When Brooklyn mom Catherine Crawford began to feel as if her kids were running the household, she and her husband began an experiment in French parenting. The more hands-off French method focuses on rules and boundaries between children and adults. Her memoir, “French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting,” chronicles her family’s experience with “la vie francaise,” and how it transformed their lives. Crawford learned plenty about American culture, childrearing and family dynamics.
Your “a-ha” moment occurred during dinner with French family friends — as you were about to bolt out of the room to tend to your crying daughter, your friend said, “If there is no blood, don’t get up.” Why was this moment so significant for you?
Throughout the evening, I had been in awe all night of my friends’ children. They didn’t seem to need the same amount of attention, and they were extremely courteous. My daughter was freaking out about something and my instinct had always been to get up and run. My daughter calmed down. She figured it out on her own, which we don’t let children do enough.
What changes did you make after that?
My husband and I defined rules. We said, “You’re children. Daddy and I are grown-ups and we’re not the same.” I had to explain to them that they didn’t get a say in everything. I realized I was always trying to fit into my children’s world, whereas I never made them adapt to mine. We’re afraid to tell them to be quiet and say no.
And this brought the family closer together?
It provided a little relief for everyone. One of the best changes was in the way they related to each other. All of a sudden, they were a team. If mommy or daddy laid down a rule they didn’t like, they had each other to commiserate with. They play together so much more now.
What are some of the things American parents are doing right?
American parents encourage individuality. I didn’t want to squash that in my kids. Our kids are boisterous, and I like that. There is a nice middle ground between the American and French examples.