5 German Parenting Styles That Americans Should Learn From

by Laura Bower
Originally Published: 
Two boys dressed similarly play in the water and peer through binoculars
tatyana_tomsickova / Getty

I’ve lived in Germany for six months now and, boy, have I been culture-shocked.

It’s not just the language, food, and lifestyle that have taken me for a loop, but more the parenting styles that I’ve witnessed. You see, Germans do parenting a hell of a lot differently than what Americans do and frankly, some we can learn from.

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1. No helicopter parenting.

I quickly learned that Germans don’t believe in helicopter parenting. They freely let their children explore the park without worrying about them falling and they certainly don’t hover around them making sure that they don’t. It was a real eye-opener for me as a parent and I have lightened up since moving here. I was never one to helicopter, but now, I feel a little less judged at if I let my toddler go down the slide on his own while I’m sitting on the bench watching him.

2. They take their children outside…in all types of weather.

The cold weather certainly doesn’t stop Germans from taking their children outside. The weather in Germany can be very cold, rainy and snowy, but that doesn’t stop Germans from bundling up their babies and enjoying the outdoors. In fact, kindergartens take the little ones outside to enjoy the fresh air and even let them explore the woods. In the age where screens rule the childhood world, I believe that outside time is critically important for our children and studies have shown that it helps boost “feel good” hormones. Get outside!

3. Play is always first.

Like I stated above, being outdoors is huge here. Another thing that is also huge is play; until about 6 years of age, play is the main focus in schools. Children traditionally begin going to kindergarten at age 3 until they are 6 or 7 years old, and it’s all about play. That means that they don’t learn the ABCs or how to write their name. This may make some people cringe but honestly, think about it: you are only 5 once. We could learn to embrace the years of unstructured playing.

4. Obtaining a natural parenting lifestyle is easier.

It’s not uncommon to see women openly breastfeeding and it’s certainly never frowned upon. You won’t get the stares and shock that seems to occur in the states. It’s also easier to obtain a healthier lifestyle since organic and healthy food is available at a reasonable price; even organic formula is incredibly cheap. And school lunches is a whole other thing—fresh and healthy meals such as soups and pasta are prepared for students.

5. They aren’t so concerned with safety.

The playgrounds in Germany have sand and rocks near the slides instead of padded ground. The children are encouraged to cut wood with a real axe at children’s fairs. There are real candles on the Christmas trees. Germans teach their children to manage the risks by simply making them aware. I like this philosophy and I try to follow this; my boys know that the stove is hot because I simply tell them. I don’t have a baby gate around my kitchen and all of my doors aren’t baby-proofed. Gasp! I know. Such blasphemy.

So there you have it: 5 German parenting styles that, I believe, Americans could learn to adapt from. If there’s anything that I hope to take away from my experience living in Germany, it would be all of those things plus a few more….along with dressing my boys up in lederhosen and eating brats.


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