” So she researched the reasons and wrote a book about it: Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. It’s worth reading if you’re a parent, or just an observer of the French, to discover their secrets.
From our own observations, here is what French children are like:
When they are introduced, they greet you politely and offer a cheek for les bises.
They sit in restaurants quietly. They join in the adult conversation. They don't zone out with their Gameboys. They eat what parents eat. A 'child's plate' is a rarity on French menus; no self-respecting 5-year-old would settle for a hot dog and fries when there is foie gras on the menu.
They play as exuberantly as other kids, but in public your rarely see them squirm, whine or fuss, or fight with siblings.
Then there are the teen-agers. Once in a small town on an isolated street I encountered a group of about eight ados, as the French call them, all 15 or 16-ish. They were hanging around outside of the door of a store, sporting dirty jeans and bizarre hairdos in crayon colors. They were smoking cigarettes and slouching; they were joking and flirting as teen-agers everywhere do. Since they were blocking the door, I had to interrupt them. My American side expected sullen looks, a mumbled apology at best. You know that phase, it’s a teen-age thing.
As I asked to pass through, all talking stopped; they all looked up brightly. I was met with a chorus, polite and enthusiastic, of “Bonjour Madame! Ça vas? Excusons-nous, s’il vous plâit! The path was cleared, the door was gallantly opened, and they went back to talking. I still remember my shock.
Now can someone explain to me---how is it that their DOGS are as well behaved at their kids? Maybe I’ll write a book….
PHOTOS: French dog, American dog: Can you guess which is which?
Many of you have been to France--or are French---so what's your take on French kids?
In the COMMENTS: Virginia of Paris Through My Lens thinks Singapore Slings can be trouble--just ask Jetagain, who had to be carried out of a bar when she discovered them! We discuss the origins of cherry herring, which Natalia remembers from trips to Scandanavia. And John, we didn't toss down any peanut shells, we were too cheap to spring for a $30 drink!