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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

French children don't throw food

I am currently reading "French children don't throw food" by Pamela Druckerman. Druckerman is an American journalist married to an English guy. They have 3 young children (two of which are twins!) and live in Paris. "French children don't throw food" contains her first-hand observations about the difference in dealing with pregnancy and bringing up children between Anglophone and French parents. In a nutshell, she claims that...
French parents, unlike Anglophone parents, teach their children to wait (this starts as a baby by not rushing to pick them up the moment they make a peep), impose limits and teach their children to deal with frustration (again by making children wait a bit), treat children as little humans who can be left to explore and discover the world on their own instead of constantly interfering and micromanaging each of their steps, allow children to play and socialise (which includes learning social skills such as saying "bonjour" and "au revoir") instead of rushing them to learn to read and write as early as possible and teach children that they are not the centre of the world (for example, by enforcing bed time so that the parents get some "adult time").
Druckerman's book contains a lot of generalisations but she also has some quite useful (if also not revolutionary)  parenting and relationship advice (for example, the one about not giving up work completely as you become financially dependent on your husband and can't voice your opinions any more) and a lot of funny anecdotes such as the one why pregnant French women unlike pregnant English women do not get fat: "In the French view, a pregnant woman's food carvings are a nuisance to be vanquished. French women don't let themselves believe - as I've heard Anglophone women claim - that the fetus wants cheesecake...". Or the one about when she announced that she was expecting twins: "My French friends and neighbours congratulate us on the news. They treat the reason I'm having twins as none of their business. The Anglophones I know are generally less discreet. "Were your surprised?" a mother at my playground asks, when I announce the news. When I am offering an unrevealing "yes" she tries again: "Well, was your doctor surprised?"".
With its generalisations and overall message that the French do everything better, the book is obviously not to everybody's taste. If this includes you, you will very much enjoy reading the Guardian's dismissive review (which, even if you generally like the book, is very funny).

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