Friday, October 12, 2012

French Parenting--Have You Tried It? Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe

Last year it was Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chinese parenting was in. Her oldest daughter now at Harvard, Chua seems to have figured it out.

This year it's the Frenchwomen's turn. Only it's not a Frenchwoman who's advertising. It's an American, Pamela Druckerman, in her book Bringing Up Bebe.

An American expat in Paris, Pamela Druckerman notices that the natives parent differently than Americans, and as a result, French kids sleep better, eat their vegetables, and sit still at restaurants. So she digs deeper to find out how they do what they do.

I think you can learn more about a culture by studying daily living than you can by studying politics and history, and that proved true during my reading of this book. Suddenly, I understood my French friends better than I ever had before. I understood their aversion to snacking, their reticence to praise and compliment, and their seeming belief that there's a right way to do any given thing.

As far as parenting, I found a few helpful tips as well. I like the idea of the "cadre," the framework kids operate in with very firm boundaries but plenty of freedom within those boundaries. I like the insistence on good manners, and I also like the emphasis on helping children to be independent and self-sufficient as soon as they're able.

But much of what we see here works in a very homogeneous culture like Druckerman's upper middle-class Paris. They all do the same things: bottle feed, send their kids to the "creche" (daycare), serve meals at the same time, etc. Here in The Melting Pot it's not so simple. And while the complexity of our culture makes it difficult to even figure out how to get your infant to sleep through the night (because there are 42 different books containing 185 different methods in your local library), I'll put up with the difficulties to gain the vibrancy of our culture. I love that I can relate to selective aspects of Druckerman's views and at the same time relate to selective aspects of Amy Chua's views (author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother). 

All in all, it's a nice, breezy read. Druckerman is an excellent, light-but-punchy writer. She's funny, too. I recommend it.

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