Forum

Good behavior absent in American children

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Generally, I think children are sticky and noisy, and that they spit a lot. Perhaps those are just the preschoolers I know, as well as the ones on Toddlers and Tiaras. These are the kids that fit the hyper, bratty image of the typical American toddler.

Sociocultural theorists state that a child is raised by the values and traditions of its society. In the book Bringing Up Bébé, Pamela Druckman observes the sociocultural differences in child-rearing between Americans and Parisians. She concludes that French parenting is superior to American parenting. I can’t help but agree that French children are raised to be more polite, patient, and overall civilized.

It’s rare to see a quiet, idyllic family enjoying a peaceful meal at Pamela’s or The Cheesecake Factory. Kids in restaurants can be tyrants: They throw forks at their parents, race around the tables, and scream into the waiter’s ear. This scene does not happen in Paris. French children sit quietly, eat their meals, and contribute to conversation, all while having their napkin folded on their lap.

In a nutshell, French parents are firm and authoritative. They do not cripple under the crying, screaming, or demanding of their children. They draw clear boundaries that their children know not to cross, so the obedience seems almost automatic.

It appears as though American children today have evolved to innately know that if they shed enough tears, they will eventually get their way. Their parents or babysitters instantly concede because no one has the time to endure tantrums. It all fits into the frame of the busy American lifestyle.

Middle-class French parents are excited about their kids. They talk to them, explore with them, dive into literature with them, and enrich them with culture. They are granted several public services (such as free preschool programs) that allow them to build this special hands-on bond that American parents seem unable to form.

American parents, who don’t have access to free preschool and other similar child development programs, are swamped with work and rely on daycare and nannies. It is impractical for American parents to engage in the same routine child outings because there is not enough time or energy in the day to do so.

It is not rational to expect parents to raise children by a universal standard, and therefore unrealistic to expect all children to develop the same. However, it is undeniable that French parenting results in children that are, essentially, easier to handle than American children. In this current state, it is not always possible for American parents to cut back on work hours or take the occasional day off.

So, unless there are more minutes in the day or more economically available public services, American parenting won’t emulate French parenting anytime soon. Although American children are sticky, noisy, and prone to cause disruptions, it would be fantastic to have a dinner conversation not interrupted by a wailing toddler.