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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.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Sat 19-Jan-13 07:35:33

French child rearing and education styles seem based on the 'punish failure' mentality.
Some French teachers still think it acceptable to throw things at children and hit them occasionally if they don't learn as fast as others.
Failure in manners at home? a slap around the head will do the trick.
French children I've observed around me are rougher and tougher than British kids I know. Lots of physical fighting and bullying as the norm.
They all sit well and eat their food, I've never seen any nationality throwing food actually.
Of course not everyone is like this but these are the things I've witnessed first hand.

I really find unpalatable this sense of superiority towards other nations ways of parenting, are you trying to upstage the French on smugness?

French teenagers don't queue? That I agree is very annoying, unfortunately I also belong to a nation where people don't queue and I hate that.

But apparently many British teenagers go wild when their parents aren't around, or am I wrong? I've seen some docs on Magaluf or other hells on earth and it is not exactly good behaviour that is portrayed.

documentaries, sorry, not docs

Cantdothisagain Sat 19-Jan-13 09:30:25

I've never seen children throwing food (other than babies!) in the UK or in France. Clearly though there will be parenting strategies we can learn from the French just as there are others they can learn from us. My question is about fussy eating in young children which the book blurb implies is less of a problem in France for whatever reason. How have you observed French parents tackle the problem of children refusing to try new foods? and have you seen a way of getting sauce-resisting children to try sauces? Thank you!

MaeMobley Sat 19-Jan-13 09:35:59

I read this book last year and really enjoyed it.
Yes, it is mostly about Parisian and New York parents but it is really interesting and gives a different perspective of things we do and take for granted.
It also helped me understand my French BIL a bit better.
I would recommend reading this book. It is entertaining and gives some different view points. It does mean the French parent better (on the contrary).

MaeMobley Sat 19-Jan-13 09:36:46

PS but I loved the Tiger Mother book too.

LeBFG Sat 19-Jan-13 13:24:38

Good point about what French children turn into as adolescents. My friend has hosted French teenagers at her home for years. Yes, they nibble quietly at the dinner table. But she has always complained at how lacking in maturity they are compared with her children and other english kids she knows. She think parents don't hand over responsibility to their children. I'm personally struck by how much babying goes on well into the twenties. Mums launder, cook and provide financially for 25 year olds who've left home. Though, at odds to this, as children they are used to being sent off on school trips/summer camps from a very young age. Whilst there, teachers just seem to throw their hands in the air and the kids run riot/swear etc. When I travelled with UK kids, they were dead chuffed to be away from parents for the first time and thus on tip-top behaviour.

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Sat 19-Jan-13 14:04:00

I heard this woman interviewed on Woman's Hour about this book - must have been a good year ago. Can't remember much detail but I do remember a French woman they spoke to saying a lot of seeming good behaviour in a social setting was down to what most of us would consider dubious parenting practises and controlling behaviour in the home.

In fact, this woman was resident in the UK and was deliberately not bringing her children up the 'French way.'

Anecdotal evidence: my children's schools are among the few who still participate in an exchange programme with a French school. DD (14 at the time) stayed with a girl who barely spoke to her for the 10 days she was there; she was expected to stay in her room in the evenings as the school had tests every week and the girl was confined to her room also prob chatting with her mates. Luckily the English girls managed to get together enough times to make it bearable. Most had similar stories.

When we were the hosts, the English girls were welcoming and polite, but were soon exasperated at the French girls' habit of openly ignoring them and talking amongst themselves in French. I witnessed this more than once, giving them lifts and having a few of them meeting up in our house.
DD and her friends turned into miniature Mirandas - 'rude!'

Won't bore you all with further anecdotes but suffice to say I much prefer the results of my own parenting and that of my DD's parents.

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Sat 19-Jan-13 14:05:59

Meant to say 'that of my DD's friends' parents!

Mudwiggle Sat 19-Jan-13 15:17:03

Erm, I liked the book. I found it funny and informative.

I love the approach to food and have applied it to a degree with my DS's. You don't have to eat everything on your plate, but you have to taste everything on your plate. Stressfree dinnertimes. means no 'rudeness' when at someone else's house and they have cooked.

No one answered me, then.
French adolescents are all according to you lacking in lots of departments.
What brings the average Uk teen to drink until senseless then? Have you seen the programs on the bbc about teens on holidays?

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Sat 19-Jan-13 19:59:55

Not sure anyone said that Franca. I don't know many adolescents so I can't comment. But yes I have seen English people drinking too much. Only seen French teens drinking too much on fete de la musique and Beaujolais nouveau night.

There are variuos posts omhere, TheAccidental, lamenting the behaviour of French teenagers abroad and linking their behaviour to the way they are brought up, as if parenting was an exact science, which is not.

I am just pointing out that also English (and various other nationalities!) adolescents don't behave perfectly all the time. Parenting may be different, but we still don't have the recipe for a perfect human being grin.

the sense of superiority is out of place, imo.

allagory Sun 20-Jan-13 00:19:26

Less prone to tantrums as toddlers, more prone to tantrums as adults? (I only really have experience of the latter..working with French businesses from 1986).

LeBFG Sun 20-Jan-13 06:27:29

Where I live, the French teens drink tons just the same as the UK kids. There are lots of opportunities at friends' houses, parties etc...and I'm in the god end ass of nowhere. Teens are teens wherever. My comments were about teens on holidays with schools. I supervised UK kids in Normandie on their week about the war. The other nationalities (mainly French) were atrocious. Some of ours did try and join in but us teachers were too wiley for them grin you would hope so - the French teachers couldn't give a sh*t - I've heard the same from French teachers tbh so I don't think it was a one-off.

Of course there is no one-size-fits-all. I'm sure some UK kids would benefit from a bit of Frenchness. I must admit, when I go back to the UK I like the stuff they give small children in restaurants (packs, crayons etc). I've never seen it in France. My Portugese friend in the UK is horrified though and much prefers the French expectation of sitting properly at the table.

Something I've noticed in common with both countries however is how everyone sits at the table with their blasted mobile phones. Now that, I can't bear.

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Sun 20-Jan-13 07:51:20

No-one has the recipe for perfect child rearing Franca, but I certainly don't adhere to the punish failure mentality that I see around me.
The idea that French people do 'much better' at child rearing seems to me to be simply a ploy to sell books, it's insulting and over simplistic of the author.
I don't see a sense of superiority here but a level of shock as to how the author could make the implication that French parenting is better.
There are good parents and bad, in every nation, but the style is different in France to the UK.
FWIW I'm raising a child with ASD in France. If I were to raise him in a 'French' way he would be traumatised and deeply misunderstood. It's bad enough that he gets punished at school for his ASD, I couldn't bring that home.

LeBFG I would love it too if French restaurants gave kids crayon packs too. I did go to my first themed restaurant yesterday (outside of Disney) with soft play, which my DS adored. I am guilty of playing with the mobile at the table though

Bonsoir Sun 20-Jan-13 07:54:57

France has traditionally been a control-and-command culture, not a cooperation/consultation culture.

shemademedoit Sun 20-Jan-13 08:47:40

Very interested in reading this book. We've been in France for 8 years now, since my youngest was a babe in arms. I teach in various French schools and think that at school the kids are much the same as in the UK..... Reserving judgement on parenting choices until I've read the book (if I'm lucky enought to win)

I've dipped into this book since having my second child and have accordingly parented DD2 slightly differently, applying Le Pause and so on. I did enjoy the baby chapter... I will read on.

Question: proportionally do more mothers of young babies return to ft work in France than in the UK/US, and what is the link between that and their parenting styles?

I am just as shocked at anyone believing their country has a recipe for perfect childrearing.

Don't get me wrong I am quite averse to the control and command culture, I believe it infantilises people. However, I also see faults in the way childhood is viewed in the Anglo Saxon world.

Bonsoir Mon 21-Jan-13 09:51:17

I am deeply averse to the French traditional control-and-command culture for that very reason - that it infantilises people. The pernicicious effects of this culture are much more visible when they become adults unable to think for themselves than when they are obedient children.

However, it is much easier to instigate and maintain order in a control-and-command culture than in a culture where everyone needs to be consulted and to cooperate with joint decisions. The British sadly often just fail to do anything much with their children and, instead of raising thinking adults, don't civilise their DCs at all.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 21-Jan-13 10:42:13

The book giveaway is now closed and we'll be sending the names and addresses of the 50 winners to the publishers later today and announce on this thread when the books have been sent out. Great to see so much discussion on this thread and remember to post your questions to author Pamela Druckerman before end of 31st January.

LillianGish Fri 25-Jan-13 19:46:38

Well I loved the book - my dcs were born in Paris and I think Pamela is pretty much spot on. In fact I've bought it for all my English friends in Paris who are having/or have had babies - not as child-rearing manual, but just so they, like me can read bits out to their dhs and generally laugh knowingly at the French. I don't think it's intended as an instruction book any more than the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, but like that book it is a brilliant read.

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 26-Jan-13 10:02:15

There must be a middle way, surely?! Mine sit quietly in a restaurant and eat what's put in front of them - they always have done. I was quite strict when they were younger, and we had the advantage, when they were little, of seeing some uncontrolled kids running round a busy restaurant, and one ending up with a plate of salad on his head, because he crashed into the server (luckily it wasn't hot soup!).

The French family who live underneath us put their baby to bed at a set time every night, and she screams for hours and hours. They never go in to her, and she does (eventually) go to sleep. But she screams every night from around 8 to one in the morning. I think they must use ear plugs. grin

matana Sat 26-Jan-13 15:19:01

My ds is 2.2 and eats almost anything you put in front of him. When he's not throwing it that is. How do you explain that?

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