Kids Parenting Tips

The Clash of Two French Parenting Styles





In France, a famous psychologist recently caused a scandal by publishing a book that advocates the end of positive parenting. The author denounces the excesses of positive parenting and demonstrations of love without any reason. She explains in particular that all parents who have applied ultra-positive parenting are today – whether their children are still small or became young adults – in total pain.

Less rigid and permissive psychologists decry her work, denouncing a 200-year backward step in the mode of education! Yet without being totally right, many parents who have noticed a real educational drift in France, admit she is not so wrong…

France has experienced several earthquakes at the educational level. The worst of the chaos was created by a major event: May 1968. In May 1968 young people took to the streets, pushed by a wealthy student, to demand new freedoms in all areas of life. They opposed the police but more generally the whole system, bringing down the patriarchal model… The role of the father then began to be derided… Gone is the strong paternal role model! This situation has created drifts in particular in couples and relationships. Since May 1968 divorce, previously the prerogative of a certain elite…, has become commonplace. The drift of the strong paternal image and then the drift of the united couple had a dramatic consequence: it was the children who “toasted” as we say here. The youngest have experienced the great suffering of moving forward in a world now devoid of rails and guidance…

No strong educational image, no frame, no rails, no guidance, no organization since divorced mothers most often found themselves forced to educate the child alone while working like men… All this led to produce fearful generations who, at the age when our grandfathers went to war, cannot do without a smartphone or demand to sleep, during the holidays, in hotels with a minimum of 3 stars…

At present, I only know of a few families in France who have remained in the system of a patriarchal education with the image of a strong father who is capable of providing for the needs of his family. They are generally families of notables, soldiers, large Christian families with strong patriotic values. In these families it is not uncommon for there to be at least 4 children. The older ones take care of the younger ones and these families have an organization based on mutual aid and above all that clearly defines the place and role of each.

Elsewhere, it is quiet despair… Families where the father is no longer really a man and does not know how to reassure his children. The children perceive the limits of a “sensitive” dad and in their imagination this dad is not capable of defending them. This is why there are so many caprices and so many anxieties. The child tests his parents again and again as if to reassure himself…

In other families, ultra-positive parenting has given way to a great letting go… Like this family where the 70-year-old parents give a salary every month to their two 40-year-old children who, despite many qualities have never overcome their “anxiety” of work and autonomy…

Rigorous education or free education? Between the two there is necessarily another way of conceiving parenthood…

It seems to me that the correct measure is:
– Learning autonomy without forcing it
– Listening and discussing without solving everything for our children
– Teaching problem-solving patterns while recalling the place of free will
– Accepting a dose of freedom only if everyone participates in family life
– Agreeing not to solve the psychological problems of your children yourself but to unload on a psychologist
– Accepting our children as they are and not denying their personality BUT putting dysfunctional behaviors in their place and framing them

As a therapist, I find that most parents who experience ultra-positive parenting become overwhelmed very quickly. The children take the power in these families. They always (subtly or rudely) induce their parents to fulfill all their wishes…

Here’s what happens: they know how to get everything they want and they “wear out” their parents until they become dominated!

The main problem in totally positive parenting without frameworks and limits is this:

  • Parents are no longer able themselves to distinguish between what is unconditional love and what is the true psychological and physiological needs of the child. A child does not need to be told that he is the most beautiful and the best and that we love him all day long: He needs a framework, landmarks, tricks and learning to become independent and reassure themselves about their own ability to cope “on their own”. Without this framework they will always adopt techniques (like crutches) of reassurance…
  • Parents confuse Personality and Behavior. A child who becomes violent can have a good heart! It’s his behavior that’s the problem! By repeating “Yes, but he is like that… He has a strong character…” the parents are on the wrong track and remain unable to put an end to the behavioral problem that they are reinforcing!

Give me your opinion. What mode of education do you apply with your children?

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