The first New Year’s Eve in Berlin, I thought the Germans were crazy. Everyone was shooting off fireworks. Not just tourists but shopkeepers and retirees, whole families with little kids setting off some pretty serious explosives for the pure joy of it. Our little American family huddled inside our fifth floor apartment where every bang and boom felt really close.
Now that we live in the supposedly “safe” United States, I am starting to think it’s we Americans who are really the crazy ones. In the name of safety, we do some strange things. Most parents don’t allow their kids much freedom: they don’t walk anywhere by themselves, climb trees or buy things in stores. We’re asked to monitor every nuance of their grades and expected to curate their extracurricular activities. American kids rarely get to take any risks at all. This intensive style of parenting is the gold standard, as the New York Times recently noted. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that anxiety rates among young people are rising.
There are other ways to raise kids. I found many good ideas in Germany to help kids become independent, self-reliant. Modern Germany isn’t perfect – no culture is. (For the record, I still think the explosive New Year’s Eve is a bit over the top.) However, most Germans have rejected authoritarianism and embraced freedom in ways that are reflected in their parenting. They have many good ideas we could apply here in America.
You can read about some of them in my book ACHTUNG BABY — it’s is out in paperback today 12/31/18! I learned a lot from living nearly seven years in Berlin — and I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can raise adventurous, resilient children in this “home of the brave.”
While I don’t miss the firework frenzy of Berlin’s “Sylvester” celebration, I hope your New Year’s Eve has some thrill. As the Germans say “guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr!” — I wish you “a good slide into the New Year”!
* Berlin fireworks photo by Hyun Lee (cropped for this format)
You can order your paperback of Achtung Baby from these booksellers: