Chris Castig Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

Bringing up Bebe: New York City vs. Paris, on Raising Children, and Education

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Bringing Up Babe Review and Summary

In Brining Up Bebe, author Pamela Druckerman investigates the difference between raising a child in France vs. The United States. 

These are my book notes. Pamela Druckerman advice on…

On children waking up at night? Consider “The Pause”

Druckman notices that babies in France sleep through the night, whereas in America, newborns wake up in the middle of the night. Druckman wondered, “Why is there a difference?”

In her investigation, she discovered that French parents practice something that she refers to as “The Pause.”

“If parents do the pause in the baby’s first two months the baby can learn to fall back to sleep on his own”

“Give your baby a chance to self-soothe, don’t automatically respond, even from birth.” [47]

“Adults wake up between their sleep cycles too, but typically don’t remember this because they’ve learned to plunge right into the next one.” [48]

“You needn’t pause for very long.  Some French parents wait five minutes or so. Otherwise wait a bit more, or less. They’re not letting the baby cry it out. If after these few minutes he’s still crying, they reason that he must need something.] [293]

On the importance of parent’s maintaining an identity separate from your children

American has a culture of putting children at the center of the family.  In speaking about a French mother’s experience living in America, Druckman writes, “At a big Thanksgiving with her husband’s family, she was astonished to see that when a three-year-old girl arrived, all twenty adults at the table stopped talking and focused on the child. ‘I thought, oh, this is incredible, this culture. It’s like the kid is a God.”

“If your child is your only goal in life, it’s not good for the child.” [149]

On why children of France have a wider culinary palate than American children

“They say that if a baby rejects a food, parents should wait a few days and then offer the same food again.” [204]

“The conversation about food should go beyond “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” [The French] suggest showing kids a vegetable and asking, “Do you think this is crunch, and that it’ll make a sound when you bit it? What does this flavor remind you of? What do you feel in your mouth?” [205]

“There’s no such thing as ‘kids food'” [206]

“[Fanny] doesn’t worry too much about how much Lucie (her daughter) eats. But she insists that Lucie has at least a bite of every dish on her plate. ‘She has to taste everything.’ A rule I hear from almost every French mother I speak to about food.” [210]

On the four words every Parisian must say

In America there are two magic words: please and thank you.

“It turns out that in French there are four magic words: s’il vous plaît (please), merci (thank you), bonjour (hello), and au revoir (good-bye). Please and thank you are necessary, but not nearly sufficient. I hadn’t realized that learning to say bonjour is a central part of becoming French.” [156]

“I think tourists are often treated gruffly in Parisian cafes and shops partly because they aren’t beginning interactions with bonjour, even if they switch to English afterward. It’s crucial to say bonjour upon climbing into a taxi, when a waitress first approaches your table in a restaurant or before asking a salesperson if the pants come in your size. Saying bonjour acknowledges the other person’s humanity. [157]

On daycare in France

Day care in France is subsidized and regulated by the government. Middle-class French parents generally prefer French daycare (aka. crèche) to hiring a nanny, or a private school. [xviii]

On children’s books

“In the English-speaking world, every problem seems to have a solution, and the prosperity is must around the corner.” [164]

“[In French children’s books] there aren’t bad guys and good guys. Life is ambiguous and complicated.” [165]

On the importance of building a cadre

“The cadre (meaning “frame” or “framework”) is the mental image that French parents have about how best to raise kids. They strive to be very strict about a few key things – that’s the frame. But inside the frame, they give kids as much freedom as they can handle. For example:

  • At bedtime you have to stay in your room, but inside your room you can do whatever you want
  • You can watch only two hours of television this weekend, but you choose when to use these two hours and you choose the DVD or the show you want to watch
  • You have to taste a bit of everything at a meal, but you don’t have to eat it all. [330]


Title: Bringing up Bebe
Author: Pamela Druckerman
Hardcover: 432 pages (…BUT technically the book is only 265 pages long, and the ending is a companion piece) 
Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1 edition (April 3, 2007)

Buy Bringing Up Bebe on Amazon
Listen to Brining Up Bebe on Audible (free trial)

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Chris Castig Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.