Lynn's Reviews > Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
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did not like it

This book is terrible and from a journalist, shockingly unresearched. The author often cites one person or some French moms she spoke to to support her assertions about the French way! The same is true for her descriptions of an American she knows whose baby does xyz and that means all Americans parent in that way!

The book is also filled with inaccuracies. The supposedly French and superior method of raising children described by the author is so obvious and indistinguishable from what many American parenting books suggest. Here’s an example – her revelation about getting French babies to sleep through the night is “La Pause”, which is just to not respond as soon as your baby makes a noise. I haven’t read any books that suggest you do this and I don’t know any parents that do this. Either the author has a very small and odd set of friends which are coloring her perspective or she wrote this as an amusing work of fiction. The author supposedly quotes the well known book What to Expect as evidence of how neurotic American parenting books are except I read that book and did not recognize any of the ridiculous quotes. Maybe she has a copy from the 50s. She also talks about how the French methods of raising children are based in science and American ones aren’t, citing circadian rhythms as one example of this. I don’t know what parenting books she is reading, but they are not any of the mainstream ones that I have been reading because they are almost all written by doctors or at the very least, cite medical rationale for their assertions. I really can’t believe the author is a journalist. I could go on and on with examples of how poorly written and comically inaccurate this book is, but I have two babies and useful books to read, so I won’t waste my time.

I can’t believe this book is so popular. It leads me to believe that this woman’s publicist is a genius and that the readers who like this book are the same ones that like The Help, which includes the women who replace their entire wardrobes with Lululemon outfits as soon as they become moms.

What is most infuriating about this book is how many people say it’s a must read for new parents. I am a new parent, I don’t have time to waste on crap like this!

Addition: I think I blocked this from my memory because it was so ridiculous, but a recent conversation reminded me of it. Druckerman suggests that American parents are horrified by the idea of daycare and would do anything to avoid it, including quit their jobs. Those who use it do so reluctantly with fears their children will be molested or suffer permanent damage. She says in France, they are superior because they think of daycare as a way for kids to learn things and be socialized, unlike in the US. This is completely insane. Every single one of my friends with kids except one has their kids in daycare and they have all cited socialization as a main reason why they decided to send their kids to daycare. My one friend with a nanny even expressed doubt about her choice because she feared her kid wouldn't be socialized. Ugh.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 29, 2012 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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message 1: by Juha (new)

Juha Why, then, in your view French children are so much better behaved and have so much better manners, on average, than Americans?

message 2: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn Your comment assumes that French children are in fact "so much better behaved and have so much better manners, on average, than Americans", but I haven't seen any empirical evidence to suggest that that is the case.

message 3: by Juha (new)

Juha Well, I've seen empirical evidence by way of direct observation. I do realize this may be anecdotal and less than statistically valid. I guess it would be reasonable to assume, though, that in the vast and diverse country of USA, there's also more variability in child rearing, behavior and other outcomes.

message 4: by Anne (new)

Anne maybe you might like this other book I saw in the shops today ... Frnch children do not throw food!!
And there are other titles too !! :-)

message 5: by Jodi (new) - rated it 1 star

Jodi Yep! I thought this book was awful! I think her American mommy friends must be neurotic and her French mommy friends must be very wise. However, this does make American parents bad and French parents right! Her theories were not earth-shattering - they have been used in the US for many years too! Awful book!

message 6: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin Foust I don't think she wrote a book for statistical purposes and/or research. I think they were mostly her observations, which I found refreshing in some ways. I didn't agree with everything she had to say but some stuff is worth noting.

Jessica I agree with Erin, where in this book did she claim it was a scientific study? It's a book on her experience and personal research, not the Journal of Medicine. She has very few American girlfriends going through the same thing (first time mother away from everyone she knows), and as she states, it makes her neurotic tendencies kick it. That being said, she is lousy at disciplining her kids. I think that's her issue, not mine, not many Americans, though you certainly see it.

Jana I find it a bit hypocritical that you counter her use of her experience with HER friends with your own experience of YOUR friends, but oh well.

"Every single one of my friends with kids except one has their kids in daycare"

"My one friend with a nanny even expressed doubt about her choice because she feared her kid wouldn't be socialized."

message 9: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn Ms. wrote: "I find it a bit hypocritical that you counter her use of her experience with HER friends with your own experience of YOUR friends, but oh well.

"Every single one of my friends with kids except one..."

The difference is that I didn't write a book claiming that my view is representative of a nation's parents.

message 10: by Jana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jana Lynn wrote: "Ms. wrote: "I find it a bit hypocritical that you counter her use of her experience with HER friends with your own experience of YOUR friends, but oh well.

"Every single one of my friends with kid..."

Fair enough. I guess I found the book kind of a relief, as I'm pretty bummed by the sight of all of MY friends turning into offspring-obsessed zombies (I'm in the East Bay too). So it spoke to me. But I hear you.

Elena Jana - I agree... I was annoyed at the sight of all my friends turning slaves to their kids, so reading this book was refreshing :)
Lynn - when you say "I haven't seen any empirical evidence to suggest that that is the case" > i think you are missing the point here... I DON'T NEED to see any empirical/scientific evidence - it's enough to just go out to ANY restaurant in North America and see how bratty these kids are (or look at MOST of my friends'/your friends' kids!!) with our own eyes. Then, turn around and go to Europe (which I do every summer) and see how GENERALLY well behaved MOST kids are... So, no it's definitely not scientific evidence - but sometimes I trust my own two eyes just as much, if not more!

message 12: by Lynn (new) - rated it 1 star

Lynn I'm not missing "the point". It's up to you if you feel comfortable drawing conclusions from what you see, but as someone who has studied social psychology extensively, I do need facts, which is why I did not like this book.

The author drew overly broad conclusions based on her personal experience. If the book had been framed as her personal observations, that's one thing, but she purports to know about American children vs French children from her narrow, sheltered life experience.

You are welcome to like books that are based on feelings and speculations and thankfully I am entitled to draw conclusions based on facts and data.

Elena Don't get me wrong - i don't think this is by any means a phenomenal book. I just really liked that someone finally wrote what I have been thinking for years... That (very generally) in our culture, kids are getting completely out of hand and that this does NOT seem to be so in some other cultures... All very general observations, and you are right - no extensive research/data, just everyday life observations...

You are right that there is almost no statistical data, but I wasn't looking for a textbook here, this was a purely for pleasure read... I enjoyed reading about a random (albeit somewhat annoying) woman's observations, because they were very similar to my own while I was in a similar situation. If my observations differed completely from hers - I wouldn't have found this book nearly as amusing....

Katherine Yeah, I don't think it's fair to give a book one star for not being a scientific study when it never claimed to be a scientific study. I mean, if you knew you wanted a scientific study, why did you even pick it up in the first place?

Paloma Herrera KAtherine - like

message 16: by Tamro (new)

Tamro As you're someone who's studied psychology I'd love to see a more scientific, thoroughly done study of the differences between the French and American ways. Until then you're just blowing off her non scientific observations with non scientific observations of your own.

message 17: by Laura (new) - rated it 1 star

Laura LOL.... I love your jab at The Help in the midst of tearing this book to shreds. Both books were awful, in my opinion, but this one was so bad that I didn't even read past the second chapter.

Her comments about daycare are way off. American parents avoid daycare, because it's stupidly expensive! It usually doesn't make much sense for the second income to be spent on daycare if there's not enough left over to warrant it.

message 18: by Laura (new) - rated it 1 star

Laura ROTFL.... "empirical evidence by way of direct observation" is NOT empirical evidence. Here's MY direct observation - I have two French friends with babies, and when we get all 3 of our babies together, one of the French babies is constantly pestering the other French baby until the latter cries. My baby, on the other hand, is very sensitive to the one who gets pestered and they get along very well. He even let my daughter feed him snacks one day right into his mouth. LOL. But this must be an outlier example, right? Because it couldn't be possible that my American child is well-mannered!

message 19: by Laura (new) - rated it 1 star

Laura Sorry for all the comments, but I want to say that I completely agree that as a journalist, the author should have done more research and relied less on anecdotal evidence. I have read far too many poorly researched books by journalists lately. And frankly, I don't see many differences between the French and American ways - just check out any baby group or a forum on Baby Center. They're crawling with moms singing the praises of CIO, because they're so desperate to get their pre-baby lives back, because they can't handle the process of actually having to grow up and not put themselves first. Kids come first. Kids come first. Kids come first.

message 20: by Laura (new) - rated it 1 star

Laura And before any other commenters jump down my throat, putting kids' needs first doesn't mean becoming a "slave to your children." That's ridiculous and shows a complete ineptitude at establishing a position of positive authority as the parent. Parents have to put boundaries for their kids, of course, but leaving a child to cry themselves to sleep is not a boundary - it's cruelty. And for anyone ready to jump on me about that comment, don't bother, because I won't read anything else on this comment thread. My happy baby is about to wake up from her nap which she goes into without a single cry and held in my arms. What are babies for if not to be completely loved and adored? If you want to train something, go work for the circus.

message 21: by Sherron (new) - added it

Sherron I like this review and Laura’s comments; they are more insightful and entertaining than the book. I also had to snicker at the comment about The Help! My two cents about scientific research: I would like to have seen a more analytical rather than anecdotal presentation, whether or not she actually did some research. The author’s voice put me off of reading this. And lastly, you are entitled to give a one star ranking if you dislike the book, despite any apologists’ claim that you are being unfair.

message 22: by Ten (new) - added it

Ten I mean, there are seven pages of microscopic reference notes to back up every fact and claim, plus a 4-page bibliography (in similarly microscopic font), but sure, the book is "shockingly unresearched."

And since daycare is the litmus test, I'll throw in my anecdotal contribution: not a single mom I've met and conversed with in Denver or Phoenix over the past five years seems to regard daycare as a desirable option. The only desirable options are: preschool, nanny, or one parent being a stay-at-home parent. Hence, Druckerman's comments on the American aversion to daycare struck me as spot-on.

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