Mean Mommies

My sister sent me a link to a Telegraph UK story written by an American mother married to a Frenchman living in Paris that vividly describes the differences between French, American and English mothering styles.

It seems the French parent by less cuddly means, including spanks, pinches and yelling. (Sort of sounds like the Mexican way to rear a child to me...) They, they being the moms, deffer to authorities and institutions, expect children to learn manners fast, are quick to reprimand, and do not make their kids the center of their universes. (Again, sounds a lot like the way I, my siblings and cousins were raised.)

I can see why she's so shocked by it all. Nowadays, you can't give your kid a dirty look in public nowadays without some other parent giving you a dirty look for giving your kid a dirty look. And kids know it. They're not dumb. They know who wears the pants, even if it's short pants, in the relationship.

I see plenty of kids who expect their parents to be at their beck and call, that their lives take precedence over their parents' lives. Between their endless activities, need for material possessions and endless streams of positive reinforcements, what American kid wouldn't be shocked at having to deal with an adult who isn't completely bowled over by their mere presence.

Bringing a kid along to a grown-up dinner party (do those happen anymore?) might not seem like a big deal to anyone except to those who like to spend time with adults, not with their precocious offspring. I've learned there are just some things my son shouldn't be included in, even if he has a long attention span and the ability to sit still. In the end, he's a kid with big ears and other interests and I can't talk freely around him with my friends when he's around. It's not fair to either of us. So I do my own thing, tell him I'll see him later and if he whines about it, so be it. He'll get over it. He always does. And when I come back he asks me how my lunch was and life goes on.

I don't slap or pinch my kid, but I do threaten him and follow through with punishments (usually taking away privileges). I tell him when he's being annoying. If he's being rude, I call him on it. But I also know there's only so much I can expect from him. He's only human and a work in progress.

Though I may not subscribe to the French Method of Child Rearing, I can't totally write it off as a cruel and indifferent. I have my own life and one of my jobs as a parent is to make sure he's equipped to have his own. We are not peers or even friends--I'm the adult and he is the child. And when I think of it, there's nothing too French about that.

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