French parents are said to be uncompromising on politeness. This is an understatement. Politeness is probably the first thing we want to teach to our kids.
First baby words : Maman, Papa, Merci. There’s no other options. So, from a foreigner’s point of view, we might seems to be too strict, inflexible. That’s right, we are. Because here in France, it is unacceptable for a kid to forget to say Bonjour, S’il vous plait, Merci, Au Revoir, even if they are 18 months old and just learned their first words.
Teaching them politeness is a necessity because that’s how it works here. You cannot ignore people, not saying hello, not saying thank you when they give you something or help you because you do not own it. I was quite shocked by an interview given by Nathalie Portman at Jimmy Kimmel’s Show when she said that it was disturbing to live in France because you have to say Bonjour to sellers in shops. Yes Nathalie, they are not robots, nor slaves, you can be polite with them too. They deserve some respect, even though you earn much money than them, it doesn’t make them less human…
Why so much pressure on such small kids? Because that’s the way it is. The French Way. We are polite. We must be polite. That’s the basic thing a kid must know. That’s the difference between being a human and a savage (that’s what old school parents taught their kids). When a kid doesn’t say Bonjour, it is almost a crime! I remember when my daughter was like 2 years old, we were invited somewhere, and she was impressed by that man she didn’t know. She didn’t say hello, not because she was not polite, but because she was impressed. The guy was extremely tall and impressive, not smiling at all. The guy was almost accusing us of being bad parents because our daughter didn’t say hello, all the other guests were like ‘Come on, you’re not a nice girl, your parents are ashamed of you’ (I can assure that we were not, we felt extremely bad for her, because if I were her, I wouldn’t say hello too). Everyone was pushing her, and off course she couldn’t say hello, she was afraid and ashamed. I was hurt. I really was, because I realize that people are so rigid that they forgot to take the kid’s emotions and are immediately judging the child and the parents, who are obviously responsible for the really bad attitude of their offspring!
Of course my daughter knew how to say Hello. She loved saying hello to people (on shops, to the doctor etc…). She said Hello/Thank you/Please/Goodbye really early, people were impressed saying that it was cute (but normal) for such a little girl to be that polite. The thing is, when sometimes our kids are tired/not confident/afraid/shy … people are misjudging them, saying that they are not polite and that we are bad parents, which is not the case. And those people do not realize how disastrous their comments might be for the kids. Because they are polite every time, and the only time they are not, they are said to be rude. Instead of focusing on all the moments they are polite, people always focus on the only time your kid is not. This is extremely unfair and destabilizing for those kids who are often very young when those kind of episodes occur.
I don’t say that kids should not say hello or anything. I’m just saying that when it happens once, in special circumstances, people should leave the kids alone (and their parents too). Especially when you know that French adults do use a huge number of curses and are famous for that… So, leave our kids alone, merde !