French Twist: An American Mom's Experiment in Parisian Parenting Paperback – Deckle Edge, Mar 12 2013
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Advance praise for French Twist
“Presented with a touch of humor and spot-on descriptions of childhood (mis)behavior, the advice, which touches on such topics as breastfeeding and school participation, is practical and useful. A refreshing approach to raising children.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[A] charming and clever parenting chronicle . . . Though some may prefer their naughty kids just the way they are, this breezy, entertaining study of parenting a la Paris may prompt others to pour a café au lait and rethink their strategies.”—Publishers Weekly
“French Twist describes an open-minded experiment in French-style parenting (though apparently there’s not even a French word for parenting!) and reveals itself as an honest examination of the author’s own missteps and prejudices—which we all can relate to—and the whole overparenting trend in this country. Are Catherine Crawford’s conclusions ‘French’? Who cares? They’re immensely logical and rational, and delivered with an abundance of love.”—Muffy Mead-Ferro, author of Confessions of a Slacker Mom
“Ever seen a French child throw a tantrum in a restaurant or talk back to his parents? Neither has Catherine Crawford. In French Twist she uncovers the secrets of French child-rearing—and then tries them out on her own family, with remarkable results. Part memoir, part instruction manual, French Twist is hilarious, honest, and incredibly useful.”—Lori Leibovich, executive lifestyle editor of The Huffington Post
“Catherine Crawford has written a great parenting book. I can’t wait to have kids and apply all I have learned here. Wait—hold on. I’m being told I already have two kids. This is incredible news! I will begin applying immediately.”—Adam Scott, actor, Parks and Recreation
About the Author
Catherine Crawford is a contributor to Droolicious on Babble.com, and the parenting website What They Play, where she conceived of and has written the Mothership column. She has appeared on CBS and Fox to discuss issues related to balancing work and motherhood. She lives with her husband, writer Mac Montandon, and their two children in Brooklyn.See all Product Description
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Its going to be impossible to replicate French parenting in the USA because a lot of the support structure is simply not there. For example, school lunches and the importance of food differs between the two countries. This leads to a real strength of this book, systematically exploring differences in practices and expectations at the table, with friends, with toys, with bedtime, the list goes on and on. But while the author did take steps to move in the French direction, at times the effort seemed half-hearted in areas where there seems to be little impediment to adopting the full practice. An example would be where she discusses putting the kids to bed.
Published last year was a book in which a family made a genuine attempt to embrace the French style, arising out of moving to a small village in France. That book, "French Kids Eat Everything", would be a better choice for those wanting to put adopt more of a French lifestyle at home. You lose some of the humor, but you get an explanation of how a family really tried to make it work. On the other hand if you just want to learn what some of the cultural differences between the two countries are then this book will serve fine for that purpose.
The author stumbles across the fact that French parents (and we all know that every single person from one country are exactly the same) don't raise entitled little monsters. And she notices that her children are entitled little monsters (especially Daphne- Darn you Daphne). She begins sifting through French parenting techniques looking for the answers. Despite the author bringing up France, French, and "frenchies" on every page there is nothing particularly French about this parenting style. It may seem a grand revelation to the Sanctimommies of Park Slope but basically, it's common sense.
Interestingly enough the author mentions her own upbringing (one of 13 kids!) without seeing what is really obvious to the reader- she ought to call her mother for advice. The author has an unabated passion for all things French (did you know that French children speak French? Too Cute!). But there is no way that her mother was putting kids in 4 sports. There is no way that her mother was making a separate dinner for each kid. Objecting to poor parenting is not being French. It's being a grown up.
So if you have kids that are expected to eat what they are served, have chores, are not allowed to be rude to adults and can sit through a dinner- this is not the book for you. If you have kids that can't do those things, find the calmest cheerfullest mother that you know and ask what she knows. You could even call your own mom, grandma, aunt or whoever. This cult of the child is a pretty new invention. There are people who remember what we did before this.
But if you are far too fashionable to call your mom and your kids are little monsters- please buy this book. It's not particularly French but I would still prefer it if your little Madeline and Liam could sit quietly the next time I am in a restaurant.
While Crawford's descriptions of her young daughters' behavior were occasionally cringe-inducing, I laughed out loud many times at her self-deprecating way of rightfully taking the blame for allowing the behaviors to happen and continue until her experiment got going. She was a surprisingly lax parent, with her daughters controlling the household and getting away with just about everything (whining or throwing a tantrum until getting what they wanted seemed to work every time). I must be more French than I thought, because my kids never got away with any of that, thanks to our implementation of the no-nonsense 1-2-3 Magic method of corralling your kids (you can find that book here on Amazon too).
Witnessing the far more appropriate, calm behavior of her French friends' children inspired Crawford to become more French, something she already aspired to as a Francophile herself. She embarked upon an ambitious journey to learn the French way of parenting, while finding irony in the fact that the French do not have a word for "parenting". She spent time in France and interviewed and observed numerous French friends while in the U.S. as well (she lives in Brooklyn). The core tenet of French parenting: the parent is the chief. Period. The child is simply expected to behave, and is immediately corrected when she doesn't. This may involve a sharp rebuke or a public spanking, but French parents still show great love for their children and can develop close bonds just as we do with ours in the U.S. Their general techniques do not seem to harm their self-esteem, and even the schools do not focus on children's self-esteem like ours do here. There is no reward for doing what's expected or for participating. Unlike in the overly-indulgent U.S., from the very beginning, French children are not given the option to disobey or be disrespectful. They are told what is expected of them and figure out pretty quickly there isn't an alternative.
After informing her children of the plans for the new techniques, Crawford set to work, implementing those she agreed with with surprising results: her girls began to behave better. Considerably better. They ate more adventurously, were more respectful and patient, had better self-control, learned to calm themselves down, began to sleep in their own beds, learned to accept "no" as answer without trying to bargain, became content with less, and began to learn the essence of that true French way of life, "joie de vivre." Crawford and her husband gained more quality time for themselves instead of always being completely focused on their daughters' whims.
While reading this fun and insightful book, I began to wonder if someone could write a version for those of us with middle and high schoolers, because that's a whole different ball of wax! It often feels like much of what you've implemented as a parent when your kids are younger go right out the window when they hit puberty, so I'd love to know how the French keep their older kids reined in. But this book did reinforce a few things I used to be more diligent about, so my kids' mom is about to get more French than occasionally speaking to them in French!
Crawford has a true way with words and is very funny. Her writing style is effortless and engaging, and this book was a joy to read...and I don't normally want to read about kids being bratty. This book made me want to move to France all the more, just to be able to enjoy being out in public without enduring tantrums from other peoples' kids. ;-) That's certainly cheaper than buying this book for all Americans with kids, and more fun.
If your children are still young, you need this book! And even if they aren't, you'll enjoy it. It's a wonderful read and I couldn't put it down!
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