Bringing up kids... how do french moms manage?

Are French children, quieter, more polite and pleasant than others?  I can assure you that young Parisians also have bad marks at school, from time to time, do not really like going to bed at night and have an artistic bent not always to our tastes when they do street-art in their bedrooms. So then, between the young mother always impeccably dressed and her model children, what is the key to the success of this French-style upbringing? …

Caroline, twenty-nine, is one of these active young women who manages to combine her job as a writer, activities in local children’s associations and her family life with her entrepreneur husband and two small boys.  You will find her opinion interesting…

“So how does this thirty-year-old Parisian manage to still look fresh at 7pm, in her little navy dress with a Peter Pan collar, her nails discretely manicured and a simple, natural hair style?

But, above all, how does she manage to have her children as clean as a new pin at the end of the day?  The little boys in their slim-fit jeans and Petit Bateau shawl-collar pullover and rolled Cheche scarf and their sweet little girl friends in white tights, Jacadi Liberty print blouse and fur waistcoat, all this in matching pastel shades of old rose and mouse grey.  Never, but never, any garish colours.  No tra

ck suits but no princess outfits either.  Chic and sober.  In Paris, fashion is not just for adults.

How does this young mother manage to constantly run around and still have such quiet children?  Paris is a major capital city but Paris is also a small town.  What does that mean?  In Paris, the streets and pavements are narrow, lifts are minute and apartments perfectly optimised to be functional and pleasant despite their small dimensions.  Conclusion, Paris is made for our little Parisians!  They are completely at home in its tiny, hidden shops, they can easily wriggle between the legs of passers-by in crowded buses and climb with pride onto the little wooden horses of carousels dating back to 1910 or thereabouts.  If you have never been to the one in the Champ de Mars – pay a visit, you will be absolutely charmed.

mama-p1When they come out of kindergarten, all these little children with chic, old-fashioned names – Jacques, Blanche, Louise or Auguste – rush off to the park, the Jardin du Luxembourg, Parc Monceau or another Parisian square.  Because children are children after all.  There they can let off steam, run and climb under the fierce scrutiny of their nannies, who do not make too much effort to get up off their benches.  Without ever squabbling – or almost.

Politeness is the word in Paris.  Good morning, please, thank you, goodbye – with Madam constantly tacked on.  Children are used to accompanying their parents to the local shops, the baker’s wife will give them a pastry puff, if they have not asked for one and the cheese man will give them a piece of mature Comté to taste because they already have well-developed palates.

Life in Paris is on a human scale, people move around their districts on foot or on a hired bike.  Small children find their niches there, as well as their already-compulsory share of social life.  They carry lettuces to help their mothers when fetching the week’s basket of organic vegetables and help them prepare dinner with their aprons on, learning how to recognise proper fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden.


On Wednesdays, they bake fairy cakes and suchlike by themselves while their little sisters play at dolls tea parties with wooden macaroons, prettily painted with natural paint.

Not too many toys in their rooms.  Just a few, carefully chosen so as not to spoil the décor in the child’s room, to prevent him from making a mess and help him concentrate on a game.  In the evening at home, juniors from well-heeled families learn to use their fingers in a variety of activities - collage or painting fir cones.


No TV.  It is not calming enough, said the osteopath at the last visit.  Our little child has been going to see him since he was very young, he seems to sleep so much better after each visit.  Particularly after a fairytale related in Mother’s soft voice – she likes to find stories from the olden days that she and her own parents have already heard many times over.  Hop o’ My Thumb and Puss in Boots never age.

At the week-end, little boys follow their fathers as they do gymnastics along the River Seine or Saint-Martin’s Canal quayside before returning home with butter croissants for the entire family.  The French, you see, do not hesitate in having several children, Paris nurseries are well-organised and, if necessary, mothers can take parental leave.

When, you may say, do these upper class children, who like exhibitions, good food and nice clothes, get a chance to have some fun?  You, my readers, are well aware that a strict, contained upbringing creates taboos – ones to be broken of course.  And what a joy to hear the stifled laughter in the next room where brother and sister are taking photos of one another with their father’s tablet, their faces smeared with mother’s makeup.  And, of course, we do let them get away with this from time to time.

This is the secret of a happy, peaceful life, at the foot of the giants of our national heritage the Louvre, the Orsay Museum and the tower of Notre Dame cathedral”. Caroline
I am very interested by your comment about that éducation way… please write below!

A bientot, Chantal

© Pictures: front page Istock, inside page Istock

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Chantal - Children

Bonjour, my name is Chantal. I’m often told that I’m “so French”. This is, in part, due to my traditional upbringing in Versailles, one of the most conservative cities in France, famous for its chateau, good schools and large families. I have three daughters. They’re model children, cheerful, nice and really fashionable. I’m in Paris almost every afternoon for my charity work and I still work part-time as a dance teacher. When the occasion presents itself, I teach etiquette to children at school. I’ll try and explain why my children get so many compliments.    

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Edizione Italiana

Edita da RIZZOLI, Sophie la Parigina è una guida di stile moderna su PARIGI. Illustrata dai disegni di Alessandra Ceriani, completata da un elenco degli indirizzi preferiti dalla parigina e arricchita di ricette gastronomiche.


English Edition

Published by RIZZOLI New York, Sophie the Parisian'sis a modern life style guide about PARIS. Illustrated with color drawings, complemented by a list of Parisians' favorite locations and enriched with gastronomic recipes.

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