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We were having a conversation in French, and I was wondering how I'd express the same idea in Russian.

Tu es sans pitié, dis-moi... En même temps, elle n’aurait pas autant envie de nous rattraper si on n’était que douceur avec elle.

  • {literally}: You give her no quarter. Then again, if we were nothing but sweetness/gentleness towards her, (she would just content herself with the current 'her' without looking to improve herself and) she wouldn't be so keen on catching up with us.

  • {more naturally}: You give her no quarter. Then again, if we were treating her with kid gloves all the time, she wouldn't be so keen on catching up with us.

The context is: "In training the residents at our hospital, we can't afford to be constantly indulgent and lenient towards them, as if we don't have an ounce of strictness in us. Little pep talks here and there wouldn't go amiss."

"Строить/изображать из себя (саму) любезность" sprang to mind as its Russian equivalent. But I wonder if this is closer to "be all sweetness and light"? – which is used when someone behaves in an overly pleasant and friendly manner that doesn't seem genuine.

How is this idea commonly/idiomatically expressed in Russian?

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A number of ways

A very colloquial and a little dismissive verb сюсюкать

Если бы мы с ней всё время сюсюкали, она не стремилась бы подтянуться до нашего уровня

an idiom пылинки сдувать or a little contemptuous idiom заносить хвосты

Если бы мы только и делали, что сдували с неё пылинки / заносили ей хвосты, она не стремилась бы подтянуться до нашего уровня

an expression во всём потакать

Если бы мы ей во всём потакали, она не стремилась бы подтянуться до нашего уровня

a slang idiom быть белым и пушистым (c кем-л.)

Если бы мы с ней всё время были (только) белыми и пушистыми, она не стремилась бы подтянуться до нашего уровня

Your variant is legit, only falls rather on a bookish side. It can have a form of быть сама любезность if it's not a feigning.

Будь мы с ней сама любезность, она не стремилась бы подтянуться до нашего уровня

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    Ah, "сюсюкать" it is! The word was lying dormant in my passive vocabulary. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jun 18 '19 at 21:11
  • While we're at it, how do you express the idea of the pejorative "be all sweetness and light", on the other hand? Imagine, for instance, a girl trying to get into the good books of a boy she has a crush on in an overly pleasant manner, even if it's just a put-on. E.g.: "She's all sweetness and light in front of the camera, but behind the scenes, she has a devious, evil heart, and a lying, cunning personality." – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jun 19 '19 at 13:55
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    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens вся такая (из себя) замечательная / вся такая (из себя) лапочка / вся такая распрекрасная – Баян Купи-ка Jun 19 '19 at 15:02
  • Come to think of it, in conversation I might say something like this on a pejorative tone: "Неужели нам придется все время с ними нянчиться?" What do you think? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Jun 23 '19 at 17:01
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    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens sorry, missed your last comment, yes that's OK in principle, to constantly baby-sit them, but not quite for the situation you described in the original question, for pejorative and disdainful effect возиться is better, and of course there're profane verbs still more negative in case you're interested – Баян Купи-ка Jul 11 '19 at 14:25

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