S'il-Vous-Plait: Raising Your 'Bebe' The French Way Raising her children in Paris, American journalist Pamela Druckerman discovered that the French have mastered the art of child-rearing — or at least they have mastered the art of smoothly assimilating children into adult routines and reducing the stress of parenting.


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S'il-Vous-Plait: Raising Your 'Bebe' The French Way

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When writer and journalist Pamela Druckerman became a mother, she expected to spend the next few years frantically meeting her daughter's every demand. But living abroad in Paris, she found a whole new method of parenting, one she shares in a new book.

Critic Marcela Valdes has this report.

MARCELA VALDES: In the U.S., after all, mealtimes, living rooms, and sleep schedules typically turn to chaos as soon as a baby arrives. But as an American in Paris, Druckerman noticed a series of what she calls minor miracles: Parents who enjoy long adult conversations while their children play quietly nearby. And perhaps most surprising of all, babies - lots of them - who sleep through the night at just two or three months old.

Scenes like these inspired Druckerman to write her marvelous new book "Bringing Up Bebe." Druckerman has investigated and distilled the essentials of French childrearing.

First among them is the French belief that even babies are rational creatures with a capacity to learn self-control. Second is their conviction that it's better for everyone, parents and kids, if children adapt to adult routines. As one French psychologist explains, the child must learn from a very young age that he's not alone in the world and that there's a time for everything.

Druckerman provides fascinating details about French sleep training, feeding schedules and family rituals. But her book's real pleasures spring from her funny, self-deprecating stories.

One of the book's few flaws is her tendency to downplay the role government has had in cultivating parents' so-called intuition. Is it really a coincidence that the Parisian way of introducing solid foods matches the instructions in a government pamphlet? And she only hints at the ways French schools inhibit creativity as children grow older.

Surrounded by adults who can't resist gobbling their own slices of cake, children could hardly be expected to do any better.

CORNISH: Marcela Valdes is a board-member of the National Book Critic's Circle.

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