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The German Way to Parent

Free the children



It's time for freedom-loving Americans to re-examine just how much control we're imposing on our kids. At least that's how Moscow, Idaho, resident Sara Zaske sees it in her new book, Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children.

During her family's six years living in northern Germany, Zaske observed how her new neighbors cultivated freedom and self-determination for their children, practically from the time they're born. Attachment parenting is discouraged. Young children socialize with their peers, away from hovering parents. Learning to relate to adults outside the family is essential. Parents can choose among a wide variety of public schools, but they have to choose: Homeschooling is illegal.

Zaske has to overcome her own hesitations, and being a good journalist, she researches the risks and benefits of various German education and parenting practices.

As her findings confirm the benefits of German ways, she begins to relax, and she realizes her children are developing a startling level of self-confidence and independence. And in turn she worries about American practices. "We've created a culture of control," she writes. "In the name of safety and academic achievement, we have stripped kids of fundamental rights and freedoms: the freedom to move, to be alone for even a few minutes, to take risks, to play, to think for themselves — and it's not just parents who are doing this. It's culture-wide."

The original print version of this article was headlined "The German Way to Parent"