Sunday, 25 August 2013

Why French children are better behaved...

There! That's a title for you. And not necessarily true in all cases I'm sure. But we've just spent two weeks in France and I was very curious about how parenting differs in France and what strategies parents seem to use. One of my friends who was brought up in France told me it is the threat of physical violence and being sent "away" to boarding school (I do know of someone this has happened to in France!) that helps parents control their children though I didn't see any children being smacked in public. My friend also likened French children to a bottle of champagne, once the cork comes off they truly bubble over uncontrollably, i.e. they behave badly when no-one is looking. I did see some evidence of this, for example on the ferry a little French boy kept trying to whack my son on the back of the head when his parents weren't looking, though of course this may be am isolated incident and no different to what you see in any UK soft play centre.

I do remember as a child we had some "French friends" who had two teenage boys, I remember them kicking me under the table when their parents backs were turned (I was about 7) which does seem to corroborate the champagne bottle analogy.

Anyway, this is what I noticed that seemed the chief difference to the UK.
1) Adults who did not know the child in question felt free to speak harshly to them, tell them off and "shush" them.
2) I also noticed a lot of "tutting" going on if my children were acting up.
3) There was definitely "glaring" particularly from older women who looked downright angry if a child spoke above a whisper.
4) People actively moved seats if a child was being noisy near them which adds to the social pressure placed upon the parents.
5) I would say that in general, parents interacted less with their children and left them to it a  bit more, especially in parks/soft play areas.

On the whole I thought French children were less demanding (perhaps because they are not used to being constantly interacted with) spoke much more quietly (social pressure) and were less friendly and boisterous than their English counterparts, less outgoing but more mature. These aren't necessarily negatives just observations. I actually felt quite stressed as I struggled to control my children in line with expectations, especially in restaurants and cafes. Other children seemed happy to sit quietly while mine shouted, cried and wanted to run around. By the end of the two weeks after us constantly reinforcing the fact that we expected them to sit and wait patiently for their food, things were starting to get easier and their behaviour definitely "improved" though perhaps only superficially. What I would love is to find a way to encourage my boys to manage their own behaviour intrinsically which is why I'm not convinced that things like reward charts work long term since they are extrinsic.

How do you manage your children's behaviour? Or don't you have to? Where did we go wrong?!

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