Book Review: French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting

You’d think that after having read Bringing Up Bébé and French Kids Eat Everything (And Yours Can Too) I might be finished reading French parenting-style books written by North Americans. Well after reading French Twist, perhaps I am.

Not because French Twist is the be-all, end-all of American-French parenting books (I actually liked Bébé and French Kids better) but because I am finally tiring of this sub-genre (and have started reading biographies of Canadian political figures, reviews of which don’t really belong in this blog).

French Twist is different than the other two books because the author didn’t actually live in France ever. So this book loses the armchair travel dimension that the other aforementioned books had. Also, it makes her observations about French parenting more indirect. The author has some French-American friends and she gets parenting tips from them. In a way this is helpful because she is using French parenting techniques in a North American context, and something that I found disheartening about the other books was the realization that societal infrastructure (e.g. daycares, schools, close-knit family) that differs between France and North America has a huge influence on the process of raising children.

This book is also different from the other two books because the author attempts a lot of humour. This was okay for about half a chapter but then it felt tedious.

All three of these books really boil down to a few very useful principles though. Some ideas that have stuck with me include:

  1. Authority: A French parent is an authoritative parent. There is no bribing (rewarding) your children to do things. They do things because they are told to do things. That’s how it works.
  2. Dignity: I’m not sure if this is the right label, but by using the term ”dignity” I mean not always getting on the floor to play with the kids. Children and adults have separate interests, and adults are not expected to drop all of their interests to entertain their children. The children learn to be self-sufficient and entertain themselves.
  3. Food: You can never talk about French parenting without talking about food. I think some of the key concepts are that French adults don’t eat junk food, and French kids occasionally eat junk food but then grow out of it. I remember a scene from one of the books where there was a child’s birthday party with cupcakes, and only the children had cupcakes, not the adults present. That’s just not the way we operate in North America. French kids are introduced to a variety of healthy foods from the time they start solids (blue cheese for babies? They do that… but I have not tried yet with RJ. She has, however, had Brie and Camembert). French people, in general, eat fresher and whole foods. The parents eat healthily so the children eat healthily.

These are just a few of the ideas that have stuck with me. If you are interested in reading more about American-French parenting, I would recommend you start with Bringing up Bébé.

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