Bringing Up Bébé - Pamela Druckerman - Book Summary
One American mother finds the wisdom of French parenting. In her book, she describes her experiences in Paris and her conversations with French parents. The French parenting style is more strict, less pushy, and less child-focused - allowing the child to be a part of the family and still allow parents have “grown-up time” with friends and other grown-ups and providing the child time of his own.
Children in France sleep all through the night very early. French parents know all about sleep cycles and know that children make noises while they sleep. Their technique is to wait a bit and observe the child. Unlike American parents, French parents take a pause before picking their child at night. They observe him to see if he is asleep, or if he is slightly annoyed by getting back to sleep between sleep cycles - if so they wait. If he is awake and is crying - they pick him up. This way they do not interfere with his cycles and attempts to fall back asleep, and they sleep through the night before 3 months in most cases, before their mothers goes back to work.
French parents are less anxious about Parenting, maybe due to the fact that there aren’t many ways of parenting approaches and everyone is mostly on the same page. Instead of helping their children excel and do everything early - they are letting them explore much more - on their own - and thus also preparing them to be able to occupy themselves without needing an adult to amuse them.
Patience is a very important virtue in the Prussian culture. Parents let their children practice patience many times when they ask them to wait before speaking or before they give them what they want, and they also teach it to them passively in role modeling of patience and self control and actively in activities such as baking that requires waiting.
French parents believe that children are able to understand very early on and that they are not fragile - hence they can be taught early on to follow rules, obey commands, play on they own and even have rough-play with other children. They can manage on their own away from parents, including week-long school trips by the age of 6. You can see French parents speak to their newborn babies and explain to them things, and well as explaining the rules to toddlers.
Requiring to try new foods is a common rule in French homes. You can’t see too many obese children in Paris and no child that is willing to only eat Pasta. They are persistent in nudging their children to eat only 4 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack in the afternoon) very early on, and do not let them snack throughout the day. This gets children to come to meals hungry and eat with pleasure along with the adults. When a child doesn’t like a particular food - they try different ways of serving and attempt to give it to him many times and don’t give up after a few tries. French people don’t consider specific foods to be too complicated for children and they let them eat everything from very early on, and even have a always changing plentiful 4-course meal at the daycare (children before the age of 3) that might include blue cheese, in which every course is presented and are discussed (not only tasty or not, but also texture, color, etc).
The responsibility for raising children in France in mostly on the women, but they don’t hold a grudge over it, maybe because they have paid maternity leave and subsidized high-quality nanny/daycare that allows them to work a few months after a child is born, or maybe because they don't give up everything and only evolve around the children.
The child is not the center of the family. The child is expected to play on his own - so parents can have time together. Parenthood is not an excuse to let go - and women are expected to go back their pre-pregnancy figure in 3 months or so, and still be attractive by dressing up and putting on makeup.
French parents are expected to have a frame of rules (Le Cadre) - in which the children are free to do whatever they want. While they allow small acts of mischief, some rules (not too many) are enforced firmly by the parents. Such rules might be no hitting, always saying hello to other people and so on. They also give them small nudges about what is expected of them - like table manners during the meal (e.g. “we don’t play with our forks”). There is a clear hierarchy and the parent is the one who decides in the household, but they do it gently - always explaining the reasoning and by talking decisively, but never yelling.
The mindset is also different. While Anglophone parents feel that they need to suffer to show they are good parents and relinquish all other interests, French parents feel that they should have separate lives without the children. They believe that separating from their children is beneficial to their children because not only that a happy mother is a good mother, but also because children have a right to have their own life separated from the parent.