Written by a former Wall Street Journal reporter who makes her life in France and is raising three children there, it is billed as a "parenting guide"to Americans to tell us how French parents are raising better behaved and more independent children. You can read an excerpt from the book in WSJ as well as a little summary of some of the points in the book on Cup of Jo.
Personally? I downloaded the book the day it came out and read it over the next couple of days. I mean, it's not exactly Kant or anything. I'm a little bit of a Francophile, having studied the language most of my life and lived there twice (once in Paris, once in the South). While I don't agree with the way they do everything, I found a lot in the book that is really fascinating.
Most of the criticism that I've read of the book is that the maxims in it are not revolutionary. Far from it. Tell kids "no." Let them play by themselves. Take time for yourself and for your parter. These are all absolutely things parents should do. But here's the thing...they don't.
It's easier to just assume that your child is just rambunctious and is incapable of sitting still. It's easier to give in and give them a snack on the playground. It's easier to stay in on a Friday night or skip the gym. And our culture encourages that. It gives the moms who sacrifice themselves, their careers, and their bodies a gold star and the veil of doing it for the baby.
What I think is so interesting about France and the culture there is that everyone is on the same page. It's a far more homogeneous culture, when I lived there, I was always struck by how everyone in France has the exact same handwriting. Everyone is on board with a common philosophy of how children should be raised and..here's the kicker...the government takes care of it (state funded seventeen star day care and preschool are available basically for free.) When everyone is working to the common goal and standards, it becomes a lot easier to have the child meet those expectations.
What I took away from reading this book was that it is possible have a baby who behaves and plays by herself. It is possible to have a child who is polite and eats non-beige food. But it takes work. It takes time (a whole lot of precious time! sorry.) and reinforcing. Not that that isn't anything I've read in my favorite baby book, but it was a colorful example.
So, what do you all think? Does it sound nice to be a French parent and be able to send your baby to a day care where they get three course lunches and gentle discipline? Are you just sick of hearing about the French?