The Madeleine Brand Show for February 13, 2012

Author Pamela Druckerman explains the art of French parenting

The book, "Bringing up Bebe" by Pamela D

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

The book "Bringing up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman on the shelves at a New York City bookstore. The book argues that French parents are superior to their American counterparts.

The child rearing debate returns.

Pamela Druckerman joins the show to discuss her new book, "Bringing up Bebe," which provides the yin to Amy Chua's "Tiger Mom" yang. After several years living in France, Druckerman had an epiphany while dining out with her family: French children were better behaved than her own. Several years of research later, she has identified why.

The key lies in what the French call "education," a continuous process where parents firmly set boundaries within which children are granted a large amount of autonomy. That, and the magic four words: please, thank you, hello and goodbye.

As Druckerman tells host Madeleine Brand, one of the central tenets of the French approach is to treat babies as rational from the moment they are born. For example, many French mothers take their children on a tour of their new home shortly after they're born – not just to familiarize the child with their mother's voice, but to explain the world honestly.

But what truly convinced Druckerman to examine French parenting was what she calls the "the pause." Throughout her investigation, Druckerman repeatedly encountered mothers who proudly recalled their children sleeping through the night without crying as soon as two to three months after being born. It took Druckerman's children nine months. The theory used by many French parents is that if parents wait, or pause, for several minutes while the child cries, it will teach the baby patience and the sleep cycle.

For older children, teaching respect was regarded as essential. Not just saying please and thank you, but also acknowledging adults by saying hello and goodbye, which one French mother told Druckerman "rescued children from their selfishness." And while children must recognize adult spaces, so must parents be in tune to their child's sensitivity by responding to nonverbal cues. So when a child is playing alone, or among other children, parents should remain aloof.

Of course, even the French are quick to admit they don't have all the answers, and Druckerman says the key to a successful approach is remaining flexible – a far cry from Tiger mom rigidity.


blog comments powered by Disqus