Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: Bringing Up Bébé, by Pamela Druckerman

Last year, Amy Chua educated American parents about Chinese parenting. This year, we’re introduced to French parenting by Pamela Druckerman, an American living in Paris with her British husband and three children. While French parenting is not as extreme as Chinese parenting, at least as described by the two authors, there’s still a lot to learn from -- and be outraged by -- when it comes to French parenting, at least for American parents. Here are some of the parenting insights from Paris in Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.
  • When women give birth, they stay in the hospital for six days, which is standard French practice.
  • French parents expect their babies to sleep through the night around two or three months of age.
  • French parents practice “The Pause” when their babies start to cry. Rather than picking them up immediately, they observe them for several minutes to see what they might need.
  • From the age of about four months, most French babies eat at regular times -- 8 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 p.m., and 8 p.m. French parents wouldn’t even consider carrying around snacks to feed their children between meals.
  • The French believe that good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there’s no need to feel guilty about this.
  • French parents feel it’s extremely important to teach their children to wait for things they want and to learn to handle frustration.
  • French children begin eating solid food with fruits and vegetables, not bland cereal. From a very early age, their mothers begin leading them in baking projects several times a month.
  • French parents believe in establishing a cadre, or frame, which means that kids have very firm limits that are strictly enforced, but they have a lot of freedom within those limits.
  • French parents aren’t anxious to give their kids head starts. They don’t push them to do things ahead of schedule.
  • Middle-class French parents compete for limited spots for their children in a local crèche (daycare center) even before they’re born. Many parents place their children in crèches even if they don’t need childcare, and consider it beneficial for their children.
  • Most French mothers do not breast-feed beyond the maternity hospital. Long-term nursing is extremely rare.
  • Children as young as four are allowed to go on week-long vacations with their teachers and other adults (without their parents).
  • French parents are slower to intervene in playground disputes or sibling arguments. They expect kids to work these situations out for themselves.
  • French parents believe in limited praise. Mostly, they praise only for saying interesting things and for speaking well.
Photo credit: Benjamin Barda
If you’re an American parent, you probably have mixed feelings about many of the teachings you read above. I feel we could learn something from the French about teaching our children to sleep and eat better, as well as to practice patience and waiting. However, I don’t agree with not breast-feeding (when it’s possible) or sending a 4-year-old to sleepaway camp with adults we barely know. Druckerman seems to feel the same way when it comes to parenting her own children. She’s adopted certain French techniques and rejected or modified others. In the end, I think we all realize that no country has all the answers when it comes to parenting well. We can all learn from one another.

You can find Pamela Druckerman online on her website, her Facebook page, and her Twitter account. CLICK HERE to follow the other blogs on this exciting virtual book tour!


  1. I heard about this on The Today Show and honestly, I agree with a lot of French methods. We've always done The Pause, which is why I think my kids, ages 9 and 4, can entertain themselves first thing in the morning so my husband and I aren't disturbed at 6 AM.

  2. Anonymous3:35 PM

    I think you're right that no country has all the answers, but that we can choose the best from each country/tradition and adapt those techniques to make us better parents overall.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this for the tour.

  3. Very well said! I need to implement The Pause, because my first instinct is to try to fix it, but oftentimes I don't even know what I'm fixing or what my son really needs!

    It's too bad they don't nurse for longer than the time they're in the hospital. Ah well. Just proof no country is perfect. :)

  4. There are no parenting books out there that refine the skill set to a science. Parenting styles are different within any existing culture let alone different ones. This is merely one woman's take on her perception of the French.


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