Due to the nature of her work and her husband’s, American journalist Pamela Druckerman found herself living in Paris when her first child was born. Unlike many foreigners living in France, Pamela didn’t idolize Paris. She admired the city and its residents but still considered herself a true American and was determined to raise her daughter that way. Still, as Pamela observed French children and compared them to the ones she remembered from back home and saw on visits to the States, she realized that French parents must know something Americans don’t. The French little ones threw fewer fits. They ate at tables with adults, eating what the adults ate and entertaining themselves for hours if need be. French parents’ lives didn’t revolve around their children, and (gasp!) their children seemed to actually flourish, not suffer. Pamela set out to study French parenting and explore the philosophy that produced these well-behaved, well-adjusted children. What she learned in the subject of this book.
I had a few problems with this book, but I got a lot of out it. The bad stuff: I think Druckerman generalizes too much. I do see a lot of the behavior that she calls “American” parenting here in the US. There are lots of so-called helicopter parents, who don’t let their children out of their sight and have no life outside of their children. I know plenty of parents who think their children who think their children can do no wrong and parents who think they should be friends with their children instead of disciplining them. Still, there are plenty of parents in the US who don’t do that—in fact, many children are somewhat or completely neglected. My husband and parents, who are all teachers, have plenty of kids in their classes whose parents never show up to their school performances, sporting events, or parent-teacher conferences. I think Druckerman’s perspective is strictly upper-middle-class, so her views are limited. Still, I think she makes some very valid points, and there is a lot of wisdom in French parenting that many American parents would do well do learn from. I also think Druckerman does a good job of offering practical suggestions for putting the French philosophy into practice, with specific examples of what they do that works. I got a lot of ideas that I plan to try if/when I become a parent (note that I said “try”—I know every child is different and it’s impossible to come up with practices that will work for every kid). This is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone I know who’s expecting a baby.