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Q&A with Pamela Druckerman - author of French Children Don't Throw Food. Post your questions - ANSWERS BACK

(110 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Jan-13 12:27:07

If you've ever sat in a restaurant and wondered why french children are so well behaved and seem to eat whatever is put in front of them then you may considered whether the french way of parenting is the way forward. Pamela Druckerman's latest book French Children Don't Throw Food is described by Amy (Tiger Mother) Chua as "Smart, funny, provocative, and genuinely eye-opening"

Pamela Druckerman is an American journalist who found herself living in Paris, with an English husband and three young children. As she struggled with sleepless nights, toddler tantrums and other demands of being a new parent, she couldn't help but notice that the French families around her seemed so much calmer and less harried than her own. Their children played quietly, they weren't picky about what they ate and, when the time came, they went to bed without fuss, leaving their parents to enjoy some all important adult time.

So Pamela set out to discover what it is that French mothers do differently and - it seems - so much better. She not only observed her French friends and neighbours at first hand, but also interviewed scores of French mothers, teachers and child experts.

If you're interested to read more, enter our draw before the 9am on Monday 21 January to win one of 50 copies. Pamela Druckerman is joining us for a Q&A, so please post your questions or comments to Pamela on this thread before the 31st January and we'll post up her answers on 8th February.

OhGood Thu 17-Jan-13 12:32:26

Lovely offer, but I had better decline, as I am worried that DD will throw food on - or up on - the book.

BeerPlease Thu 17-Jan-13 15:15:15

I read most of your book. It seemed to me that some of the French 'parenting secrets' are to breastfeed as little as possible, get your child into full time nursery care as soon as possible, to whip back into a svelte pre-pregnancy state as soon as possible (no cake?!shock) and not to feel guilty about it. Oh and not to complain about your other half if they don't do anything about the house, because you accept they are a 'different species' who just aren't programmed to pick up socks!

This is what many parents do as regards work etc (some by choice, others because they have to). It's not unusual and I don't see how this can be held up as some kind of French parenting 'secret'.

Please feel free to correct me, if I've misunderstood the book! smile If it was to document your time there and point out the differences, maybe it should have been marketed differently.

tarantula Thu 17-Jan-13 15:24:23

Maybe I've been to the wrong parts of France but the kids there seemed to be just the same as the kids over here (have seen French toddlers tantrumming in the local supermarket and in restaurants etc.) and the parents seemed just the same too, certainly weren't all well dressed, co-ordinated etc. like people seem to think.

Maybe it is just a certain small group of French parents that are like this.

duchesse Thu 17-Jan-13 15:30:14

As a Franco-Brit myself with family on both sides of the Manche, I can think of a few choice answers to the author's rhetorical questions. But I'll wait to form an opinion until after I've read the book, if I'm selected to receive it.

Eskino Thu 17-Jan-13 15:32:53

Kids are kids. I've lived in France and this idea is a big fat lie. There are parents there who scream and yell at their kids and feed them crap, just like anywhere. Why do we get child rearing books shoved at us constantly? The only difference with the French is that they would make a hmm face if you tried to sell them a book on child rearing.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Thu 17-Jan-13 15:36:16

As a Brit who lives in France I could think of reasons why French children wouldn't throw food, most of them are fear based.

Very different parenting styles, often with much rougher parenting.

Not sure we should be looking at French parenting styles to improve our own.

TheCrackFox Thu 17-Jan-13 15:46:41

I've been to rural France quite a lot and didn't see any actual evidence of better behaved children.

When DS1 was a toddler my father and I spent a fairly unrelaxed lunch at a nice restaurant in rural France, working hard to ensure that DS behaved as well as the impeccably well dressed little (French) girl at the next table. He was a credit to me....

But I had to stop telling him to copy the nice little French girl when (after pudding) she slapped her Granny. Agreed, I didn't see any food being thrown, but am pretty sure that I don't want to encourage that sort of behaviour. grin

LeBFG Thu 17-Jan-13 17:48:42

I wonder how much of the books anecdotes are Parisian-centred? Lots of cliches which are said to be true in Paris, I've just not observed in my neck of rural France. I see fat kids/mums, rude kids, kids misbehaving etc. I haven't read the book, but the question in the title can possibly be answered by the nounou. Everyone I know sends their DC to childminders and these experienced women are keen on rules. My DS now drinks perfectly out of a cup and always goes to the table to do so and to eat his biscuit whereas I just let him run a bit wild.

helpyourself Thu 17-Jan-13 18:07:49

I've entered the draw. I'm very interested in the concept of French parenting after a Damescene moment a few years ago.
I spent many holidays as a child living in France with a French family, was still in touch with them and slightly in awe of the order and way they were bringing up their children. However having taken my dcs to stay with them we all came away rather shell shocked. What I remembered as old fashioned, sophisticated order struck us now as almost abuse. Five course meals for toddlers, smacking for failing to get to the loo in time, etc.
I've stopped all contact.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Thu 17-Jan-13 18:15:52

Oh and not sure I'd want to read the book, based on the synopsis.

Risette Thu 17-Jan-13 19:01:51

I haven't read the book either, so I don't know how limited or extensive Pamela's knowledge of french family life is.

I live in France and one observation is that when I go out to restaurants the 'menu enfant' almost always consists of chicken nuggets or a steak haché...

Having said that, I do think that the school canteens here offer a pretty sophisticated menu for young children.

As regards to play and bed time, I don't think there's any marked difference.

DialMforMummy Thu 17-Jan-13 19:15:49

I have read the book and enjoyed it.
I can see why the title would get some people's backs up though.

I have found that quite of what has been written is actually what I have observed (lived in France 20 odd years). I thought it was refreshing and gave it as a gift to a friend of mine.

I remember getting off a TGV in Paris, after a long journey, and realising that it was packed with children, whose presence I hadn't been aware of. I was highly impressed!

I can't see anything morally wrong in "breastfeeding as little as possible" or going back to work, you know, people work on the continent, we don't tend to have benefits otherwise.

TheCarefulLaundress Thu 17-Jan-13 20:25:04

Hello Pamella - where in the UK did you see children throwing food in restaurants? I've never witnessed this myself.

mrsbadger2 Thu 17-Jan-13 20:40:00

I took my children out for dinner the other evening with some friends. I was pretty embarrassed by their behaviour. They couldn't resist mucking around and were hard to control. I could not help thinking that if they had been French they would have known how to behave, eat nicely and calmly and converse with adults in an adult environment. I think the problem is that here, everything has to be made child friendly-church services, restaurants, any form of entertainment really. I don't think it is too much to expect children to be bored and have to put up with a situation , on occasion, that does not revolve around them. So yes, actually, I am interested in reading this book.

Kenobi Thu 17-Jan-13 22:15:12

LeBFG, CrackFox et al - The book is entirely about Parisians. It should actually have been entitled "Middle and Upper Class Parisian Children Don't Throw Food".

I did enjoy it, and I thought a couple of tips were good - 'Le Pause' when dealing with babies, and the staring thing, which also works quite well, but I think only if they respect you in the first place.

My major issue is this: Pamela, the thing is about these lovely polite French children is... they grow up to be Parisians. Famously rude, cold and snobby. Is this a good thing? (I'm only half joking I'm afraid)

Also, to my mind you slightly pedal back on how tough Parisians are with their kids, and how much they reward uniformity - or did you not find this?

Kenobi Thu 17-Jan-13 22:16:33

fedUp that's hilarious!

Craftbox Thu 17-Jan-13 23:08:25

I read this book in the summer, whilst I was pregnant with my first and found it massively helpful.

It gave me the confidence to let my baby cry just a little whilst I observed him to see what he might need. I now have a 3 month old who is sleeping through the night most nights and who is able to settle himself. He is a happy contented baby and we as parents are often commended for our calm approach towards him.

I can throughly recommended this book. As with all parenting books, you need to sift through and see what works for you.

NonnoMum Fri 18-Jan-13 15:30:38

I'd like to read the book.

We often host foreign students and recently had a (child-free, married, late 30 something) French student. My children ran rings round her at breakfast. She would visible wince when the (accidently) let out a little burple or two at the dinner table.

However, they did pick up something from her. Now, when I need them to be on their best behaviour for something (funerals, random church-services, restaurants) they say, Don't worry Mummy, I will be good, I will be French.

reallyyummymummy Fri 18-Jan-13 21:16:45

French children may not throw food. This is very true. However, I am sure there are other universal truths about the French, most notable for me is that,French adolescents don't know how to behave when their parents aren't around. They go Wild. I have seen them in London - pushing into queues, being really noisy on trains and buses. Think it sounds like a load of supercilious crap to me.

Merrylegs Fri 18-Jan-13 21:41:17

I've read the book and I enjoyed it.

I think if I had read it when my kids were little I would have taken on board some of 'maman's' tips - eg 'le pause' and 'attendez'.

I think she is comparing Parisians and New Yorkers mainly.

She talks about Americans 'narrating' their child's play.

There's a great bit when she observes a US mother following her child around a playground "You're climbing the slide! You're swinging! Caleb you're stepping!"

(I really wanted Caleb to turn around and say 'no shit, mommy. Now back off')

And the way American (and British often) parents follow their kids round with snack boxes and try and feed them when they are happily playing - 'do you want a breadstick? Some apple juice?'

Whereas the French parents Leave Well Alone and the kids eat at very specific times.

Of course these are generalisations, but it makes for an entertaining read.

(Actually I think her observations were more relevant ten years ago when smart phones weren't so prevalent. Now Caleb's mom really doesn't give a shit about narrating his play or if he's stepping because she's head down in her iphone FBing her virtual friends)

TheCarefulLaundress Fri 18-Jan-13 22:52:04

The French mothers were probably too busy smoking and discussing their weight with all and sundry (based purely on what Bonsoir has said about Parisians and their obsession with everyone's weight).

mercibucket Fri 18-Jan-13 23:18:41

a few good slaps and you're well on the way to parisian parenting

also, yes, they grow up to be, erm, parisian. and all that entails

so it's a 'thanks but no thanks' from me

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