When my wife and I were expecting our first child, I confessed my anxiety about the blessed event and my new role to our octogenarian neighbor, the wise Katherine Beveridge: “Will I be a good father? I’m a little worried.” Katherine let out a kind and knowing chuckle and said to me, “Just trust yourself; you’ll be fine.” It wasn’t rocket science, but it was good, calming advice—much needed by parents in the United States.

Pamela Druckerman, an American writer living and raising kids in France, noticed that compared to most American parents, who hover over their children and protect them from every adversity, “French parents are achieving outcomes that create a whole different atmosphere for family life.”

Take, for instance, rules about snacks and eating. French kids don’t snack all day. American parents can hardly imagine going anywhere without a bag of Goldfish, Cheerios, raisins or apple slices, as if starvation were imminent, but in France there is, by consensus, only one snack time. It happens at 4:30 p.m. It’s called the goûter (pronounced “gooh-tay,” according to Druckerman’s handy glossary). What this means is that when French kids sit down to eat, whether at home or in a restaurant, they are hungry. Druckerman observes, in her opening vignette, that “French children don’t throw food.” Eating out with their families, they eat and they talk. They are “cheerful, chatty and curious.”