Reading List: Bringing Up Bébé And French Parenting

One American mother discovers the secrets to French parenting…and behind the astonishingly well-behaved children in France. Is there a right way to raise a child? A How-To manual, or a guideline that applies to all mothers? Is there an exact definition for ‘parenting’? Is there a common playground where parents can gather and divulge never before heard of secrets on babies and… bringing up Bebe? No, unfortunately there isn’t. But one thing is for sure – somehow, what we hear about French parents and their kids, seems like an unattainable dream for the most of us.

When Pamela Druckerman travels to Paris with her kids, she sets out to discover the secrets of French parenting. Which, as they say, is actually not a known thing, like French cheese or fashion. Yet, the French children Druckerman knows sleep through the night at two or three months old while those of her American friends take a year or more. French kids eat well-rounded meals that are more likely to include braised leeks than chicken nuggets. And while her American friends spend their visits resolving spats between their kids, her French friends sip coffee while the kids play. How amazing does this sound?

I sometimes try to think why my own kid does still not fully understand the term of “patience” and “not interrupting while two adults have a conversations”. Or his mom and her girlfriend are trying to have a sip of coffee and debate someone’s outfit.

French mothers assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children and that there’s no need to feel guilty about this. They have an easy, calm authority with their kids that Druckerman can only envy. And not only her, but us moms all over the world. Why can’t I (cause I can’t talk in the name of other moms) just let go and stop being at the constant requests of my toddler for whatever it is that he wants (right now!) or (desperately!) needs?

French parents don’t expect their babies to sleep well right after they’re born. But by the time these broken nights start to seem unbearable – usually after two or three months – they usually end. Parents talk about night wake-ups as a short-term problem, not a chronic one. Everyone I speak to takes for granted that babies can and probably will do their nights by about six months, and often much sooner. 

Of course, French parenting wouldn’t be worth talking about if it produced robotic, joyless children. In fact, French kids are just as happy, curious, and creative as Americans. They’re just far better behaved and more in command of themselves. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are- by design-toddling around and discovering the world at their own pace.

With a notebook stashed in her diaper bag, Druckerman-a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal-sets out to learn the secrets to raising a society of good little sleepers, gourmet eaters, and reasonably relaxed parents. She discovers that French parents are extremely strict about some things and strikingly permissive about others. And she realizes that to be a different kind of parent, you don’t just need a different parenting philosophy. You need a very different view of what a child actually is.

I think I devoured this book in two days, and found myself in so many of the French rules, but also noticed I’m still missing a few vital skills. But the reading is delicious! You can find it here!


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