Do American Moms Coddle Their Kids Too Much?

Mother embracing her daughter on gray background

Another day, another international parenting controversy. Remember last year’s frenzy over the Chinese “Dragon Mom” who was so strict, her kids got into Harvard? This time the topic is French mama’s, and the instigator is Pamela Druckerman, author of the just-published Bringing Up Bébé, in which the mom of three talks about her experiences raising 3 kids in Paris. Bringing Up Bebe bookAs an American, Druckerman compared the behavior of her kids (throwing food, whining, waking up all night long) with that of the Parisian children she met (eating leeks and spinach, playing happily while mom drank her coffee, sleeping through the night by 3 months), and wondered why the difference. So she set out to find the answers.


French moms, she discovered, don’t expect to be consumed by motherhood. And French children are not expected to be the center of the family. Adults have lives of their own; kids have to conform to the rules adults set. There’s very little discussion about parenting style and far less anxiety about what the repercussions might be of letting an infant learn to self-soothe when he wakes up in the night..

Druckerman writes in her book:

“[T]he French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. ‘For me, the evenings are for the parents,’ one Parisian mother told me. ‘My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it’s adult time.’ ”

According to Druckerman, American parents coddle their kids too much and spoil them. She claims that if parents were to adopt firm boundaries as the French do, American kids would be better behaved – and would even sleep through the night at a younger age.

What do you think – are American parents too obsessed with their children? Or is Druckerman making overly general statements about parenting cultures?