Pamela Druckerman had me when she described the French behavior management technique “le gros jeux” or “the big eyes”. I know plenty about those big eyes, but the stern glance I recall was coming from my Croatian-American father. Although he was born here, he was raised in a strong European community and his approach to life was firmly rooted in the old country values. That absolutely included how to discipline children. Getting “the look” from him was more than enough to know I was approaching the point where action would be taken, with or without a commentary in Croatian on how kids are different these days. Turns out, they do “the look” in France too. It’s just called something, well, French.
The author has written an amusing and readable book which follows her from pregnancy to becoming a mother of one daughter and twin sons. She describes learning about the traditional French method of raising children from both new friends and experts in child development. Her book might inspire families to consider an alternative to modern American approaches, but after a few chapters it will be evident that there is going to be something lost in translation. American parents may not have family and friends who support raising children using strategies that are not commonplace here. In addition, French parents are fortunate to have extensive paid family leave, subsidized high-quality child care, and health care/education policies that make the French approach to raising children easier.
I encourage readers who are curious about how families in other cultures raise their children to pick up “Bringing Up Bebe'” with a croissant and a cafe’ au lait. Enjoy!