I’m behind on my reading, but I finally finished “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom Behind French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman. She highlights Americans’ fear-based parenting styles that strongly contrast the French style which is more laissez faire and encourages a child’s autonomy. I must say it’s the best parenting book I’ve read because it’s casual and sprinkled with humor – not so dry and cumbersome like the more research-based or academic parenting books.
Druckerman is an American who moved to France, and she was struck by the well-mannered tots who weren’t picking out their broccoli or having meltdowns at restaurants (wait, kids aren’t just programmed to do those things? I’m kidding… sort of). Like many parents, there was a part of me that would rationalize my child’s bad behavior with, “oh, he’ll grow out of that, it’s just the age.” But after reading this book, I began to feel completely responsible for the bad behavior – and then more empowered to do something about it. I’m not saying the book is full of judgment and guilt. On the contrary, it actually points out how the French don’t invest in guilt. What the book helped me realize was how much more I can be doing to manage their behavior – whether it’s at the dinner table, the park, a friend’s house, etc.
This book also encouraged me to take more “adult time.” I often feel guilty taking time for myself because I always thought that my time should be dedicated to my children. Yes, I am always going to play with my kids; but I now encourage them to engage in more independent play which allows me to get things done and have more time to myself. I don’t want my kids to think they are the epicenter of the universe, and that we are just their circus clowns. In France, parents encourage adult time after dinner while the kids play by themselves quietly. This also helps parents to re-connect and have time to focus on their own relationships.
One of the points Druckerman made that hit me the hardest was that she noticed French babies as young as three weeks sleeping through the night! I’m blessed with two good sleepers, but it would have saved me some time and long nights knowing the French’s philosophy. One explanation for this magical phenomenon is waiting a good 10 minutes (“The Pause”) prior to picking up a fussy child when he or she is crying. Parents who rush to pick their babies up as soon as they hear a noise may actually be disrupting the child’s sleep. It’s further explained that it’s normal for a child to wake up and fuss between sleep cycles, and by picking them up during this time, it can become difficult for the child to learn to connect the sleep cycles on their own (he will learn the need to be soothed in order to do so). As a parent, they believe it is your responsibility to try to understand your child to know his or her needs and act accordingly.
Druckerman explores several other interesting topics as well, like guilt, breastfeeding, and daycare. I can’t say I agree with it all, but it is interesting to learn a different perspective. With all of this being said, I leave you with my deep and profound advice: I strongly recommend this book!