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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not revolutionary, Feb. 10 2012
This review is from: Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (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. Particularly in restaurants. The French also have generous parental leave (and holidays) compared to the US, which is certainly a good option to have. The advice of keeping calm while pregnant and not working too hard follows the same line of logic. Allowing time for mothers and fathers to calmer and less busy can only be good for society, and is something that the French could teach Americans (Canadians have more generous leave than Americans, so maybe we're already learning that). I also find it interesting to read about how other parents, in any culture, respond to the nearly infinitely variable challenges and joys of parenting. Druckerman is pleasantly frank and funny when talking about her own challenges.

So overall, this is an interesting book. But it certainly isn't a comprehensive review of French parenting- it's a review of the author's upper-middle class circle of French friends who are parents. Nor is it a comprehensive or data-driven examination of American parenting. There are some good tips in it, but many of them will likely be familiar to most Canadian parents. So overall, this book's real value lies in the handful of new tips or ideas as well as in the story of a mother who struggles to figure out what kind of parenting is best for her child. Given that 95% of parents probably do the same thing, the moral support of knowing you're not the only one second-guessing yourself at times is worth it. Add in fun and funny writing, and that makes this a worthy purchase. Not the new gold-standard scientific bible of parenting techniques, but a good opportunity to think and laugh about being a parent and parenting itself.
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A. Volk
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Location: Canada

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