Ideas

Amidst all the talk this past week about Pamela Druckerman’s new book, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, there was one phrase that immediately lodged itself in my mind. It was in a sidebar that ran with the Wall Street Journal adaptation of her book, “Why French Parents Are Superior,” and it said this: “Children should say hello, goodbye, thank you and please. It helps them to learn that they aren’t the only ones with feelings and needs.”

That statement points directly to what I see as one of the most meaningful differences between the French and (contemporary) American style of parenting. I don’t happen to believe, as the Journal pushed Druckerman’s argument to say, that French parenting is necessarily superior, overall, to what we do in America. I don’t think French children are, overall, better or happier people — such generalizations are…

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