An article on Time online titled, "How to Parent Like a German" has graced my newsfeed plenty of times over the past year. Regardless of the fact I have no children of my own nor am I avidly planning the arrival of my firstborn, articles on child-rearing always interest me. I think of it as a way to look at my own upbringing and see if my darling parents were anything like millennial parents before it was cool.
The article is written by an American parent in Berlin, and addresses the "surprising things" German parents do compared to American ones. As someone that was raised by one German parent, none of these things in her article were particularly surprising at all. So after reading it through for the third time, I decided I wanted to add my two cents in about why I think German parenting did me some good and how placing importance on independence and responsibility shaped who I am today.
One of the aspects she addresses is what she called a "relaxed approach" to education. She was surprised that Berlin Kindergartens don't push academics and how even at grade school, teaching only lasts half a day and there are two breaks! Having attended German Swiss International School, this was the exact structure that we followed, and although we had multiple breaks during the day, they were hugely beneficial. I found that having the time to let my mind rest and being able to get a snack and a drink to refuel, made it a lot easier to concentrate afterwards. This approach may be a relaxed one, but it made me more hardworking in the long run. Even today, I find myself taking more frequent breaks rather than one long one because it helps me to refocus on the task at hand as well as re-motivate myself to do the best I can.
She then goes on to talk about independence, and how many German children are allowed to go places on their own e.g. around their neighbourhood, on the subway, etc. Having grown up in Hong Kong, this was also something that my parents were pretty cool with. When I was around 13, I distinctly remember my mother teaching me how to take the bus on my own and telling me that I needed to pay more attention to my surroundings so that I could always find my way back home. This trusting and independence, instilled a confidence in me that I still have today. It made it easier for me to move away to University because I grew up making sure I always knew how to do things by myself, even if I had mama there to help me!
Lastly, she addresses the importance of taking children outside. Ever since I can remember my parents, particularly my father, has always stressed the importance of being active and getting fresh air. This meant family days were often spent going on mini hikes and family holidays meant beaches and swimming and generally being active. As a sun and fun loving kid, this was perfect! It helped me form a love of sunshine and being active, even if through those awkward, horrible teen years it didn't really show. Now with a little added perspective, I realise that being pushed to be active and go outside just helped me build up my weak immune system, which is not so weak anymore!
Overall, being a product of "German parenting" set me up for life. I learned the value of education and relaxation as well as how to be fiercely independent and responsible. Learning these things so young embedded them into me and shaped me as a person. These values and ideas still stick to me now, and they will be the lessons I pass down to my own spawn when the time comes.