Tuesday, January 13, 2015

French Children Don't Throw Food - book review

Couple of months back, I was asked to do a book review for Justkidding blog. Thought I would share with you my thoughts on the book and a few pointers I got from it.

French Children Don't Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman

1) What initially attracted you to this book? What made you decide to pick it up? 
The title was catchy and I already heard about the author previous book "Bringing Up Bébé". Actually the main reason is probably me being French, I wanted to see what Pamela Druckerman had to say about raising kids the french way. I am also a new mom second time around of a 9 weeks old, little Josefin.

2) What would you say your overall approach to parenting is (i.e. relaxed, formal, strict) and would you say this book matches with your approach?
While reading "French Children Don't Throw Food", I realized that I am bringing up my daughters in many similar ways I was brought up and following a certain apparently typical french approach to parenting. Maybe like Druckerman puts it, it consists of a balance between "extremely strict and shockingly permissive". Where I might differ with french parenting style is the amount of time and play activities I do with Luella. I also find it difficult to stick to one snack - le goûter at 3 or 4pm… we tent to snack much more… oops!

3) Why do you think this particular book works for you?
I think some points are totally valid and I do apply them like the "Pause". What I have learn : The concept of waiting is very important in french parenting. From early on when a baby cries in the night the parents go in, pause, and observe for a few minutes. They know that babies' sleep patterns include movements, noises and two-hour sleep cycles, in between which the baby might cry. So most french parent will wait a bit before "jumping in", baby might "self-soothe" and go back to sleep. It applies even to newborn. French do not do instant gratification. More "pause" or waiting applies in the toddlers years. This waiting, according to the French "is a first, crucial lesson in self-reliance. There is also "le cadre", a frame – "setting firm limits for children, but giving them tremendous freedom within those limits". The author explain the importance of boundaries, and how the French think children must learn to cope with frustration. It's a core life skill. And "the word 'No' rescues children from the tyranny of their own desires." Another point I can relate his the "relation to food". The children are trained to eat or try everything. No children's menus in restaurants, and a four-course menu is served at nursery. I also admit that some clichés are a bit unfortunate and should not be generalized to all french children and nothing is perfect or that easy. Like with any parenting book / philosophy you take what you like and believe to make it work your way.

4) Would you recommend it to friends with young ones?
Yes, because it's a fun and easy book to read… but not really a parenting book. Druckerman offers a self-descriptive witty and informative tell about the french culture. It doesn't seek to give advice, just describes the author's experience, struggles and triumphs raising her children within two methods - French and Anglo-Saxon.

5) Can you describe the basic premise of the book?
New Yorker Pamela Druckerman married an Englishman and lived with him in Paris, where she had a baby, closely followed by twins. Threw the book, you get a glimpse of the strange world of motherhood in Paris. A world where babies slept through the night from two months, ate at adult meal times, often attended nursery from nine months, where they ate a varied and sophisticated diet and didn't throw their dinners at you or on the floor. How they do it? Druckerman depicts the easy, calm authority that French parents seem to possess when enforcing the cadre, the waiting and the varied diet.

6) Did you find it easy to read? (if not, explain why)
Yes, it's an easy, light page turner. I find the cross-cultural parenting differences intriguing. It also gave me some ideas to take home and refreshed my memories on some of my own up bringing. It's a good mix of both entertaining anecdotal bits and research-based evidence.

7) Who is this book aimed at? (i.e. Someone with very boisterous children? Someone with a child that won't eat? Someone with a bad sleeper?) 
Anybody up for an easy fun read or interested in french culture or different way to bring up children.

8) What is the number one tip/piece of advice you have taken away from this book.
The over all attitude toward parenting: firm but fair within a frame that provides limits and freedom. The idea of "the pause" is nothing new and probably common sense but it reinforce the idea. It also provide an insight into encouraging adult time, children playing by themselves as an important skill and children learning patience.

Another good read, check out fellow blogger Heidi Raeside from tuesdayschild.me, who share her "French style" parenting experiment based on Bringing Up Bébé from Pamela Druckerman  in this month Aquarius.

Happy reading!

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