The smothering starts young...
The smothering starts young...
Doan Bui

PARIS – In the U.S., they are called the helicopter parents. These are the hyper-moms and uber-dads who hover relentlessly over their children, transforming themselves into personal assistants on the weekends: driving them to baseball or dance practice, Chinese lessons, screaming at the math teacher who had the nerve to give little darling a B grade.

Overprotective much? Last year, TIME Magazine put a woman breast-feeding a three-year-old on its cover with the title Are You Mom Enough? The cover article described the new attachment parenting trend: co-sleeping, extended breast-feeding, home schooling.

Child rearing is the new national obsession, according to the infinite number of best-seller books on the subject – preaching every parenting method under the sun. It’s all so confusing that the U.S. is starting to wonder if, by putting children on pedestals, they are doing more damage than good. So now it’s hip to be against hyper-parenting (hyper-education) and kindergarchy (rule of the child-king), helicopter parents are turning their children into wimps or land them in therapy.

In 2011, Amy Chua, the famous Tiger Mom, ignited a national debate when she bragged about the results of her super strict Chinese-style parenting in her book Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.

2012 was the year French-style parenting became the new model to follow. In her opus Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, ex-Wall Street journalist Pamela Druckerman, living in France with her three children, wrote about the merits of a French education. She was amazed, for instance, that French children don’t play Frisbee with their bread.

Tiger Mom vs. Fromage Mom

“Amy Chua and I don’t preach the same educational style,” says Druckerman, “the only thing we have in common is that we question the principle of always praising our children. The famous ‘good job.’”

An American professor who is against hyper-parenting admits that he is extremely frustrated to not be able to write “D-, too much love at home” on some copies.

“We also came of age during the divorce boom in the 1980s,” says Pamela Druckerman “and we’re determined to act more selflessly than we believe our own parents did. In the context of economic instability, family is the last refuge. This is why we are terrified at the idea of hurting and messing up our children.

According to Hilary, an American mother living in France, “the parents here don’t feel as guilty. They get more help from the state: subsidies, childcare facilities -- and the schooldays are longer.”

What about parental authority? “The French parents I’ve interviewed often say they are strict. It’s a positive value. In the U.S., we are less inclined to show our authority,” says Pamela Druckerman.

A French mother of five, Mélanie Schmidt, who is just back in France after spending a few years in the U.S., has another point of view: “The mothers are just as lost in the U.S. as they are on this side of the pond but over there, they’re not afraid to talk about it. At our childrens' American school, every two months there were parenting classes that were very popular. France is thinking about doing the same!” As a matter of fact, Mélanie, who created a parental coaching service in the U.S., is about to launch her own business in France too.

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