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The first few lessons that we get in parenting are often the ones from our own childhood and the way our parents have raised us. But what if you have your kids in a country far away from your birthland and what you knew to be normal seems to be at conflict with the culture of your new homeland? I live in Germany and ever since I conceived my Little G, I have been doing (a lot of) things the German way which are contrary to our Indian sense and sensibilities. But guess what? I not just learn a great deal by doing something new but it has also always turned out perfectly well too, putting all my doubts and skepticism to rest. In my 15 months of motherhood and observing German parenting, there are things that I have started admiring about German parenting and now trying to imbibe them into my own.
1. Being outdoorsy right from the start.
My Little G was born during the harsh winter season with snow all around and temperature below zero degree. The first few days we kept the doors and windows closed so as to prevent the little one from catching cold. But things changed when my midwife visited us (in Germany every pregnant woman in entitled to a midwife who visits her and helps with anything related to the baby and the general well being of the mother, particularly in the first eight weeks after birth). She was horrified to know that we haven't opened the window of the baby room ever since we got her home. She opened the window for few minutes and told us to dress up the baby in her snow suit and go out for a stroll as fresh air would do her good and make her sleep better, and not worry about the cold too much. It did feel weird at first but it felt good to me and the baby was fine too. There is a popular German saying " there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing". Since then we have made a rule that whatever the weather be like we would go out in nature atleast once in a day, even if it is just for few minutes. Dressing appropriate is the key. Rain, snow or sun, my 15 month old loves being outdoors. If not for this habit, we would always have an excuse to lock us inside for months during the harsh winters in Germany.
2. Trusting your kids with independence from an early age.
I enrolled my Little G for her first gymnastic class at 13 months, just out of curiosity to see what german kids do in such classes. Mattresses were laid in the room and the gymnastics set up was laid with things like trampoline, tunnel, high jump slide, etc. The instructor let the kids choose their activity and try it out on their own. The moment my Little G started climbing the ramp set for the jump, I held her hand (much to the amusement of the instructor). She asked me to stand close by but let her try it out independently. I saw around the room and realised other moms were close enough but they have really let their kids loose. The set up was safe and they were simply trusting their kids. That moment, I decided to let go too!
It is also very common to see kids playing in playground with their parents observing them only from a distance. My Little G is still too young so I am not yet very high on independence, but I know I will get there in right time and having other kids around as an example would just make it easier. Ofcourse kids take a fall here and there, but that's how they learn to get up and stay safe. Isn't it?
3. Being safe and not paranoid.
It is very common to see young kids walk/cycle back home from school or run errands in the neighbourhood in Germany. The parents are ofcourse concerned about the safety of their children but thats more in the direction of traffic than abductions. Germans teach their kids traffic rules and road sense from an early age and then just trust them to be safe. Germany in general is a safe country so its easier to let kids roam around alone than it would be in India (can neither trust the traffic sense of drivers nor the strangers walking on the road), but still its important for us as parents to draw a line between practical worrying and being paranoid. Its our job to keep our kids safe but overprotecting them would do more harm than good in the long run.
4. Letting kids take responsibility from an early age.
People in the western countries do not have the luxury of household help, of which we are so used to in India. Here everyone is used to doing their own laundry, dishes, cooking, shopping, etc. In a family when every one pitches in for the chores, kids learn to take responsibility and help in the household from an early age too. This not just makes the children independent but they also learn the value of hardwork and the fact that no task is big or small.
Parenting is one job where we can hardly say that we have learnt it all. We aspire to get better at it each day. And if that means taking a leaf out of the book of someone culturally different, we should be ready for it! As they say, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do".
Pic Credit: 123RF.com
Have you ever been inspired by parenting that is culturally different than yours? Do share as I would love to read the lessons you took home from that.