When American journalist Pamela Druckerman has a baby in Paris, she doesn't aspire to become a "French parent." French parenting isn't a known thing, like French fashion or French cheese.Read more...
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When American journalist Pamela Druckerman has a baby in Paris, she doesn't aspire to become a "French parent." French parenting isn't a known thing, like French fashion or French cheese. Even French parents themselves insist they aren't doing anything special.
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.
Motherhood itself is a whole different experience in France. There's no role model, as there is in America, for the harried new mom with no life of her own. 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.
Of course, French parenting wouldn't be worth talking about if it produced robotic, joyless children. In fact, French kids are just as boisterous, 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.While finding her own firm "non," Druckerman discovers that children-including her own-are capable of feats she'd never imagined.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-11-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Living in Paris has allowed American journalist Druckerman (Lust in Translation) a riveting glimpse into a calmer, rational, sage way of raising children. With three children of her own, all born in Paris and happily bilingual, Druckerman wanted to find the key to forging the well-behaved youngsters she witnessed in parks and restaurants—infants who sleep through the night at two months, children with table manners, who don’t interrupt adults or eat between meals. It starts, apparently, with calm, sensible French mothers, who don’t become enormously self-indulgent during pregnancy, but quickly lose the baby fat after birth and rarely breast feed. The French health system helps by its generous maternal and child-care policies. Babies are treated as rational creatures, expected to “self-distract” in order to fall asleep (Druckerman calls the essential lapse in response time “La Pause”), and wait to eat when everybody else has their meals, four times a day, including the 4 p.m. sweet time called le gouter. Instead of rushing to satisfy or stimulate a child à la Americain, the French are keen on aiding kids to discover on their own, developing autonomy with the help of a cadre, or frame, which is firm but flexible. Citing Rousseau, Piaget, and Françoise Dolto, as well as scores of other parents, Anglophone or French, Druckerman draws compelling social comparisons, some dubious (e.g., Frenchwomen, unlike Americans, don’t expect their husbands to help much with housework, thus eliminating “tension and resentment”), others helpful (insisting that children try new foods at each meal to broaden their palates), but she is ever engaging and lively to read. (Feb.)