Bringing Up Bébé Book Review

I went into reading Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman with high expectations. I’d read reviews, seen it on others’ book lists, and had friends suggest I read it.

I actually wasn’t disappointed.

Druckerman uses wit, good experience, and an honest approach – sharing struggles and shortcomings in her own parenting. The book explains the spoken and unspoken French parenting techniques she observed while living there with young children. She starts with pregnancy and goes through early elementary school.

Druckerman bases her findings off 2 philosophers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Francoise Dolto, both highly-acclaimed by the French parents and psychologists. They both influenced the way parents thought of children leading to a change in the way the French parent. Are babies just babies or are they humans who can learn, think, grow, and understand more than we give them credit for? Both Dolto and Rousseau would say the latter.

Children are their own individual beings and an important part of the family frame, or “cadre” as they call it in France. It’s an incredibly disciplined structure with a lot of freedom within. Children are given hard, firm boundaries, but within those boundaries they have almost limitless freedom to make their own decisions. It reminded me a lot of Structuralism and philosophers like Claude Levi-Strauss and Jacques Lacan. It also reminds me of the 17th century quote from The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I’m sure these are all linked. Jacques Lacan is obviously French and came after Rousseau.

The whole premise of the book is entirely counter-American-culture. It bases parenting style on delayed gratification. Almost from the moment French babies are born, they are taught to wait and be patient. Druckerman points out how this concept is integrated into the way they eat, sleep, play, and interact with adults and other children. They learn patience from the start.

While this may seem harsh to us Americans who tend to allow our children to rule our schedules, sleep, dinnertime, and basically our whole lives, the French kids seem to pick it up easily, most sleeping through the night without the terror of “sleep training” and also sleeping through the night around 2 months! Instead of living in a Kindergarchy, I’d love to teach my babes how to deal, how to have patience.

Life = Full of frustration

If we don’t teach our children to deal with frustration, who will? And if we don’t, then we’ll have screaming 2-year-olds throwing themselves on the floor in the middle of a department store. Then it gets awkward. I’m not criticizing because we’ve all been there. I’m merely pointing out a difference in cultures. Apparently French 2-year-olds don’t do that.

Overall the book was great, refreshing, and quite funny. Plus, there is a yogurt cake recipe included. Who doesn’t love a free, child-friendly recipe?