Just finished reading an interesting book called Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. The author, Pamela Druckerman, is a native New Yorker who marries a British sports journalist and relocates to Paris. As they start a family, she has the opportunity to contrast French and American parenting styles.
The basic premise of the book is that French children are generally well- behaved, model children, whereas Americans regularly produce child tyrants who rule the family. This is accomplished via a culture of parenting that is simultaneously stricter and more relaxed than the typical American household. Some pretty broad stereotypes, but interesting to read.
I may not agree with everything she advocates, but some concepts really resonated. Two of my favorite ideas are:
The concept of cadre, or order, that permeates the French approach to family. The idea is that children do best with a fairly rigid structure, but within that structure, parents can (and should) be flexible. So, for example, bedtimes are set and children are expected to stay inside their rooms. But, within their rooms, the child has the ability to choose what they do. They aren’t punished for choosing to read or play, as long as they stay within their room.
Also, there is the concept of a bêtise, or naughty. In France, transgressions fall into two categories…serious violations and minor bêtises…and the parental response is gauged accordingly. Children need to have some level of bêtises as they grow up.
Definitely an interesting book – I enjoyed reading it and discussing with my husband as we contemplate our approach to raising Griffin.
What do you think?
Image via the Wall Street Journal book review.