Pamela Druckerman Quotes
“When I ask French parents what they most want for their children, they say things like "to feel comfortable in their own skin" and "to find their path in the world." They want their kids to develop their own tastes and opinions. In fact, French parents worry if their kids are too docile. They want them to have character.
But they believe that children can achieve these goals only if they respect boundaries and have self-control. So alongside character, there has to be cadre.”
“Yet the French have managed to be involved without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children, and that there's no need to feel guilty about this. "For me, the evenings are for the parents." one Parisian mother tells me. "My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it's adult time.”
“Like the French, he starts babies off on vegetables and fruits rather than bland cereals. He's not obsessed with allergies. He talks about "rhythm" and teaching kids to handle frustration. He values calm. And he gives real weight to the parents' own quality of life, not just to the child's welfare.”
“French parents don't worry that they're going to damage their kids by frustrating them. To the contrary, they think their kids will be damaged if they can't cope with frustration. They also treat coping with frustration as a core life skill. Their kids simply have to learn it. The parents would be remiss if they didn't teach it.”
“In the United States, a four-year-old American kid isn’t obliged to greet me when he walks into my house. He gets to skulk in under the umbrella of his parents’ greeting. And in an American context, that’s supposed to be fine with me. I don’t need the child’s acknowledgment because I don’t quite count him as a full person; he’s in a separate kids’ realm. I might hear all about how gifted he is, but he never actually speaks to me. When I’m at a family luncheon back in the United States, I’m struck that the cousins and stepcousins at the table, who range in age from five to fourteen, don’t say anything at all to me unless I pry it out of them. Some can only muster one-word responses to my questions. Even the teenagers aren’t used to expressing themselves with confidence to a grown-up they don’t know well. Part of what the French obsession with bonjour reveals is that, in France, kids don’t get to have this shadowy presence. The child greets, therefore he is. Just as any adult who walks into my house has to acknowledge me, any child who walks in must acknowledge me, too. “Greeting is essentially recognizing someone as a person,” says Benoît, the professor. “People feel injured if they’re not greeted by children that way.”
“French parents are very concerned about their kids. They know about pedophiles, allergies, and choking hazards. They take reasonable precautions. But they aren't panicked about their children's well-being. This calmer outlook makes them better at both establishing boundaries and giving their kids some autonomy.”
“Frenchwomen don’t see pregnancy as a free pass to overeat, in part because they haven’t been denying themselves the foods they love—or secretly binging on those foods—for most of their adult lives. “Too often, American women eat on the sly, and the result is much more guilt than pleasure,” Mireille Guiliano explains in her intelligent book French Women Don’t Get Fat. “Pretending such pleasures don’t exist, or trying to eliminate them from your diet for an extended time, will probably lead to weight gain.”
“When I tell her about the expression "MILF" ("Mom I'd like to Fuck"), she thinks it's hilarious. There's no French-language equivalent. In France, there's no a priori reason why a woman wouldn't be sexy just because she happens to have children. It's not uncommon to hear a Frenchman say that being a mother gives a woman an appealing air of plentitude (happiness and fulness of spirit).”
“You don’t say, “I’m sorry,”’ he says. ‘Getting injections, and experiencing pain, is part of life. There’s no reason to apologize for that.’ He seems to be channelling Rousseau, who said, ‘If by too much care you spare them every kind of discomfort, you are preparing great miseries for them.’ (I’m not sure what Rousseau thought about suppositories.)”
“Walter Mischel says the worst-case scenario for a kid from eighteen to twenty-four months of age is "the child is busy and the child is happy, and the mother comes along with a forkful of spinach...
"The mothers who really foul it up are the ones who are coming in when the child is busy and doesn't want or need them, and are not there when the child is eager to have them. So becoming alert to that is absolutely critical.”
“French parents do offer a few sleep tips. They almost all say that in the early months, they kept their babies with them in the light during the day, even for naps, and put them to bed in the dark at night. And almost all say that, from birth, they carefully “observed” their babies, and then followed the babies’ own “rhythms.” French parents talk so much about rhythm, you’d think they were starting rock bands, not raising kids. “From zero to six months, the best is to respect the rhythms of their sleep,” explains Alexandra, the mother whose babies slept through the night practically from birth.”
“Give willingly, refuse unwillingly,” he writes in Émile. “But let your refusal be irrevocable. Let no entreaties move you; let your ‘no,’ once uttered, be a wall of brass, against which the child may exhaust his strength some five or six times, but in the end he will try no more to overthrow it. Thus you will make him patient, equable, calm and resigned, even when he does not get all he wants.”
“When I describe this scene to Michel Cohen, the French pediatrician in New York, he knows immediately what I’m talking about. He says these mothers are speaking loudly to flaunt what good parents they are. The practice of narrated play is so common that Cohen included a section in his parenting book called Stimulation, which essentially tells mothers to cut it out. “Periods of playing and laughing should alternate naturally with periods of peace and quiet,” Cohen writes. “You don’t have to talk, sing, or entertain constantly.” Whatever your view on whether this intensive supervision is good for kids, it seems to make child care less pleasant for mothers.2 Just watching it is exhausting”
“Awakening is about introducing a child to sensory experiences, including tastes. It doesn't always require the parent's active involvement. It can come from staring at the sky, smelling dinner as it's being prepared, or playing alone on a blanket. It's a way of sharpening the child's senses and preparing him to distinguish between different experiences. It's the first step toward teaching him to be a cultivated adult who knows how to enjoy himself. Awakening is a kind of training for children in how to profiter - to soak up the pleasure and richness of the moment.”
- Description: Pamela Druckerman is an American journalist and the author of Bringing Up Bébé (The Penguin Press: 2012); the U.K. version of the same book - French Children Don’t Throw Food (Doubleday UK: 2012); and Lust In Translation (The Penguin Press: 2007).
From 1997 to 2002 she was a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal, based in Buenos Aires, São Paulo and New York. Her Op-eds and articles have since appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Observer, the Financial Times, New York Magazine, Monocle and Marie Claire. She has been a commentator on the Today Show, National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Al Jazeera International, BBC Women’s Hour, the CBC, CNBC, and Oprah.com.
Pamela has a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University. She has studied (with varying degrees of success) French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Hebrew, and has trained in improvisational comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade and Chicago City Limits. She lives in Paris.