Bringing Up Bebe Book Review: The French Do It Better…Or Not

In my previous post, I wrote about how I read the book Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discoves the Wisdom of French Parenting. In a nutshell, the book tries to say that French parenting is better than American parenting.

The book discusses many different aspects of child-rearing in France. From sleep-training, weight loss for moms after baby comes, teaching patience, autonomy to young children. It’s clear that the French do things differently, but I would be hard-pressed to agree they do a slew of things better than American parents. The book is mostly common sense advice and anecdotal in nature.

It goes like this. “My handful of Oh La La friends have children who never throw tantrums. The French is clearly superior in discipline.”

“I went to the playground in America one time and this kid threw a tantrum. American parents are ineffective.”

It’s not as simplistic as that, but that is her “proof” in a nutshell. There are a scattering of cited sources but in areas where I firmly believe the French have an upper hand, she never dug deeper to compare whether the difference was due to the Socialist system and support French parents have. (For the record, I think that makes all the difference.)

Even in terms of comparing middle class to middle class: Most middle class parents don’t have the luxury of lengthy maternity leaves, paid child care services, and the meticulous attention the French creche system (daycare) pay towards food. And I do agree that the attitude towards food in France is definitely superior. I enjoyed every passage that talked about food and eating in France.

The other aspect of the book that the author purports to be better is towards sleep-training. In this she did provide scientific data that I could look up and that made sense. Everybody in France trains their children the same way to sleep. They put them in a crib, when they cry, they pause to see if the baby will go back to sleep on its own, and if it does voila! All is well. The babies don’t get used to thinking someone will pick them up with every grunt, and as a result most babies are sleeping on their own through the night by 3 months or so. It has to do with the sleep cycle that I won’t get into here.

Aside from that sleep cycle tidbit which I will practice with the next child, French parents do things different for sure. But better? Hmm. Suffice to say that I had an American friend who took her child to the playground while visiting Paris, and her child was violently shoved by one of those French kids. There are no angels there.

The kid’s parent did not rush to apologize on behalf of their child. There is a palpable laissez-faire attitude towards parenting in France.

Conversely, I know lot of well-behaved American kids.

As a francophile, and as someone who loves reading about how different cultures operate, I enjoyed the book for the look it gave me into how French (mostly Parisian) kids are raised. To me personally, that was worth the book price.

To end this passage, a completely unrelated (that I’ll try to relate to this post anway) but recently absent content: pictures of my little one! You’ve missed them, right?

In my limited experience, it seems that the hallmark of good parenting is setting limits and boundaries, giving lots of love, and room to explore. Here we explore bathtubs, reading, and exploring how to put on your own pajamas and sleep in your room.

(How’s that for making it relate?)

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3 comments

  1. I am wanting to read this book. I read several articles and reviews about it. i listened to NPR coverage and interviews of the author. I have my name on the waiting list in the library. Due to mix reviews, I still cannot heart to pay that much money for this book.

    I am also a francophile and I am very much interested about French culture in general. I love watching French movies and reading books about American views of France.

    Regarding Socialist system, I used to be envious on how they have it good in Europe. But due to financial crisis going on in Europe, I don’t complain as much anymore on what we have here in the US. However, I agree that they should be serving high quality food in the school system.

    I have not read this book. I appreciate your review. You make me more excited to read this book.

    P.S. I wish there would be study on how French kids turned out compared to American kids. Are they more successful? Creative? Happier? Etc….

    • Really really good point. There SHOULD be a comparative analysis right?! Thanks for your comment. Good for you for supporting your local library.

  2. This is also one of the books I’d love to read. I guess I’m kind of in-between American and French parenting. I’m definitely not full on laissez faire but I’m not into attachment parenting either.


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