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Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting) Paperback – Unabridged, September 30, 2014
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“Marvelous . . . Like Julia Child, who translated the secrets of French cuisine, Druckerman has investigated and distilled the essentials of French child-rearing. . . . Druckerman provides fascinating details about French sleep training, feeding schedules and family rituals. But her book's real pleasures spring from her funny, self-deprecating stories. Like the principles she examines, Druckerman isn't doctrinaire.” — NPR
“Bringing Up Bébé is a must-read for parents who would like their children to eat more than white pasta and chicken fingers.”— Fox News
“On questions of how to live, the French never disappoint. . . . Maybe it all starts with childhood. That is the conclusion that readers may draw from Bringing Up Bébé.”— The Wall Street Journal
“French women don't have little bags of emergency Cheerios spilling all over their Louis Vuitton handbags. They also, Druckerman notes, wear skinny jeans instead of sweatpants.The world arguably needs more kids who don't throw food.”— Chicago Tribune
“I’ve been a parent now for more than eight years, and—confession—I’ve never actually made it all the way through a parenting book. But I found Bringing Up Bébé to be irresistible."— Slate
About the Author
Pamela Druckerman is a contributing opinion writer for the International New York Times and a former staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered foreign affairs. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post and Marie Claire. She lives in Paris.
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So what will will you find in Bringing Up Bebe? What makes this one worth a look?
To start with, the author, Pamela Druckerman, does not come off as someone who is crazy about France, let alone French parenting - at first. As she writes early on, "I'm not even sure I like living here" although she does change her tune later. She came to her opinions about French parenting slowly and she backs up her main points with plenty of research studies as well as techniques she learned from French parents and parenting authorities. As a result she concludes that "the French have managed to be involved without becoming obsessive. " They aren't waiting on their kids hand and foot and they don't assume that they have to push their children to succeed. Even so, she notes that she hadn't thought she was supposed to admire French parenting. So consider her a reluctant convert to French methods of parenting.
Druckerman observes that there doesn't appear to be a relentless drive to get babies and children to various lessons or such activities as early swimming lessons. A neighbor was content to let her children simply find ways to play, often with old toys or perhaps by exploring her outdoor environment.
Meals are also handled differently with set times for eating and with children being expected to exert enough self-control to wait hours in between meals. Vegetables, varied types of cheese, and other foods American kids might snub are not only served but actually eaten.
Then there are the studies. They are certainly food for thought and perhaps some spirited debate. One study notes that mothers in Columbus, Ohio find child care twice as unpleasant as mothers in Rennes, France. There is the University of Texas study that concludes that French mothers aren't concerned with accelerating their children's cognitive development or academic achievement. Instead, they are comfortable with letting their kids simply be children while they still can. The author cites another study which indicates that 90 percent of fifteen-year-olds eat their main meal with their parents - compared to 67 percent of those in the United States.
The author took detailed notes as she observed French parents. She learns that they expect their babies to start sleeping through the night within no more than a few months - or even in the first month. They ask Druckerman if her baby is "doing her nights" (sleeping through the night).
Admittedly, a certain number don't...but a fair number do because their parents use "the Pause" , not responding immediately to a baby's cries. When Druckerman tries using "the Pause" her own baby starts sleeping through the night, although...to be fair...she does wait until her baby is more than a few months old, unlike the French parents she describes.
Even infant mortality rates are lower in France, 57 percent lower than in America. There is an emphasis on a calm pregnancy and not eating too much. This doesn't mean starving but an overly obese mother isn't necessarily serving a baby's health. I won't stress this point too much because there could be many other factors that determine the possible difference in infant mortality rates between one country and another.
To sum it up, the author has discovered the "wisdom" of French parenting and has written a book that seems to be aimed at imparting that wisdom to American readers. Druckerman also seems to be encouraging parents to try and change the way American parents perceive children,to not base their lives so much around the kids. To be clear, the parenting advice here is centered on children, not teenagers, as French teenagers are given more freedom but in Druckerman's view also seem to have less cause to rebel.
I did have some issues with this book. The first chapter has far too much info about Druckermans' career before moving to France as well as her time meeting and dating her husband-to-be. This takes up an entire chapter. I wanted to get to the parenting observations more quickly. The book consists mostly of personal observations and Druckerman's parenting experiences which are also peppered with interviews with such people as the French "Doctor Spock" as well as other experts. I'm sure it will be controversial and from what I've seen and read it already is. Even so, this book deserves to be judged based on its contents.
This book equally describes the French attitude, shows examples of the differences between this and the *predominant* American practice that she sees, describes her own awkward experiences with early parenthood & later victories, and provides solid research. She's a pro writer. And she reminds us that this book and any like it are generalizations, not every French or American family will be the same, so please don't bore us with offended reviews that you're not perfectly described, as you defend your parenting style. I'm so glad I took a chance on this despite these types of protest reviews.
One reviewer complains of her Chapter 1 where she describes some background on her marriage, but, I am a sucker for these stories and it was brief. If the relationship isn't a good foundation for the story of the kids, what is? And it was nice to get to know her husband's character arc along with her kids' and her own.
Overall, I can say I feel very much informed and entertained. A week ago, I felt neither, just a little panicked, not knowing what to expect. I was a future helicopter-parent. Now I'm a future parent, feeling I've some good knowledge and tools and a more healthy (not stressed), relaxed attitude toward the next 9 months and beyond. I also thought it was generous of her to mention certain doctors and books as resources.