When former Wall Street Journal reporter Pamela Druckerman settled in Paris, she immediately noticed the children: They were so well behaved. In restaurants, toddlers sat politely, waiting for their meals, then happily ate fish and veggies and foie gras -- what Americans might call "grown-up food." In parks, they played quietly, without tantrums, and without demanding their mothers' constant attention. And at home -- ooh la la, when Druckerman found that most French babies sleep through the night by the age of 3 months, she knew that she must get to the bottom of this whole French parenting thing.

The secret, she finds, is this: Rather than structuring their lives around a new baby, French parents expect a baby to fit smoothly into the life they already have.

French parents, Druckerman says, set firm boundaries but allow great freedom within those boundaries. To discipline, they practice "the big eyes" (try it -- it's intimidating) and "the pause" -- taking a moment, or a minute, before responding, to teach patience and restraint. (The pause also factors into getting a baby to sleep all night.)

Druckerman neither sneers at nor fawns over the French way, but approaches the topic with high interest, prodding the advice with the curiosity of a great journalist, then writing it all down with the humor and detail of a great storyteller.