How an American woman altered her parenting methods to mimic her new German neighbors.
When Zaske (The First, 2012) moved with her husband and young daughter to Berlin, she discovered that her German neighbors handled parenting quite differently than what she was used to in the U.S. In this well-written mix of personal reflections and sociological data, the author explains why she decided to change how she raised her daughter and newborn son in order to fit in with German attitudes toward parenting. Although skeptical at first, she soon discovered that many of her fears and concerns regarding playground safety, a parent’s need to be ever watchful, and engaging in endless play rather than academics were unwarranted. Her children thrived under the less-controlling lifestyle and became far more secure and self-reliant, as do most German children. Germans allow even the very young to use knives and matches under supervision and older children to walk to and from school or to the playground unaccompanied by an adult. Like many Europeans, they emphasize the importance of being outside regardless of the weather, with infants left well bundled in strollers while parents shop or eat lunch indoors; visits to numerous parks and green spaces are also common. Nudity is readily accepted, and human sexuality is taught early in the schools, providing children with a solid knowledge base from which to make informed decisions before they reach puberty. Zaske also examines the difference between the German educational system’s intentional teaching and awareness of the Holocaust and the U.S. and its “cursory treatment of our country’s historical crimes.” Even though the author’s children didn’t reach their teens while they were in Berlin, she includes important details about the freedoms German teens enjoy, including specially designed sites where they can congregate with friends.
An entertaining, informative, and enlightening narrative on the German methods of parenting that will have many in the U.S. reconsidering how they’re raising their children.