I speak French but who knew that I am also a French parent at heart, that is, sans le kid. My husband and I don’t have children yet, but I am almost 150% convinced that I will be raising them à la française considering that, according to Pamela Druckerman in her book entitled, "Bringing Up Bébé", French children eat well-rounded meals, play nicely together, express themselves clearly to adults, and have an anonymity that helps them understand that their parents have social lives that don’t include them.
In this article, I review “Bringing Up Bébé” – One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. Click play to see my honest Book Review. Be sure to also subscribe to be automatically entered to win FREE tea/books/stuff during Tea End Blog Give-Aways. Already subscribed? Tell a friend!
Title: Bringing Up Bébé
Page Count: 266
Author: Pamela Druckerman
Published Date: 2012
Publishing Company: The Penguin Press
In "Bringing Up Bébé", Druckerman makes French parenting sound so appealing as she humorously and frankly describes its benefits pointing out the obvious contrasts that exist in American parenting. My husband and I do not have any children yet and, honestly, observing most American parenting hasn’t given us any haste towards the decision. Let’s just say that seeing most American moms doesn’t leave me with an appetite for child-rearing. American mothers always seem to be tired and tacky and incessantly sacrificing everything so that their children can feel like the center of the universe. These "harried women", as Druckerman describes them, don’t only sacrifice their physical appearance but also their goals, dreams, desires, hobbies, and everything else that isn’t directly related to their children. What is worse, American mothers wear these sacrifices as badges of honor as if suffering through motherhood is the only way to know that you’re doing it right.
French parenting and motherhood are just different in all the right ways. French children are considered full human beings, not incomplete. They have their own personal lives and an anonymity that allows their parents to remain fully functioning adults rather than becoming 24/7 servants to their child’s every desire. French mothers are expected to still be fashionable, sexy, happy, calm, and vivacious after children. Pamela Druckerman, through her observation of French culture regarding child rearing, helped me put my long-held thoughts about parenting in order.
American Parenting Faux-Pas
Through-out the reading of “Bringing Up Bébé”, Druckerman points out the mistakes that American parents make and how these mistakes end up creating children who grow up to be insecure, dependent, without much self-control, and needing constant approval. I have quite a few of French friends and I can see what Druckerman is talking about: My French friends have an anonymity, or ability to be self-sufficient without constantly seeking validation from others, that my American friends just do not possess. My conversations with my French friends usually surround the arts, food, culture, experience, and other engaging topics whereas conversations with my American friends tend to lean towards the more superficial. Why is this so? Druckerman outlines a few faux-pas that American parents are making that lend to this behavior.
1. Restricted Diets: Why do Americans believe that kids only eat chicken nuggets, pizza, and french fries? Children are more than capable of widening their palates and they should try new foods. Nutrition is extremely important as it lends to the physical health of the child but also the dining experience can be a teaching moment for self-control and open-mindedness.
2. Ignoring Say Bonjour: American parents tend to not expect their children to engage with adults. Even saying 'hello' to others may not be expected as American parents view children as being in a separate world than adults. How does this affect the confidence of a child? What about politeness, does the child learn to consider others?
3. Lack of Authority: French parents have a different concept of authority than their American counterparts. American parents don't want to be too harsh as they think this will stifle their child's creativity or growth. French parents believe in "le cadre" (the framework) in which children are given healthy boundaries that are non-negotiable for the most part. This creates more confidence and self-controlled children.
4. Underestimating: French parents believe that children are capable of understanding at a very young age, in fact, even newborns know what is going on around them according to the French. Communicating expectations is a must and French children rise to the occasion of the reasonable expectations of their parents. American parents tend to underestimate their children's abilities and comprehension so much that children the age of 4 aren't even able to speak properly (I've seen this so much in my early years of working with children).
Classic French Breakfast
In "Bringin Up Bébé", Pamela Druckerman shares a typical french breakfast beverage called 'Chocolat Chaud' (hot chocolate). Druckerman describes how the French consider chocolate a food group and not as a sweet only to be eaten for dessert. A normal French breakfast is quite simple compared to a typical American breakfast: A a crusty baguette or toasted bread (chocolate sandwhich) and chocolat chaud. See the recipe for chocolat chaud from page 218: 1-2
teaspoons cocoa powder
1 liter low-fat milk
sugar to taste
In a large mug, mix 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder and a small splash of milk; blend into a paste. Fill the rest of mug with milk and mix. Heat the mug in the microwave for two minutes, or until hot. Stir in a teaspoon of sugar. Pour a bit of this hot coca concentrate into several mugs. Add cold or room-temperature milk to eat mug. Serve with a crusty baguette or any toasted bread.
Chapter 2, page 32, para. 3 In the U.S., if something isn't difficult then you must feel guilty. This rhymes true also with American parenting styles.
Chapter 5, page 81 Book Suggestion: "Emile", a book series by Rousseau that greatly influences child rearing in France.
Chapter 5, page 88, para. 3 According to Françoise Dolto, even infants are rational.
Chapter 5, page 95, para. 2 Children believe what you believe. They do what the parent expects them to do.
Chapter 9, page 139, para. 1 French children are expected to greet everyone with Bonjour or Hello. French children don't get to be invisible but must learn to consider others and be considered.
Chapter 11, page 187, para. 3 The French approach to bedtime embodies how they are strict about some things and quite lenient in others which creates a balance for the child to experience freedom within "le cadre".
Chapter 11, page 189, para. 1 The American blockbuster, "Date Night", was viewed in France as being abhorrent. The children portrayed in the film were considered, from a French vantage point, to be unbearable and their behavior to being unacceptable. Whereas in America the movie was almost a comedy portraying real family life.
Chapter 13, page 227, para. 7 One French dad expresses that having a parent who's confident is reassuring to kids.
Chapter 14, page 246, para. 2 By the age of 6, the child should be able to do everything that concerns him.
I really enjoyed the reading of “Bringing Up Bébé” by Pamela Druckerman and I did not realize that it would leave such an indelible mark on who I want to be as a parent. The book has also made me more reassured in my own parenting strategies. If you’re looking for a book to challenge your ideals on what a child actually is and what he is capable of, then perhaps “Bringing Up Bébé’ by Pamela Druckerman is your next read!
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What influences your parenting style?