PORTLAND - A Portland mother of four has transformed her home, raising her children the "French" way.
It’s drastically different from the "helicopter parenting" some say has become the American way.
“In this country, we tend to let the kids run the house and the parents aren’t in charge,” said Pam Kirwin.
She read about French child-rearing in the book “Bringing Up Bebe” by American author Pamela Druckerman, who’s raising three children in Paris.
“The French believe that a household that’s catered entirely around the children at every moment is not going to be much fun for the parents and it’s also not going to be good for the children,” said Druckerman in a recent Skype interview.
The French principles can be seen at work during meal time in the Kirwin home. Her preschool-aged boys Jake and Finn willingly eat vegetables and liverwurst.
“I love it,” said Jake, referring to the protein portion of his second course.
In all, they eat four courses and snacking is limited to just one a day. “One snack at 4:30 in the afternoon,” Jake explained.
The children have to at least try something they say they don’t like, before moving on to the next course.
“Vegetables are served first, and they’re so hungry from not snacking, they eat them right up. Before we started this, Jake used to gag on green beans,” remembered his mom.
The French way goes beyond the kitchen table.
The Kirwins also have a 2-month-old and Pam is practicing what the book calls "the pause."
“I don’t pick her up immediately when she cries. I pause to see if she settles herself. She was sleeping through the night by six weeks,” she says.
Druckerman says the French limit baby talk, instead conversing with their children using more adult language.
“I’ve met several parents who bring newborns home from the hospital and give them a tour using very grown-up terms,” she said.
Older children are taught that adults in the house get alone time every night.
“Often, parents will say 'the bedroom is our castle. You can knock but this is our private realm,'” explained Druckerman.
The French way has meant a fresh start for the Kirwin family, but the real benefit they believe, is yet to come.
“It probably would be devastating if they get to the point where they’re at their first job and they realize the world doesn’t revolve around them. This just seems more like the way my mom raised us,” she concluded.
A recent lecture by the author of “Bringing Up Bebe” sponsored by Alliance Francaise Portland drew a sellout crowd of more than 100 parents. It may be a sign more parents in the area are choosing to bring up their children the French way.