Bringing Up Bébé
Written by Pamela Druckerman
I enjoyed it too! It's a parenting book, but it feels like much more than that. The author, Pamela Druckerman, is an American who moved to Paris with her British husband and had three children in France. She muses about the differences between Americans and the French, but really starts to explore when she realizes that most French children are well-behaved, sleep through the night by two months, and eat (and enjoy) gourmet meals - All while their mothers are skinny, impeccably dressed, and radiating an aura of composure. Surely, they must be doing something right! The novel shares what she finds through anecdotes, observations, and a sprinkling of statistics and scientific studies. It is interesting, informative, and fun to read.
While I'm not sure I agree with everything (most French mothers abandon breastfeeding soon after leaving the hospital) and probably can't incorporate everything while living in America (no cheerios, raisins, or goldfish throughout the day), there were several nuggets of wisdom that I do want to try to use in my own parenting. Here are eight things that stuck out to me while reading.
1. Rather than rushing to soothe a crying baby, pause and observe him to discern what he really needs. Even from birth, he needs opportunities to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own. (p. 45)
2. Stop snacking! Within a few months, even babies are eating at normal mealtimes (approximately 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, and 8 pm) in France. Children have one designated goûter (snack) at 4 pm. This helps them learn to patiently wait until then for a special candy or treat and they come to meals hungry! (p. 56)
3. Coping with frustration is a core life skill. French parents do not believe that teaching children to wait will damage them, but that their kids will be damaged if they can't cope with frustration. Learning patience means learning self-control, which allows kids to have fun rather than be anxious, irritable, and demanding. (p. 73)
4. You must taste everything! French parents want to introduce their children to the rich world of flavors and help them appreciate each one. Kids are served the wide variety of foods that their parents eat (there are no "kids' foods") and, though they do not have to eat everything on their plate, they must taste everything. (p. 202)
5. Talk about food. Introduce a vegetable to your child and ask, "Do you think this is crunchy, and that it'll make a sound when you bite it? What does this flavor remind you of? What do you feel in your mouth?"
You can also play flavor games. Offer different types of apples and let the child decide which is the sweetest and which is the most acidic. Or, blindfold the child and have him eat and identify foods he already knows. (203)
6. Do not offer a different food to replace a rejected one and act neutrally if the child won't eat something. Instead, prepare the same food many different ways and offer it many different times to help your child learn to like it. (p. 203)
7. Believe that babies and toddlers understand what you say and can act on it. You can teach them and they can learn to control themselves, even in their first year. In addition, let the child play an active role in obeying by giving him time to respond. (p. 94)
8. The perfect mother does not exist. Guilt is a trap that is unhealthy and unpleasant. Be balanced in all parts of my life and don't doubt whether I'm good enough. I am. (p. 146)
While I already love everything French, Druckerman admits that she never particularly loved Paris or the French. Nevertheless, she began to see the wisdom in how they view children and what they are capable of. This one is definitely worth reading and thinking about!