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

Pamela Druckerman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 7 2012

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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Review

“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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not revolutionary Feb. 10 2012
By A. Volk #1 REVIEWER #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
This book is about comparing French to American parenting, but Canadians are similar enough to the latter for it to still work for us. The book is more of a biography than it is a serious or scientific exploration of cross-cultural parenting. Druckerman does introduce evidence here and there, but for the most part it's all anecdotes about how the French parent, and why it's superior to American parenting. As another reviewer wrote, it's like she was wearing beer goggles for French parenting as virtually everything she describes is new and amazing- to her.

Because much of what the French do is ambivalent, familiar, or undesirable. For example, not getting involved with their children on the playground. Yes, it's nice to talk to other parents, and most Canadian parents do, but it's also fun to get involved with your kids and play. Soon enough they won't want to be anywhere near you, so I figure it's good to get the in fun while you can. I can understand wanting and taking a break, but I don't understand never getting involved either. Familiar in that parents should impose limits, like introducing vegetables and fruits first in snacks or meals so children face them when they are most hungry. Or that schedules can help children run more smoothly. That's all pretty familiar, and certainly not uniquely French. Some of it may be undesirable as in training children to sleep alone by 10 weeks (what if you like co-sleeping? and it sounds a lot like Ferberizing) or stopping breast feeding by 10 weeks. While I appreciate it's not for everyone, I think the medical science is unanimous that breastfeeding longer than that is advisable if you can do it.

There are some good things to learn, such as teaching children to be more restrained and polite, particularly in public.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed It Jan. 25 2013
By Mark Nenadov TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Parents wanting to raise their kids thoughtfully and learn from different cultures will likely find this book helpful and entertaining. It's a memoir by an American expatriate mother living in France, documenting her investigation of French parenting.

It's not that I necessarily agree with everything here. I don't think that's the point. The idea isn't that the French do parenting perfectly or that everyone should thoughtlessly copy them. Rather, the point is that while some French parenting practices may seem foreign to Americans, many of them really make sense and are very helpful and amazingly successful. And there is some clear evidence of better results.

Unlike many parenting books and memoirs, this book is actually written in a skillful, fun and fresh way. It is intimate and emotional but not overly sentimental either. Even though it describes a mom's perspective, dads can enjoy it too! In fact, even if you never have had, and never will have, any children, it's unlikely you'll find this dull!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Drukerman's account of French parenting resonated fiercely with me. For perhaps the first time since my first child was born, I do not feel philosophically alone in my parenting values. Although I am but half way through the book, in chapter after chapter I feel, for the first time, that my innate style of parenting isn't substandard, even inherently bad; I feel some sense of validation. I have spent the last 8 years on the receiving end of judging glances, and passive aggressive comments with respect to my parental strictness and permissiveness in various areas - feeling utterly alone in my sense of what my role as a parent should be. I have felt so insecure about my beliefs that I have actually modified my parenting methods. As such, I now fear (how American of me) that I have irreparably damaged my children. My genuine sense though, is that it isn't too late. My hope is that reading 'Bringing Up Bebe' will provide the reassurance I had been looking for and henceforth, I will be able to help steer my children toward actualization as responsible citizens of the earth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting psychology, a good read for parents March 10 2013
By Barb M.
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a good book for those interested in human psychology.
The perspective is an American mother bringing up her 2 children in Paris - contrasting the way the two cultures raise their children.
The French culture which emphasizes a "Frame" or boundaries a child must have in politeness, socialization and self-control. The child is not the center of the family, but expected to be a contributing member to the whole. It contributes well to the child's sense of security. Creativity is also emphasized.
This is contrasted with the American perspective where the child is more the center of attention and expected to achieve academically from a young age. Whereas there is more intellectual stimulation, the focus is more on the needs of self and the child may be less socially motivated.
A very interesting read, especially for parents or expecting parents. There are definite advantages to raising one's child with the French (Parisien) paradigm.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating contrast story July 3 2012
By Leah
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book in every way: good writing, a helpful glossary to start and return to as needed, fascinating information about how North American children are raised in comparison to French children. Not a how-to book but a series of acute and practical observations as the author, Druckerman, raises her own three children and negotiates the child-care system in modern day Paris. The French do it differently. According to the author, their children grow to be patient, able to entertain themselves, sleep well, eat well and play on their own. Now I'd like to read how this early upbringing is reflected in the teens.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars love this!!
such a great read, i bought this for a friend who's expecting twins. a great no-nonsense perspective on raising respectful children.
Published 3 months ago by Nat Watkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo!
Well written, well documented and a fast fun read. It is interesting to understand that our egocentric way about children in North America is not the only way to raise children. Read more
Published 3 months ago by La virtue
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and well studied!
As a father to be that has lived in Paris recently, I've loved this read! Almost every observation about french life is in line with my (and my partner's) experience living there. Read more
Published 3 months ago by cr
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a lot
I enjoyed this very much. Almost like a pop-anthropological take on parenting in upper-middle class Paris from a middle class American POV. Worth the read.
Published 4 months ago by Karen Dubin
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
Great perspective that helps put being the "perfect mom" into focus. Easy read and not too technical. Definitely suggest for new moms
Published 5 months ago by Wendy Hallam
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun read! Helped me relax about my parenting approach
This book was fun to read. It felt like I was in my living room listening to another mother's views about parenting. I could definitely relate to what she was sharing. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Eclectique009
5.0 out of 5 stars AMERICAN PARENTS...READ THIS BOOK!
NORTH AMERICAN PARENTS CODDLE THEIR KIDS AND LIKE SPOILED PETS (WE DO THAT TOO) THEY GROW UP PHYSICALLY...NOT MENTALLY. Read more
Published 12 months ago by SUNNY
4.0 out of 5 stars Why I loved it at age 18
Though I am nowhere near a mother yet, I really loved this book. I'm going to be an aupair (nanny) in france next summer and I think this book has suitably prepared me for that, as... Read more
Published 14 months ago by aupairgirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for all new parents!
Finally! Some real advice for parents of newborns who would like to get a good night's sleep. The French method works beautifully and doesn't underestimate a newborn's ability to... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Spicy
3.0 out of 5 stars Comme si, comme ca...
Though the book is an entertaining read, and definitely offers some interesting points of difference between French and American parenting, it ultimately descends into painting the... Read more
Published 23 months ago by onemiep
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