Achtung Baby : 5 Quick Lessons

Achtung! Nein!” I cried in my bad German. Both kids and parents ignored me.

Sara Zaske, Achtung Baby

Achtung Baby is quite the book. The word Achtung itself means “Be Careful” in German. This is one of the first parenting books I’ve read that I couldn’t put down. The topics she covered were fascinating to me especially because Helicopter parenting has caught on like wildfire in North America, and most parents feel shamed into worrying more. My favorite thing about traveling is rediscovering “normal” and observing how different every country’s version of normal appears to be. Achtung Baby focuses on the contrasting Parenting styles of America and Germany, and the book reads like a collection of very well written short essays. I’m grateful to have stumbled upon this gem of book, here are 5 quick lessons from the book of the week: Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children.

  1. Children are people too

“Many Americans believe freedom means we are free to raise our children as we see fit. A nice sentiment on the surface, but too often this attitude means depriving our children of their freedom.”

Sara Zeske, Achtung Baby

One of the stories that stood out to me in Achtung baby was about ther and her pre-school aged daughter on a train. An elderly woman spoke directly to her daughter and offered her daughter a piece of candy (or something). The internal dialogue from Sara was frankly hilarious, and really resonated with me. How would you react to something like that? Why wouldn’t you ask the parent first? Because Germans treat children less like lesser beings, more like tiny human beings capable of making their own decisions and learning from their own mistakes.

2. More Fresh Air

There’s a German saying that states: ‘There is no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing’.

Sara Zeske, Achtung Baby

Zeske showcases innumerable benefits that fresh air can provide kids with, including “better sleep”. Sleep is such a precious and scarce resource for parents of young kids, this fact alone should be enough for you to strap on the boots and brave the winter breeze. Making a point to let your child go outside for “recess” daily will give them the space and freedom to play as wildly as they wish. Even babies! Fresh crisp winter air will not hurt them, it’s not uncommon for parents to park their strollers outside with their sleeping babies in them.

3. Let kids laugh in the face of danger

One of the most surprising things I’ve read about Berlin, the city where the majority of the book takes place, is how dangerous the parks seem. Sara Zeske describes these parks as downright scary, and at first she wanted to protect her kids and hold their hand at the park, but she noticed something, none of the other parents seemed worried. Sara felt the sense of anxiety that I’m sure we could all relate to, however through her thought process, the reader also learns to relax about the parks. She kept wondering “what if they hurt themselves?” the answer to that is simple “they’ll learn“, better yet, “they might not“.

4. Let the children fight

Instead of hovering around the kids at the park, the parents described in Achtung Baby are chatting with each other. The author shares that Germans strongly believe that even young children have the ability to resolve their own conflicts. Instead of intervening when children fight at the park, the parents just observe while the children try to resolve it on their own. This sounds CRAZY to me, but it’s an effective tool. If you empower your kids to make their own decisions and suffer the consequences of those decision, they will develop a level of self-reliance that will make you very proud.

5. We are safe

German parents worry too but they refuse to let fear drive their interactions with their kids.

Sare Zeske, Achtung Baby

The world is a crazy place filled with violence, narcotics and bears (oh my!) Achtung Baby does a wonderful job calming down even the most anxiety ridden parent by presenting the facts: We are SAFE! The seemingly numerous child-abductions is an illusion that has more to do with our infinite points of access to news reports, and less to do with the crime rates increasing. In fact, it’s the opposite, we haven’t been THIS SAFE in a very long time. Despite that however, americans continue to parent in a fear-driven way which ultimately inhibits the confidence of the children.

Let’s get out of our kids way, and let them play, fight and take a deep breath of cold winter air.

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