Familiarizing the unfamiliar: Upbringing in France

In my first blog contribution I would like to share an aspect that has attracted my attention now for several times and in different situations and the fact that I had started to get used to it and even to act in a similar way.

I am doing my semester abroad in Nice where I continue my studies to become a primary teacher. At the moment, the pandemic caused by the coronavirus forced a lot of students on mobility to leave their host country and to go home to continue their classes online, including myself.

So I write this blog from home trying to remember some situations that I experienced in France concerning raising children. I first was confronted with the French way of upbringing during my gap year that I spent in the small Olympic town called Albertville two hours away by car from Geneva. I was working there in a day nursery. During this time I noticed two things.

First of all, the way the responsible person in the nursery was speaking with the babies and the toddlers was sometimes a little unfamiliar to me, to put it mildly. Even to the one-year-old babies she often told things very clearly and a little harshly. If they didn’t obey they would have to sit on the carpet for a while. During this time they were not allowed to play. Every time this was the case it was important though for her to talk with the child about what he or she had done wrong. The day structure of the children was also quite strict. They had to eat when it was time to eat and they had to sleep when it was time to sleep. We never forced them though, but sometimes we insisted a little.

Then I noticed something else: Almost all the children started to adapt to this world. At this point I have to mention that almost all the children came from the US and being confronted to this other style of upbringing in France took them a bit to adapt. But once they became kind of aware that they could not behave the way they used to at any other place, most of the children adapted pretty well. Just to give one example: From the beginning, the children had to eat everything on their plate, even the vegetables. There was just no other option and if they wouldn’t the dessert was canceled. So a lot of children started eating what their parents told us at the beginning they don’t.

So, the children started to familiarize with the unfamiliar and so did I.

Another situation I want to talk about occurred in a French preschool. In the French school system there are three years of kindergarten from the age of 3 to the age of 5 that are mandatory. I was doing an internship with two other girls in a kindergarten class of “moyenne section”. The children were four years old. School didn’t start yet and the children were one by one coming through the door after an assistant had helped them to take off their coat. There were 28 children in that class and it got very noisy as everybody was taking out a toy and started to play. A few minutes later, the teacher arrived and as she entered the room, she would reprimand them with pretty harsh words regarding being too loud.

Here in Nice I observed other situations in parks and trams where children were whining, apparently not about something seriously problematic because the parents didn’t react and didn’t give way to the whining of their child.

To come back to the situation where I started to become familiar with the unfamiliar: At some point, I became aware that I started to act like my boss at the nursery in Albertville. Not just because she was my boss but also because I started to understand her way of thinking and acting – and I experienced that it works. The children knew exactly what was okay and what was not okay and this gave them security and stability.

On the one hand it is important to give the children a set of manners how to behave and what is important to live in a society, which is also a very important part in the French syllabus. On the other hand, it is important that they can develop their own personality and have the freedom to experience themselves as active persons in the world. Maybe the first point is even a condition for the second point.

In conclusion, it was interesting to observe this tendency of French people to raise their children in a stricter way than Swiss and American parents usually do.

Zippora Tönebön

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: