Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London, Looking Good /

It is the latest craze in town and I am sure that you can’t have missed it: apparently, the French are better at parenting than the British or the Americans. To top it up, French children don’t throw up food, are better behaved, know what the limits are, and so on, and so forth.
How come I hadn’t noticed?  Why hadn’t anyone told me?
Let me be blunt here: I am not sure that the French have “parenting secrets”- we are all doing what we can. And as you know (you can read the post here), one of the reasons French kids are so well behaved is that we French tend to be much harsher with our kids.  That said, the secret -if there is one- is that French women have a life that doesn’t revolve around kids. I have seen many women who simply lost themselves when they became mothers. Their whole life is about bringing up their offspring as best as they can, sometimes to try to make up for their own mistakes and choices. 

I remember a friend of mine who was doing four different menus every day to accommodate all her three children’s tastes. No wonder she was at the end of her tether. And to make matters even worse, her children were getting used to it and were not even trying to taste anything else. A vicious circle. 
I only do one menu for everybody, and that’s it. Always have. Always will. And if my children don’t like it, well, they can always catch up at the next meal or have a toast. As a result of this (very French) approach, my children eat everything: from blue cheese to pot au feu. And if they are a bit reluctant to try something new, I have no problem in ‘tricking’ them.
Let me explain: for instance, my younger one didn’t want to drink sparkling water for some reason. I told her that it was ‘transparent coke’. It worked. For the record, we don’t have sparkling water at our house, we have transparent coke. And she drinks it. Problem solved.
Sometimes my children don’t want to eat fruits. I take it by stage: I give them a compote (I especially like the Crushed one, it has the taste of my childhood), and tell them that, yes of course they like fruits: they just had some. Job done! And the beauty of the Crushed compote it that they come in a shiny new pouch, and it feels like a treat. Again, job done! 
As for cheese, somehow initially my children only liked it melted on a pizza, but not on its own. I pointed this out, and they had to admit that it was the exact same thing. I started heating the cheese of pizza less and less and eventually they came to like it. It is all about strategy. We have salad with blue cheese from time to time now.
That said, I never force them to try something. I make it look completely natural. And if they don’t it eat this once, they can try the next time. No big deal. It usually does the trick! 
For the series ‘Maman knows best’, I have teamed up with Crushed. All opinions remain mine.
  • Karen Nelson

    So sensible. Parents who make too big a commotion about foods are doomed for difficulties & their young are doomed to poor choices/poor health. Our 4 boys were taught to ask for “a thank-you spoon” if they were unsure of something new. That’s all they had to eat, no fussing or faces allowed. It worked very well.

    • You have 4 boys Karen! OMG! How did you do it? I am exhausted and I only have 2 daughters. I think that you could teach me a thing or two. I love the concept of the thank-you spoon. I am also glad that you agree with my approach.

      • Karen Nelson

        Quite frankly I don’t know how I did it…they are fine young men now.

        • Well done you! Wow! Am amazed. Right now my older one is a very independent teenager and I am having a tough time as a mum…

  • Jacqueline

    what exactly is crushed compote? and in a pouch? I’ve only seen baby food in a pouch. Not sure what this is 🙂

    • Crushed is a healthy snack for kids/teenagers/adults. It is a fruit compote (no added sugar). Fruit compote is actually very popular in France but not no much over here, where there is not this culture of healthy snacks. Click on the links if you want to know more. You can find Crushed compote at Waitress or WHSmithTravel

      • Jacqueline

        Thanks Muriel. I’m in the States so don’t know Waitress and as to WH Smith Travel, only on line. Didn’t see the links but I’ll try googling crushed compote. I’m intrigued. I also have a question. In France, when I think of compote, I think of something like applesauce. It’s not a fruit salad, like macedonie, is it????

        • No, I think that the best way to describe it is fruit puree. It isn’t a smoothie and it isn’t a juice. It isn’t marmelade either. It’s crushed fruits, and sometimes there are small bits of fruits. I grew up on apple compote in France. All kids have it. It is a nice way to prepare fruits and get your kids o eat it. Sadly, it doesn’t exist in the UK…

        • deGency

          Waitress? Waitrose, perhaps? 😀

        • Jacqueline, I will have to write a post on what compote is. It is crushed fruit, basically. It is not apple sauce. Will have to explain, I hadn’t realised that compote didn’t exist to the same extend outside of France!

  • Gina Miller

    This is a bit off-topic but what struck me during my recent to trip Paris was the children’s menus (or lack of) in Paris. In fact I blogged how my daughter experimented with guinea fowl and a prawn/avocado mousse and by the end of our trip was eating clams off my seafood tower. She didn’t have the option to have grilled cheese or chicken fingers. Yet when we got back to the states, it’s back to the kids meals. I think the lack of “children’s food” (chicken fingers, etc. ) led her to try new and food items while there. At home, she knows she can get the grilled cheese. Getting our little ones to eat well is a battle most parents face. But in my experience, I have found that more mature food offerings serve kids well.

    • I totally agree. I find most kids’ menu really boring…And then kids get used to easting fries and fish fingers at every meal. Not helpful. My children were brought up eating everything. Or at least trying to!


  • Amie Ryan

    Intrigued by the mention of Kids Menus in the U.S…I wonder if those are less about the kids enjoying the food and more about preventing tantrums/whining so that the grownups can enjoy their meal.