Parenting like the French: The Art of Composed Confidence

Krystal DeVille

children piggy backed by theri mother and father.

Imagine a way of raising kids that’s relaxed but confident, the way French parents often do. French parents have a calm way of doing things that helps kids grow up happy and respectful. It shows us a world where parents stand strong in their parenting roles and believe in their way of doing things. This creates homes filled with a special kind of peace.

In this article, we’re going to look at simple, everyday ways to make parenting feel easier and help kids become confident, just like in France.

Key Takeaways:

  • French parenting emphasizes boundaries, communication, and self-discipline, resulting in well-behaved children who are independent and self-confident.
  • French parents prioritize their personal time and interests, believing that a happy and fulfilled parent is better able to raise a happy and fulfilled child.
  • This kind of French parenting approach places great importance on family meals and togetherness, reinforcing strong communication and social skills.

The French Parenting Approach

The art of parenting is as diverse as the cultures that cradle it. Each offers a unique approach to nurturing the next generation. Among these, the French parenting approach stands out. They weave a tapestry of discipline, independence, and family cohesion that has captured global attention.

The Core of French Parenting

French parents place importance on carving out time for their interests and well-being. They believe that a parent who is content and self-fulfilled is equipped to nurture a child who is equally content and whole.

This approach is greatly believed to foster a sense of self-discipline and responsibility in children, leading to better behavior and a greater sense of self-confidence.

Setting Clear Boundaries: One of the key aspects of French parenting is setting clear boundaries and expectations for children. French parents establish rules and consequences, and they consistently enforce them. This helps children learn self-control and respect for authority.

Fostering Independence and Self-Confidence: Another important aspect of French parenting is promoting independence. French parents encourage their children to be self-sufficient from a young age. They allow their children to take risks and make mistakes, which helps them develop confidence and problem-solving skills.

Family Dynamics and Communication: French parents also prioritize family meals and conversation. They believe in the importance of sitting down together as a family. For example, enjoying a meal, without distractions like phones or television. This creates a sense of community and fosters communication skills in children.

French parenting has gained a lot of attention in recent years, thanks to books like Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.”

Balancing Parenthood and Personal Time

In French parenting, it’s really important to make sure there’s a good mix of family time and personal time. This combination helps everyone in the family stay happy. Thus, society views excessively focusing on children at the expense of personal or work life, or the other way around, as counterproductive.

Here’s how French parents make sure they get both parent time and personal time right:


To maintain this balance, French parents often schedule time for themselves and prioritize their own needs. They recognize that taking care of themselves is essential to being able to take care of their children. This means setting boundaries and making time for adult activities, such as hobbies, exercise, or time with friends.

Maternal Well-being as a Priority

Particularly, society encourages mothers to prioritize their well-being, with the belief that a happy and fulfilled mother can better care for her children. Moreover, society does not expect French mothers to feel guilty or sacrifice their interests and desires for their children’s sake. Instead, mothers are always encouraged to strike a balance that suits both their family’s needs and their personal fulfillment.

Differences in Childcare

Parenting styles and childcare approaches can differ significantly across cultures, reflecting the underlying values and societal norms of each country. Let’s have a comparative look at French and American childcare differences.

French vs. American Approaches

Parental Leave Policies

One of the most noticeable differences is that French parents tend to use daycare less frequently than American parents. In France, it is common for parents to take advantage of the country’s generous parental leave policies.

Sleep Arrangements for Infants

Another difference is that French parents tend to use cribs less frequently than American parents. Instead, they often use a bassinet or a co-sleeper. This is because French parents believe in the idea of having their babies close to them during the night. They also presume that when French kids sleep sleep near their parents, it fosters a strong bond between the parent and child.

Early Childhood Education

Preschools, or “écoles maternelles,” are also an important part of the French childcare system. Children as young as three years old can attend preschool, which is free for all families. The curriculum focuses on socialization, play, and creativity, rather than academic achievement. Hence, French parents value fostering a love of learning in children over early academic achievement.

Here are additional distinctions between French and American parenting approaches from which parents can draw valuable lessons.

AspectFrench ApproachAmerican Approach
DisciplineFrench parents often employ strictness to teach patience; many French children learn self-control without corporal punishment.American counterparts might use a mix of responses, focusing on understanding the child’s needs, with varied approaches to discipline.
IndependenceFrench kids are encouraged to develop independence from a young age, with more freedom to play unsupervised.Younger children in the U.S. are usually closely supervised, with a structured schedule that often extends into adult life.
Eating HabitsFrench kids eat what the adults eat at the dinner table, with structured meals and less snacking. French women may model this behavior.American children are often offered more choices, with an emphasis on accommodating preferences, including more frequent snacking.
Social BehaviorPoliteness and social decorum are heavily emphasized; French kids are taught to greet adults formally.American children are often encouraged to be friendly and interactions are less formal, reflecting differing parenting practices.
AcademicsFrench educational practices emphasize rote learning and memorization from an early stage.American educational approaches value creativity and critical thinking, differing from French parenting practices in academic focus.
PlayPlay for many French children involves less structure, allowing kids to entertain themselves.Play in the U.S. is often characterized by organized activities, reflecting a different view of child care and development.
Parenting StyleThe French parent, particularly the French mother, takes an authoritative role, offering guidance but not centering the child’s desires.Parenting in the U.S. may be more permissive, focusing on the child’s self-esteem and choices, contrasting with French practices.

Overall, French parents tend to have a more relaxed approach to childcare than American parents. They believe in giving children more freedom and responsibility, which they believe helps to foster independence and self-reliance.

Setting Boundaries and Discipline

French parents believe that it is important to establish expectations for what is appropriate and expected from children.

In many cases, parents are in charge and use language to establish rules and boundaries. They say things like “It is me that decides.”

What are the Discipline Techniques of French parenting?

Establishing Clear Expectations: They create strong boundaries for their children and expect them to follow the rules. Children cannot do whatever they want, and parents do not negotiate with them. As a result, it helps children understand that there are consequences for their actions.

Teaching Responsibility: In French parenting, discipline is not about punishment. Instead, it is about teaching children to be responsible and respectful. French parents do not use physical punishment, corporal punishment or yelling to discipline their children. Instead, they use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior such as:

  • Praise
  • Rewards
  • Compliments

Non-Negotiable Boundaries: French parents often communicate limits and establish house rules, keeping a written list of rules posted. When they have expectations that are not on the list, they make them clear to their children. In return, they will be aware of the consequences when they do not follow the rules.

The Role of Food in French Parenting

family eating healthy food outside picnic.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

French parenting places a significant emphasis on food and eating habits. They instill in children that learning about food and proper eating habits is as crucial as learning to read and write.

Here are some ways in which food plays a role in French parenting:

  • Meal Times: French families place a high value on eating meals together as a family. Meal times are seen as an opportunity to connect and bond with one another. Furthermore, French families and french kids typically have three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Treats: Oftentimes, they encourage their children to enjoy treats in moderation and as a special occasion. This helps children learn to appreciate the value of treats and to enjoy them as a special indulgence.

French parents do not restrict their children from enjoying treats. However, they do limit the amount of sugar and processed foods they consume.

  • Vegetables: French parents also place a strong emphasis on eating vegetables and teaching their children to enjoy them. They incorporate vegetables into meals in creative and delicious ways, making them more appealing to children. Along with that, French parents also encourage their children to try new foods and to appreciate a variety of flavors.

The French parenting style is intriguing, but how does it compare globally? For a data-driven perspective, check out ‘Parenting Statistics‘ to see how numbers tell a different part of the parenting story.

Communication Techniques

father talking to his son on a grass.
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As mentioned earlier, French parents exhibit a calm and clear communication with their children. They value the balance of a concise approach to ensure their points are made.

Moreover, they always encourage their children to express themselves and their feelings openly. In this way, children develops a healthy communication habits from an early age.

Active Listening: One technique that French parents use to encourage communication is active listening. They give their full attention when their child is speaking. Following that, they make sure to repeat what their child has said to demonstrate that they have understood.

Utilizing Nonverbal Cues: In addition to verbal communication, French parents also use nonverbal cues to communicate with their children. At this point, children understand the importance of body language and nonverbal communication.

For example, they may use a certain look or gesture to indicate that their child is misbehaving or to show approval for good behavior.

The Influence of Maternity Leave and Grandparents

family with grandparents doing charades in the living room.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

French parenting often embodies a strong sense of family values and creates a supportive environment for parents, as seen in the country’s maternity leave policies and the involvement of grandparents in childcare.

Leave Entitlements

Maternity leave in France is among the most generous in the world. This allows parents to take time off work to bond with their new child and adjust to their new family life without worrying about financial pressures.

  • Maternity Leave: New mothers are entitled to up to 16 weeks of paid leave.
  • Paternity Leave: Fathers can take up to 28 days of paid paternity leave.

Active Role of Grandparents

Grandparents in France are often more involved in the lives of their grandchildren than in other countries. They provide emotional support and practical help such as:

  • Picking up children from school
  • Cooking meals
  • Offering a listening ear

As people live longer and remain more active in their later years, grandparents are often healthier and more able to take an active role in the lives of their younger children and grandchildren. This has led to a shift in the traditional role of grandparents from being passive observers to active participants in family life.

Self-Confidence and Accomplishment in Children

two women mother and daughter talking to each other on a sofa.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

French parenting prioritizes the development of self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment in children. At this stage of adult life, they help their children develop a growth mindset and a strong sense of self-confidence.

According to Pamela Druckerman, an American mom who chronicled her experience with French parenting, the French people believe that kids feel confident when they’re able to do things for themselves and do those things well.

Recognition of Genuine Achievements

  • Selective Praise: Instead of general commendation, French parents prefer to praise their children specifically for insightful comments and articulate speech.
  • Celebrating True Accomplishments: This method emphasizes the importance of meaningful achievements, instilling pride in genuine efforts and successes.

Research indicates that praising children for their effort and hard work, instead of their innate abilities, tends to foster a growth mindset and strengthen their self-confidence.

French Parenting Books and Resources

If you want to learn more about French parenting, you can check out these several books and resources that offer valuable insights.

Each book by Pamela Druckerman provides an in-depth look at the differences between American and French parenting styles, including topics such as sleeping, eating, and discipline.

  • Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
  • French Children Don’t Throw Food
  • Bringing Up Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting

In regards to online cultural insights, you can opt for topics such as mealtimes, schooling, and socialization, and provides a fascinating look at cultural differences.

  • Coucou French Classes

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some key differences between French and American parenting styles?

French parenting typically emphasizes cultivating autonomy and self-discipline in children, whereas American parenting often aims to enhance self-esteem and individual expression. Additionally, French parents set definitive rules and expectations early on, unlike the more permissive American approach that often allows children more freedom in decision-making.

How do French parents approach sleep training?

French parents often use a method called “the pause,” where they sit and wait a few minutes before responding to a crying baby. This allows the baby to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. They also tend to establish a consistent bedtime routine and prioritize getting enough sleep for both themselves and their children.

What are some common discipline techniques used by French parents?

French parents often use a technique called “la reprise en main,” where they calmly but firmly reestablish their authority when a child misbehaves. They may also use natural consequences, such as allowing a child to experience the consequences of their actions, rather than punishing them.

What are some unique characteristics of French mothers?

French mothers often prioritize self-care and maintaining their own interests and hobbies, rather than solely focusing on their children. They also tend to be more relaxed about parenting and may not feel as much pressure to be “perfect” as American mothers often do.

How do French families differ from American families in terms of parenting?

French families tend to prioritize spending time together as a family and may have more structured mealtimes and routines. They also tend to have a more hands-off approach to parenting, allowing their children to explore and learn on their own.

What can we learn from the French parenting style?

French parenting places a strong emphasis on setting firm boundaries and instilling independence and self-regulation in children from an early age. There is also an important focus on parental self-care and the preservation of individual interests which serves to mitigate parental burnout and stress.

Wrapping Up – IMPLEMENT Parenting STYLE, the French Way

French parents cultivate environments that allow their children to develop into self-assured individuals, while they also preserve and nurture their parental identity. By emphasizing clear boundaries, consistent discipline, and the importance of self-care, French parenting presents a model that contrasts yet complements more familiar approaches.

Ultimately, taking tips from French parenting doesn’t necessitate living in France; rather, it invites us to adopt a perspective that could enrich our family lives wherever we are, infusing them with a sense of calm and confidence.

Don’t forget to share this article with fellow parents looking to introduce a more tranquil and assured approach to raising their children — let’s spread the calm and confidence together!

About Krystal DeVille

Hello! I’m Krystal DeVille. By day, I wear many hats: a homeschool teacher, wife, and mother. By night, I’m a fervent journalist, pouring my thoughts and experiences onto paper. Parenthood, for me, has been an exhilarating roller-coaster filled with emotions, invaluable lessons, and moments of sheer joy. With three wonderful kids of my own, I’ve journeyed through the highs and lows — from sleepless nights to their very first steps and those unforgettable proud parent moments.

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