What don’t French parents do better? Their kids eat better, sleep better, obey more, snack less. From the slew of available book titles — like Bringing Up Bébé and French Kids Eat Everything, just in the parenting section — translating “good/thin/happy” French norms for a “bad/fat/miserable” American audience is its own cottage industry.
It’s the issue of food that seems to impress people most. In France, mealtimes are more formal affairs. There are few, if any, kids menus in restaurants. French kids gobble up stinky cheese and snails with garlic and butter. School lunches regularly involve four courses.
And notably, no one is toting goldfish crackers and squeezable yogurt at all times. The typical French eating schedule is three sit-down meals, plus one afternoon snack. Civilized.
This more restrained and structured relationship with food goes hand in hand with France’s more authoritarian parenting ethos, which is one reason why many people say that French parents are also happier. (Others argue that it’s not some je n'ais sais quois about being French, it’s the nationalized — and in some cases free — child care, which should be the big takeaway here.)