Review-Why French Children Don’t Talk Back-Catherine Crawford

‘Why French Children Don’t Talk Back’ by Catherine Crawford

Synopsis – Today there are so many different opinions on how to raise our children; should we monitor every aspect of their lives or just let them run wild? In this witty account of being a parent in trendy Brooklyn, Catherine Crawford gives an insight into the world of carefree French parenting.

Catherine is a typical all-American mother who is used to appeasing her kids with snacks and indulging them with gifts.  Tired of doing what all her friends are doing in Brooklyn, and seeing how well-behaved, respectful and well brought up children of her French friends are, une lumière went off – French children just don’t talk back!  Taking inspiration from her trips to Paris and the influence of her many French friends in Brooklyn, she learns how the French mother is known as the ‘chief’, how French five year olds are used to Michelin star school lunches, and only expect one present on Christmas Day.  From tantrums, to mealtimes and the true meaning of ‘children should be seen and not heard,’ Catherine explains how nearly every parenting situation can be executed from a more ‘chic’ and hassle free angle.


My thoughts

Now my school French is really, really rusty but the first subtle touch that I liked was a quote by Steve Martin:

‘oeuf means egg…chapeau means hat…it’s like…those French…have a different word, for everything!

Then you turn the page to the table of contents where the chapters are set out with a French name followed by an English one:

1. Voici la Situation or The Mess We’re In

2. Un Début Français or French from the Start

3. Vous Êtes le Chef or On Becoming the Chief

4. Homme, Femme, Enfants or How Boundaries Saved My Sanity

5. Le Repas de Famille or The Family Meal

6. Les Plaisirs Simples or The Gift of Less

7. Les Petits Trésors or Teaching the Art of Living

8. La Conclusion


One of my favourite quotes was the following one:

Whenever the subject of coddling came up in my conversations with French parents, they always pointed out how very important it is for the children that parents let them be alone, solve their own problems, and experience – and get over – discomfort.


I really liked Crawford’s witty, conversational tone in this book where she deconstructs her American parenting ways to try and include some of the different French ways that French parents use to bring up their kids.  I am not using the word parenting here as apparently there is no word in French for parenting according to Crawford.

I also really loved her quote concerning the amount of gifts that children can receive at Christmas.

We are so intensely focused on guaranteeing that our kids’ dreams come true – even if those dreams involve bottling unicorn breath from an island made of rainbows – that we tend to lose our minds.  I want my kids to remember the magic of affection and tradition around the holidays, and not just the piles of plunder.


There are certainly ideas that I have gained from reading this book that I intend to use.  Firstly I am going to harness my inner Chief.


Published by John Murray, Paperback 14th March 2013, £8.99

I received a review copy from the publisher.

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  • Toni

    Well I’ve met my fair share of revolting French kids so I think perhaps the author’s initial parenting style was the problem, rather than the French having some kind of magic answer.