24 November 2013

Parenting a la francais

When I was pregnant with Hazel I did very very little parenting "research". I was mainly focused on pregnancy and all that entails. Since I'm a Doula, Im kinda all about the birth ya know, and I thought, oh well I know how to take care of a baby.  
When I was about 39 weeks pregnant, I came across this article on Pintrest, read it through twice, read it aloud to Bob and said, "this is what we are doing". And we pretty much did. And it pretty much worked. 
After Hazel was born I quickly made up for my lack of "parenting preparation" and ravenously read many articles and read... ahem... skimmed... several books. I took little tidbits from here and there and have adjusted them to fit our family and values.
((To the point that I had to swear to my husband that I would stop googling))

 One of the books that I read was not a parenting book at all but more of a memoir of her own life,
"Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman.
In the book Druckerman writes of her observations of French children quietly sitting at the table at a restaurant, her own children are throwing food while she and her husband perform the merry-go-round of forcing them to eat and contain their seemingly constant outbursts.
This is one of the first comparisons that Druckerman makes between French and American children. And as a waitress, I have to say that I haven't seen too many children sit politely and eat everything on their plates.

The book also covers aspects of French parenting which include, sleep training or "doing their nights" ((which apparently French babies do by 2 months)), eating and snacking, the 'cadre', and solo play.
She goes into great detail about the 'grandmothers and fathers' of some of these theories of French parenting and how they came to be so ingrained into French culture.

Now of course not everything about French style parenting that Druckerman touches on in the book resonates with me, or is how I want to do things, for example the French only breastfeed for a very minimal time, usually 3 months, and we are still going at 13 months... So ya know. They also seem to be big on 'appearance' ((now I'm all for not going to the store in your pjs, I mean really, but you're also not going to see me traipsing around in stilettos at the park either))

Ultimately, as with everything, take this book with a grain of salt, and you might find something that resonates with what you are hoping/wish/wanting for your own home.

My biggest take aways from the book, and those that we have chosen to put into practice are:

| The Cadre |

The cadre or 'framework' is the belief in French parenting that children should have firm boundaries that are communicated to the child but within that 'cadre' they have great freedom. This may mean telling them where they cannot go at the park, giving boundaries, but within that area they can have freedom to play as they wish. So no hovering! This may also mean that they have a set bedtime but perhaps they are allowed to stay up and read or look at book until they get tired. Hazel isn't old enough for a lot of times for the cadre to be implemented but one way I use it is I usually try to let her have the freedom to play as she likes to, obviously making sure that the times that could harm her are out of the way. I am in the room but not directly playing with her. Yes, there are other times that I play with her too :)

|  The Pause  |

This is the theory that when your baby cries out, you should pause, even for up to 20 seconds to see if the baby will soothe her/himself. We used the pause A LOT. And always waited to see if Hazel would  soothe herself. Our pauses usually were not very long, 5-10 seconds, but we certainly did not rush to her right away. Hazel turned out to be an amazing self soother and still is today. I firmly believe that this and the article linked above is what helped her to sleep through the night by 8 weeks. Oh and the Sleep Sheep... Gotta love it, ocean sounds baby. We would pause, turn on the sleep sheep and usually got an hour more out of her.

| The Gouter |

This is the afternoon snack that all French Children have. Usually around 3:00 in the afternoon. They often eat what they had baked the previous Saturday with their mother, also a common French tradition. French Children only have one snack, that is the gouter. Then of course they have their meals, which tend to be in courses. One thing that really bothered me before I became a parent was how often I would see parents shoving food at their kids. Oh you are bored and cranky, here is some food, I want you to be quiet for a minute, here is some food. We are at the park, here is some food. You're in the car, ok here is some food. Now don't get me wrong I know, I KNOW how easy it is to fall into the 'pacify with food' trap. But I try reeeeally hard not to. Number one because I don't think it creates a good relationship with food, how many of us are bored eaters? I know I am! I don't want Hazel to view food as something to do when she is bored, or as a reward. Its also a great way to create a good eater at the table at meal times, if they are snacking all day then they may not be hungry enough when mealtimes come.

| Solo Play |

This is a great one, and one that I really love. There are so many benefits to solo or 'independent' play. We started small, with maybe 2-3 minutes at about 7 months and now Hazel will play for 30-45 minutes in her crib with just a few toys and her imagination. I love to hear her chatting away making up stories and playing contentedly.

| Bonjour |

I love this concept. We always teach our children 'please' and 'thank you' but in France saying "Bonjour" or good-day, is just as important. To the French, to say bonjour means 'i see you' I acknowledge you. I love the idea of this and really want our kids to be able to greet adults and to be confident.


  1. Loved this book. Found it so fascinating. Like you, I found the need to pick and choose-- the lack of extended breast feeding and use of sleep training being something we didn't mirror. But, my god, a peaceful meal at a restaurant? Sign me up! :)

  2. Yes, yes, yes to all of this! :) I haven't heard of this book before...it sounds super interesting. That is bizarre about the breastfeeding...I thought France was so cutting edge when it came to that kind of thing.

  3. Oh gosh, can not believe you haven't read it, you avid reader you! You would LOVE it. Its super fascinating and as I shared I got a lot of great 'philosophies' if you want to call them that, out of it too. I wish I had a copy, I would mail it to you, but I read it on my ipad! You should definitely see if you can track it down. Its a really easy read.

  4. I'll see if I can find it on amazon!

  5. Thank you for stopping by Maggie! It was definitely an interesting read! haha yes a peaceful restaurant meal sounds like heaven! I used to work as a waitress and I can assure you, that not many have it mastered!!


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