Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

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Penguin, Feb 7, 2012 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
The secret behind France's astonishingly well-behaved children.

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.


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BRINGING UP BÉBÉ: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

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The author of a cross-cultural study on infidelity turns her judicious eye to the differences between American and Parisian childrearing.When Druckerman (Lust in Translation, 2007) was laid off from ... Read full review

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Druckerman's most irritating tendency is to flip between the science and her own experience, then completely ignore the former. The final chapters of the book as she acquires French friends and "insider sources" are pretty close to anecdotes and little else. Still a revealing discussion of how France and America differ in how they raise children, if nothing else a useful challenge to the unstated (or loudly screamed) assumptions of the attachment parenting fad. Children can sleep through the night at 3 months. Past a certain point, feeding does not need to be every two hours. Breastfeeding is not a panacea, and bottle feeding will not turn your child into a serial killer or medical cripple. Frustrating are the examples of French economic structures such as the creche that are not really available or supported in North America, mostly because they seem to do an excellent job of supporting the children and the society. However, for anyone with a background in behaviourism, you will readily see many of the secrets are little more than reinforcement, punishment and extinction. Bar a few biological surprises, French parenting seems to come down to consistency and firmness, tools that can be readily used by anybody. 


Glossary of French Parenting Terms
french children dont throw food
are you waiting forachild?
paris is burping
doing her nights
tiny little humans
day care?
bébé au lait Chapter 8 the perfect mother doesnt exist Chapter 9 caca boudin
double entendre Chapter11i adore this baguette Chapter 12you just have to taste
its me who decides
let him live hislife

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About the author (2012)

Pamela Druckerman is a former staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered foreign affairs. She has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Marie Claire, and appeared on The Today Show and NPR's Morning Edition. Her previous book, Lust in Translation, was translated into eight languages. She has a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia. She lives in Paris.

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