Synopsis (from Amazon):
Catherine Crawford, a mother of two young daughters, is tired of the indulgent brand of parenting so popular in her trendy Brooklyn neighbourhood. All of the negotiating and bargaining has done scant more than to create a generation of little tyrants. After being exposed to the well-behaved, respectful children of her French friends, une lumière went on – French children don’t talk back!
Why French Children Don’t Talk Back is a witty and insightful look at how the French manage to bring up obedient, well-adjusted kids. It occupies a pragmatic place on the book shelf and in life – an anti-Tiger Mother approach to parenting.
I’ve never been much of a one for parenting books, but as a mother of an increasingly cheeky four-year-old boy (I swear, he was perfect before he went to nursery school!), I found myself intrigued by the title, and being something of a Francophile, I thought in for a cent, in for a Euro, as it were!
I was pleased to discover a very common sense approach presented on the pages! It really is all just straight forward advice on setting boundaries for your children in a way they will understand, while not driving yourself crazy and drinking yourself into oblivion every night after the bedtime battle lasts several hours (fortunately, the bedtime battle is one we’ve never had to fight, as our son has always had a very strict bedtime routine).
As it turns out, our parenting approach is particularly, well, French, I suppose! We already did quite a lot of the things mentioned in the book, such as insisting on proper manners and having good behaviour when we eat out, however I decided to try a little experiment in some other areas and to my surprise, after only a few days, they are already beginning to work! Suddenly our son no longer has an outburst when we tell him that no, he cannot watch a second film in one day or have the television on in the background! In fact, just yesterday he watched The Wizard of Oz then asked to watch Mary Poppins as soon as it was finished, When I replied that he had already watched one film and one was all he was allowed, he shrugged and said, “OK, Mummy. Can we have some music on instead please?” Another rule we’ve suddenly implemented is no sweets except at the weekend. He never got a lot of confectionery to begin with, but we were in the habit of rewarding him with a small piece of chocolate roughly every other day if he’d been even remotely good, in the hopes that this would ensure further good behaviour. Today he asked for some chocolate and I said no. He asked once more and I repeated that there would only be chocolate on the weekends. I was floored when he asked for a banana instead!
I suppose what I’m getting at is that this seems to be one parenting book where the advice actually works! Some parents may find some of the steps difficult to follow (such as entirely ignoring a child throwing a tantrum – the sooner they realise they will not even be looked at, the sooner they stop screaming), but with a little perseverance it should all become second nature and, theoretically, we could all have well behaved little munchkins who don’t show us up in public and do as they are asked without us having to repeat it ad nauseum.
Crawford’s style is easy to read – I really felt like I was chatting with an old friend – and her own trial and error experiments with these techniques on her own two daughters are laid bare, complete with what worked and what she’s still working on with them, but if she is to be believed, her girls are transforming into well behaved, very French kids.
Now all I have to do is get our boy to enjoy his food, complete with vegetables and we’ll be completely Frenchified too!
Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite