on February 3, 2013
On the cover this book promised to tell about "An American Mom's Experiment in Parisian Parenting". While I did find the book interesting, the truth is somewhat less than promised. Written in a humorous style, at times bordering on sardonic, the book explores the differences between French and American parenting styles and overall culture. In researching the book the author turned to her French friends Brooklyn, and in addition set up interviews with French natives.
Its going to be impossible to replicate French parenting in the USA because a lot of the support structure is simply not there. For example, school lunches and the importance of food differs between the two countries. This leads to a real strength of this book, systematically exploring differences in practices and expectations at the table, with friends, with toys, with bedtime, the list goes on and on. But while the author did take steps to move in the French direction, at times the effort seemed half-hearted in areas where there seems to be little impediment to adopting the full practice. An example would be where she discusses putting the kids to bed.
Published last year was a book in which a family made a genuine attempt to embrace the French style, arising out of moving to a small village in France. That book, "French Kids Eat Everything", would be a better choice for those wanting to put adopt more of a French lifestyle at home. You lose some of the humor, but you get an explanation of how a family really tried to make it work. On the other hand if you just want to learn what some of the cultural differences between the two countries are then this book will serve fine for that purpose.
on April 3, 2013
The author has two daughters. The eldest Oona is Edith Wharton. The youngest Daphne is Jim Belushi. What a great way to label your kids. And lest you think this is an incidental observation, the author spends much of the book lamenting various aspects of Daphne's personality and behavior. All I can say is poor Daphne.
The author stumbles across the fact that French parents (and we all know that every single person from one country are exactly the same) don't raise entitled little monsters. And she notices that her children are entitled little monsters (especially Daphne- Darn you Daphne). She begins sifting through French parenting techniques looking for the answers. Despite the author bringing up France, French, and "frenchies" on every page there is nothing particularly French about this parenting style. It may seem a grand revelation to the Sanctimommies of Park Slope but basically, it's common sense.
Interestingly enough the author mentions her own upbringing (one of 13 kids!) without seeing what is really obvious to the reader- she ought to call her mother for advice. The author has an unabated passion for all things French (did you know that French children speak French? Too Cute!). But there is no way that her mother was putting kids in 4 sports. There is no way that her mother was making a separate dinner for each kid. Objecting to poor parenting is not being French. It's being a grown up.
So if you have kids that are expected to eat what they are served, have chores, are not allowed to be rude to adults and can sit through a dinner- this is not the book for you. If you have kids that can't do those things, find the calmest cheerfullest mother that you know and ask what she knows. You could even call your own mom, grandma, aunt or whoever. This cult of the child is a pretty new invention. There are people who remember what we did before this.
But if you are far too fashionable to call your mom and your kids are little monsters- please buy this book. It's not particularly French but I would still prefer it if your little Madeline and Liam could sit quietly the next time I am in a restaurant.
After reading Bringing Up Bebe and Bebe Day by Day, I definitely wanted to learn more about the French way of raising children. When I look around at how many people of my generation are raising children, they seem to have lost their collective minds, entertaining and stuffing them with food to the point where they can't seem to enjoy focusing on their own projects and independent play, and never seem hungry for even the most interesting and delicious of adult foods. It's all chicken nuggets and canned corn.
The difference between French Twist and Bringing Up Bebe is that while Bringing Up Bebe makes a strong attempt to pass on these tips and tricks and teach us these commonsense tenets of parenting, French Twist is more about one mother's attempt to live just a few of these basic parenting techniques. This means that French Twist is, in some ways, more humorous and easily readable, yet it's also a whole lot less useful.
I confess I found myself horrified with some of the habits she admitted she'd fallen into with her kids, more so since these habits seem to be common among her circle of friends. It's obvious the author felt the same, or she wouldn't have bothered embarking on this journey. However, since she had so far to come with her kids, she spent a lot of time describing the problems and not quite as much time as I would like describing the solutions and how a wide range of ordinary people might approach these parenting ideas.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and found it a pleasant way of spending my time. I would definitely buy it again just for the enjoyment factor. However, I'll admit that after reading Bringing Up Bebe and Bebe Day by Day, this was a lightweight and fluffy read that I didn't actually learn much from. The one thing the author had to contribute that was unique from the other books on French parenting out there, was the understanding she provided of what it feels like to try to implement French parenting techniques in an urban American setting. Being out of step with what your friends and acquaintances are doing is always a challenge, and I enjoyed reading her perspective on what it felt like to be doing something different.
Having been a French major in college and studied abroad in France one summer, I was already intrigued about the French way of raising children before I even saw this book. In France, children do not have public tantrums like American children do here. Remember the last time you heard a child wailing and kicking his or her feet at the grocery store because he/she could not have the toy or candy that he/she wanted? Have you seen rude children, obnoxious children, disrespectful children, and children oblivious to the niceties of real civilization? These were all American children, I'm willing to bet. Only in America are children given the reins while parents take a back seat. In France, there is none of this. This book was a delightful reminder of the well-mannered children I saw in France, and yet also a reminder that despite their manners, French children are also spunky. That's because the French do not concern themselves with the ridiculous and trivial concerns that American parents weight themselves down with. They focus on teaching their children how to live a good life. I have to say, I enjoyed this book from cover to cover, and I would recommend it to every American parent. In fact, they should hand these out to parents as they leave the hospital with their firstborn child. Not only would we all have happier children, our entire society would be set upright again from its current dizzy whirling. I believe children should be equipped to live life well, and this kind of parenting accomplishes that without leaving them neurotic.
The author, Catherine Crawford, has written this book after observing (both in France and among her French friends) how well behaved French children are. She began to really pay attention to her French friends' parenting styles and asking questions about typical child rearing in France. This book doesn't bash Americans in anyway, rather it delves into the methods (and attitudes) used by the French that yield such dramatically different results. I am the American parent that Ms.Crawford is writing about and having fallen short of my own (very high) expectations to be the "perfect mother", I've spent too much energy feeling guilty and frustrated. French parents don't experience these feelings because they have such a different (and in my opinion, very healthy) attitude about parenting. This book is eye opening and inspiring. And while I may not agree with every single method used, there is definitely some valuable insight that almost every parent can learn from. Maybe for some parents the advice in this book is just common sense, but for those of us who have read every parenting book, magazine, blog trying to absorb an overload of information that now we are left in an overwhelming fog of advice, this book is truly helpful. This is hands down my favorite parenting book that I've ever read. Ms. Crawford writes with so much humor and I was laughing so hard while reading this book that my son kept asking me what was so funny. I really love this book and I highly recommend it!
on May 14, 2013
As an avid Francophile just chomping at the bit to finally move over there, I have read numerous books about French culture, how the French are and why they do what they do. Somewhat surprisingly (or maybe not), none of those books have talked about child rearing techniques and how French children are different from their American counterparts. I am a stepmom of three boys who are older than "French Twist" author Catherine Crawford's, but I've lived through the pre-school and elementary school years and knew I could relate to what she learned during her year of experimenting with French-style parenting.
While Crawford's descriptions of her young daughters' behavior were occasionally cringe-inducing, I laughed out loud many times at her self-deprecating way of rightfully taking the blame for allowing the behaviors to happen and continue until her experiment got going. She was a surprisingly lax parent, with her daughters controlling the household and getting away with just about everything (whining or throwing a tantrum until getting what they wanted seemed to work every time). I must be more French than I thought, because my kids never got away with any of that, thanks to our implementation of the no-nonsense 1-2-3 Magic method of corralling your kids (you can find that book here on Amazon too).
Witnessing the far more appropriate, calm behavior of her French friends' children inspired Crawford to become more French, something she already aspired to as a Francophile herself. She embarked upon an ambitious journey to learn the French way of parenting, while finding irony in the fact that the French do not have a word for "parenting". She spent time in France and interviewed and observed numerous French friends while in the U.S. as well (she lives in Brooklyn). The core tenet of French parenting: the parent is the chief. Period. The child is simply expected to behave, and is immediately corrected when she doesn't. This may involve a sharp rebuke or a public spanking, but French parents still show great love for their children and can develop close bonds just as we do with ours in the U.S. Their general techniques do not seem to harm their self-esteem, and even the schools do not focus on children's self-esteem like ours do here. There is no reward for doing what's expected or for participating. Unlike in the overly-indulgent U.S., from the very beginning, French children are not given the option to disobey or be disrespectful. They are told what is expected of them and figure out pretty quickly there isn't an alternative.
After informing her children of the plans for the new techniques, Crawford set to work, implementing those she agreed with with surprising results: her girls began to behave better. Considerably better. They ate more adventurously, were more respectful and patient, had better self-control, learned to calm themselves down, began to sleep in their own beds, learned to accept "no" as answer without trying to bargain, became content with less, and began to learn the essence of that true French way of life, "joie de vivre." Crawford and her husband gained more quality time for themselves instead of always being completely focused on their daughters' whims.
While reading this fun and insightful book, I began to wonder if someone could write a version for those of us with middle and high schoolers, because that's a whole different ball of wax! It often feels like much of what you've implemented as a parent when your kids are younger go right out the window when they hit puberty, so I'd love to know how the French keep their older kids reined in. But this book did reinforce a few things I used to be more diligent about, so my kids' mom is about to get more French than occasionally speaking to them in French!
Crawford has a true way with words and is very funny. Her writing style is effortless and engaging, and this book was a joy to read...and I don't normally want to read about kids being bratty. This book made me want to move to France all the more, just to be able to enjoy being out in public without enduring tantrums from other peoples' kids. ;-) That's certainly cheaper than buying this book for all Americans with kids, and more fun.
If your children are still young, you need this book! And even if they aren't, you'll enjoy it. It's a wonderful read and I couldn't put it down!
on March 17, 2013
As an American parent who has witnessed the kind of behavior Crawford describes in every section of the United States, I wish this book was required reading for indulgent parents. Or just parents with a sense of humor who ask their children if what they're doing is "okay" too many times during the day (like me). Thank god Crawford has a sense of humor and an incredible wit, otherwise I might feel bad about the fact that I haven't been "the chief" in my house for the past seven years. Instead, I tweaked our parenting and added a little French to amazing results. Even better? It's so much easier to tell your child "I'm in charge, and you will get to watch a show when I tell you it's time," than the constant badgering that can turn a relaxing Saturday afternoon into the most annoying day of the week.
Thanks CC, for chilling out our home life.
on March 13, 2013
I got this book in the mail this morning, and immediately read it cover to cover. I'm not a parent, but growing up in Kentucky, and moving to Chicago I have seen some wild and crazy kids...so like the long term planner I am, I've been reading a lot about french parenting, and child psychology. I read "Bringing up Bebe" which I enjoyed on a comic level, but I found myself pushing my way through the last half during the second read through. Her stories are entertaining, the things she observes are interesting, but I kept waiting on the HOW element in that book, and realized it never really came.
That being said, I knew what I was looking for in this book. The answer to my "HOW?". I think the author did a fairly good job of doing that. She gives lessons, and tips throughout the book based on her experience, and doesn't "worship" the french parenting style by any means, as another reviewer implied. Some people get so touchy about "American parenting" being put down (especially in the "Bringing up Bebe" reviews), and although I don't mind, probably since I'm not a parent yet ha!, and I still have an outsiders view point...the author does bring up some french styles of parenting that she doesn't agree with such as spanking, and the educational system...so the American in you can have your "Ha! take that!" moment that you seem to desire.
This booked helped me examine what things I really want to instill in my children, like an appreciation of good food, manners, and a firm household order "It's me who decides", and which things I should probably skip, such as the elaborate holidays, obsessing about unsatisfiable happiness, and bribes (that my mother still uses on me to this day! I'm 24!).
ALSO, I'm so glad she touched base about the "supermarket horror". This has been a topic of conversation among my friends with children, and they can't figure out what to do about it. I practically fell out of my seat when the author asked her parisian friend supermarket parenting questions, and the woman replied "why is my child crying in the supermarket, did the cart run over his foot???" HA! I looked all over the internet for a french solution to this problem, and there wasn't one. Now I just know that calm supermarket children are so because they are taught to wait, entertain themselves, and they know that mom is the chief, and they must obey. "That is the way things are". I hope I have the strength to be french firm with my future bundles of joy.
on October 20, 2013
Having grown up in the 40's and 50's in the UK, this "French' way of parenting where children are not the epicenter of a parent's world reminds me of my own childhood and subsequent parenting methods. I couldn't resist checking this out at the library and then purchased for my own adult daughter. It was entertaining but also full of 'yes I strongly agree' moments that seemingly follow the same natural parenting ways of my own childhood recollection. The author is effective in highlighting the seamless ways that french parents instinctively interact with their children to instill respect, good manners and an expectation of being attentive and learning patience instead of instant gratification.. She admits that not all of the methods were easily incorporated into her own family's structure, but she insightfully recognizes that American parenting has gone beyond the pale in trying to be a 'buddy' to and to accommodate every whim of a young child to the extent that they have lost control of their own adult lives and position in the family unit.Overindulgence in both the material and emotional sense is just one of the many differences that she highlights. French parents are loving parents but their children are raised to understand discipllne and limits of behavior. If just a few of her observations (her husband is french so they naturally associate with other french natives in Brooklyn) could be incorporated into American parenting we would all be the better for it. Children who interrupt conversations, noisily demand attention, have melt-downs at the drop of a hat ? Her French advice?" Do not get up if there is no blood !" This is a very entertaining read even if you're beyond being a young parent. It's written in a casual; lighthearted, amusing style, but without a doubt her advice has significant value that will benefit any young parent and provide the rest of us with tons of a-ha moments.
This is a book on discovering that perhaps parents and children would be better off with some discipline. So is this French or just old fashioned? The techniques and rules that Catherine Crawford comes up with as French gospel are simply old fashioned manners and how I was raised and how I raised my children and luckily with the exception of a huge amount of participation in sports and extra-curricular activities it is how they are raising their children.
Parenting is scary, especially after nights of trying to get a toddler to sleep in their own bed rather than yours or screaming wandering around the house. Many instances such as this are brought up as the problems of children today in America, but oh no not in France, no other country is mentioned as being the source of well-behaved youngsters.
I lived in several countries in Europe and my children went to local schools. It was embarrassing how often we would be told we were welcome with our well behaved children who would eat what was put in front of them and knew table and other manners - how they did not like to associate with other American children. It is a shame that this was mentioned so often.
It is also brought up and rightly so how so much of the stress and strain might relate to adolescents being over scheduled. I know my grandsons, breathe a sigh of relief sometimes when they are with me and say "can we just watch the clouds?"
There is much good advice in here. It is like having someone have a conversation where they repeat and digress and also relate some tongue in cheek stories. But the constant French references that this is the be all and end all begin to become irritating. In the several other countries I have lived in I have found well behaved children and guidance in the schools and values. She does admit how horrible the French can become as they are older, but then also explains this is simply that they have high standards.
What much of this is simply old fashioned manners and teaching self-control. The end result is; do not sell your children or yourself short on what a calm and gracious life they and you can have.