Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

For decades, book publishers have profited from the self-doubt plaguing many middle-class American mothers.   The media spurs the notion on.

With the economic downturn making "opting out" from the workplace a bit less attractive – or affordable - publishers have hit gold by terrorizing American mothers with a new fear:  Are foreign mothers better?

Last year, Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother set off a furious debate when her book was excerpted in The Wall Street Journal under the headline, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." The child of Chinese immigrants, the Yale Law School professor sounded like a maternal Ming the Merciless as she detailed how she demanded excellence from her two daughters. 

The book spent nine weeks on USA TODAY's Best Seller list, peaking at No. 21.

Now it's the French whom Americans should emulate, according to Pamela Druckerman's new Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

In an excerpt Saturday in The Wall Street Journal under the headline, "Why French Parents are Superior," Druckerman describes how no-nonsense, in-charge French parents teach children self-control. The result: patient kids who sit in restaurants without annoying the other diners, parents who can talk to other adults without interruption, and calm homes where quiet children entertain themselves.

Again, there's a furious debate. But while Chua's book triggered an intense discussion over whether Americans were raising underachieving academic sloths, imperiling the nation's future, Druckerman's book has incited a more entertaining controversy in the blogosphere.

On one side, there is the Francophile unit applauding Druckerman and those disciplined, thin Frenchies. On the other side, proud Freedom Fry eaters who ask why would we even want to emulate that nation of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," as one Simpsons character called France.

Other topics include: if French children are so well-mannered, why do they grow into such rude adults? Is it the French or the Chinese who are truly superior?

Some have recommended that the author, an American journalist who lives in Paris with her British husband and three children, should perhaps have spent more time in the American South before pronouncing that all U.S.- born children throw public temper tantrums like Druckerman's before she learned "the wisdom of French parenting."

The controversy is driving sales -- Bringing Up Bebe is No. 5 on Amazon.

What is your opinion about this, readers?  Parenting is such a personal and hot button topic.  I'd love to have your feedback.  Please send a comment!


  1. These are interesting sounding books, Nancy. Parenting is one kind of book I would never try to write. I'm not sure that I had a system. My children are good citizens and I have 6 grandchildren in college at this time. I'll come back to see the other comments.

  2. Yes, I was intrigued by this one as well, Barbara. In thinking back, I'm not sure we had a system either! As with you, parenting came easily. We were a bit older, and I know that helped. Thankfully, our three sons have flourished as well--perhaps in spite of our not using a Dr. Spock, etc!

    As usual, thanks for your support of my blog. Your comments are always so appreciated!

  3. I haven't read either of the books, but I have the Pamela Druckerman book on hold.

    I've been reading a lot about cultural differences in parenting, as described in books.

    My basic question is, that when we read these books, is either culture, or style of parenting really as the author proposes it to be?

    I think there is a fairly broad range of American parenting styles. Authors like Druckerman, or Judith Warner seem to focus on a fairly narrow range of moms for comparison.