Do French mothers know something about raising children that North American mothers don’t? That’s the premise behind the new book, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Paris-based writer Pamela Druckerman (read an interview she gave to Anne Kingston in Maclean’s here). The book is being hailed as the laissez-faire alternative to raising kids that contradicts Amy Chua’s 2010 parenting book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. (Druckerman offered a sneak peek of her endorsement of French-style parenting in an essay for the Wall Street Journal last week.)
Druckerman, a mother of three, is an American ex-pat journalist who noticed that French children weren’t as bratty as her own offspring. To Druckerman that indicated French parents were doing something she wasn’t. After careful observation, she realized a few key differences between the French and North American styles of parenting. For one, French mothers and fathers say no to their children and mean it. According to Druckerman, French mothers don’t put l’enfant at the centre of the family’s universe and then rotate around said baby like an anxious satellite. Instead, they put the children in their place — as junior members of a coherent group that need to learn how to behave in a manner that pleases mom and dad, rather than the other way around.
Druckerman writes, “…the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this.”
Druckerman’s point of view on the superiority of Gallic parenting styles has kicked off a few debates both here and abroad. Atlantic writer Heather Horn quotes one French mother as saying that Druckerman has clearly never seen her kids in action.
Said la mere: “Pamela Druckerman has never encountered me in a Parisian Monoprix or a New York Whole Foods. If [she] had, she would have seen my kids tearing around on foot to grab candy and wouldn’t have written that ‘French children don’t make scenes in the supermarket.'”