Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bebe” Stirs The Pot On Parenting

There’s been another dust-up in the news this week, and this time the big story is how great the French are at parenting. I mentioned it briefly in yesterday’s vlog, and I really need to expand on it because parenting and its various styles is a topic for which I have endless passion.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here to read the Wall Street Journal essay/excerpt by Pamela Druckerman, author of “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting”.)

First, let me give you the disclaimer: I am not ragging on the author OR the book, which I have not read. I don’t have a problem with her, the concepts she wrote about in her essay, or even French people. This is simply my response, which at times will no doubt read like a rant. My apologies.

Druckerman has observed the “French” style of parenting to include things like:
1. Saying “no” to your kids in such a way that they take you seriously
2. Making your kids wait for things
3. Parenting without as much yelling, focusing on “educating” more than “disciplining”

Oddly enough, MY (and Jim’s) style of parenting–both of us AMERICAN, even!–includes things like:
1. Saying “no” to your kids in such a way that they take you seriously
2. Making your kids wait for things
3. Parenting without as much yelling, focusing on “educating” more than “disciplining”

Amazing, right? (I know.)

I have written about how Jim and I parent many times. I know that some of you parent in similar ways. I imagine that some of you don’t.

I’m not suggesting that how we parent is the only right way. It is, however, a good way, and I’m not just saying that: I have valid proof in the nineteen-year-old son and the seventeen-year-old son who have grown up under our care.

I don’t think that teaching manners or responsibility is something that is missing in America (obviously). The fact of the matter is, the kids who display poor behavior make better gossip fodder or topics for news stories than the quiet, well-behaved ones. Unfortunately.

There are GREAT kids (and GREAT parents) out there, in every part of America. It seems like they are the minority, but I can’t say for sure. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced and high-pressure American lifestyle, many parents take the easy way out when it comes to disciplining/EDUCATING their children, because the hard way takes longer and is sometimes emotionally draining. I can tell you one thing though, the families that ended up on shows like “Supernanny” don’t seem emotionally at ease, do they? So much for those parenting methods.

The short-term discomfort of disciplining/EDUCATING your kids is WAY BETTER than taking what seems like the easy way out, because the easy way out comes with a heavy, long-term price.

I’m not sure why so many people don’t get this concept. I don’t get why parents let their toddlers run around at restaurants, why parents would be accepting of a situation where one would eat while the other would run around behind their kid, and then switch so the other parent could eat. I don’t get why parents let their kids interrupt them constantly when it isn’t important. I don’t get why parents will say, “I’d *insert anything here*, but that doesn’t work for little Sarah.” It’s really time that parents grow a backbone and step up FOR their kids, instead of letting their kids run things. I mean, who’s been on earth longer?

Regarding using the word “no”: do I like telling my kids “no”? Of course not! Just like every other parent out there, I want my kids to have everything their little hearts desire, and I want them to be able to do what they want (as long as it’s safe, etc.). I always have. What I have always wanted more than that, though, was for them to grow up to be respectful, caring, appreciative young men. So we did things “the hard way”, starting when they were little, probably younger than you would imagine. And you know what? The word “no” becomes easier to say–and easier to receive–when there is meaning behind it.

A couple of years ago J and I went to dinner at the home of old family friends: a mom, dad, and two teenaged girls. The younger girl, who was thirteen at the time, whined so much I wanted to leave. At the dinner table, she actually had a temper tantrum/meltdown. At thirteen. While the parents smiled at her–and us–nervously. There is something wrong with that. (J, by the way, also thirteen at that time, couldn’t stop talking about how unbelievable the behavior of the whole family was on the fifteen-minute drive back home.)

Things that have actually been said to me at some point in my parenting past, out loud:
“I wish I could have conversations with my kids like the ones you have with yours.”
“I wish I had the strength to tell my kids ‘no’.”
“I really want him to sleep in his own bed, but he won’t.”
“I don’t know how you get your kids to sit quietly at the table.”
“Your son is so well-behaved. I wish mine was.”
“I’ve tried that before, but my kid won’t behave: he’s our little troublemaker!”

YOU are in control, parents. Or you should be. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: parenting is hard. The feeling you get from doing it well is like no other. You’re worth that. Your kids are worth that.

So let’s not make this a French parents vs. American parents thing, shall we? Let’s all just go out there and be GOOD PARENTS.

Ready? Go!


  • Liz

    Like I told Vanessa (Chefdruck) I was raised by Eastern European-born parents and yep, they were very, very strict about respect (never talk back to adults, minding manners at the dinner table etc…)

    I’m raising my children in very much the same way, however, I am also much more lenient in other regards.

    Not better, not worse, just different.

    • Melisa

      Of course! There are different ways to get there. I am also lenient in certain ways, especially when it comes to things my kids have earned with good behavior. Differences are good. 🙂

  • Dawndi

    Preach it, Sistah! 😉 I agree 100%. Also, I firmly believe that many of the children with behavior issues that I’ve worked with in the past and am currently working with wouldn’t have those issues if their parents actually used some parenting skills on them.

    Another thing that just makes me crazy are kids who HIT their parents and then think it’s ok to hit/kick/curse at other adults. (yeah, I have issues…LOL)

  • Josette at Halushki

    Thank you! Yes…good parents and parents who could use some guidance in all cultures.

    However, I do try not to judge. My kids are pretty well-behaved and we’re firm but kind in our parenting, but I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve tried to push an already sleepy, cranky 2yo for one more errand and paid the price, lol. I think we’ve all been there.

    But what I’ve found to work best – and what I think can be hard for parents – is to pick some discipline/teaching strategy and just be consistent with it. I don’t care which parenting guru you follow or even just your own instincts, but I find that it takes about 2 weeks to extinguish any behavior that crops up (although, yes, much easier to be proactive in the first place.) I think a lot of adults as well as kids don’t understanding patience is necessary in life. Pick a parenting tactic and stick with it.

    Anyway…I do get bummed a bit when new parents who are already a bit anxious about their skills and not quite firm in their parenting philosophies get bombarded with the next big fad in parenting. I can pretty much take what I want at this point and leave the rest, knowing what will work for my family as issues pop up. But I also remember being new and wondering “am I doing it right?” Confidence comes with practice, and practice means making some mistakes. It’s okay. Consistency, the re-evaluate after a time and see if anything needs to be tweaked.

    • Melisa

      Thanks for the excellent comment. I totally agree and yes, we’ve all been there with that cranky 2yo. I was really talking about general terms and that consistency that you mentioned. I really do think that’s the secret to good parenting, because if you lose that consistency, it’s so hard to dig out of the hole you created.

  • Heather

    I love your parenting style & I can’t wait for the day that I can try it on my own (future) kids. Maybe it will work for us, maybe it won’t, but I agree with a LOT of the things that you do and it seems to have worked AWESOME for you so.. 🙂

  • anymommy

    Consistency and limits are hard, especially when some parenting “experts” push a parenting culture that requires validation of every little emotion a child has. I love Josette’s last paragraph. Every one of these fad parenting techniques seem to get taken too far … we need to learn to have our own center and then take what works for us from new information and leave the rest.

    • Melisa

      Absolutely: you have to glean what works from everything that’s suggested. I think you have to have consistency though, as hard as it is sometimes, because consistency from a parents *reveals* limits for the kids, and then their behavior becomes consistent. I am all for doing whatever works as long as it’s actually working. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Kat

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again and again and AGAIN. You have to get a license for pretty much everything and before you’re allowed to have kids, you should get a license in parenting!!! I stand by that.

    If a kid won’t behave it’s ALWAYS the parent’s fault (said she who doesn’t have any kids) but it’s true because at one time or another the parent’s took the easy route out. Either way, what I can say from firsthand experience – and THAT I’ve said in the past and will keep on saying because it is true, you are great parents and your boys are simply wonderful! I’ve enjoyed being around them (and you) so much that they are and will be always, always, always welcome in our home. We think of them fondly and hope to see them again soon!

    • tracey

      Whoa. That’s a little harsh. EVERYthing they do is my fault? At what age do they start to take responsibility for themselves? Nurture vs. Nature shows that parenting styles aren’t as influential as we once thought.

      THAT SAID: how you react to your children IS something you have complete control over. Whether or not your parenting style fits with your child’s inborn nature is what’s going to help that kid become an upstanding citizen or not. 3 different kids. 3 different styles over here. And I can’t say that I’m perfect, but I’m definitely evolving. They all still love me, and have never outright defied me, so I guess I’m doing SOMEthing right for all of them, but I also think it has a lot to do with their own personalities.