Danish children are happier – what their parents do differently – focus online

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How is it that the Danes are regularly declared the happiest people? Experts believe it could be the way they raise their children. So there are many things we can learn from Danish parents.

For almost forty years Denmark has been regularly selected by the OECD (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation) as the country with the happiest people. The UN World Happiness Report and similar evaluations keep the small country at the top of the ranking. In the current report, the Danes are in second place – behind Finland. Followed closely by Norway.

But why are the Danes so happy? Is it because of their comprehensive social system? In the government? Is it maybe their cozy houses? The long, dark winters and the high taxes are probably not the reason.

In her book "Why Danish children are happier and more balanced" The authors Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl reveal the secret: The Danes’ upbringing is, in their view, the reason for their continued happiness. The American and the Danish have researched the Danish educational concept and its impact on children for years and put its success in a simple formula:

Happy children grow up to be happy adults who raise happy children and so on.

Exciting, but no time right now?

Danes value other things in their upbringing

The Danes have a different attitude towards children and they value different things in education than many parents in other industrialized countries.

Danes regard children as fundamentally good and correct and treat them with respect. They know that if they want their children to do the same, they must first control their own behavior. And they don’t primarily want to raise successful children, but rather resilient people who have their own inner compass that guides them through life.

In short, Denmark is about giving children life skills so that they are able to find their way in life, enter into happy relationships and achieve a high level of satisfaction.

Danish parents think pressure is the wrong way to go

Parents and teachers therefore focus on things like autonomy, cohesion, socialization, self-esteem and democracy. They know that children should also receive education and learn a lot of skills – but they are also aware that real happiness is not only due to good education.

Almost all Danish parents consider concentrating on the children’s performance and the pressure that this places on them the wrong way. They understood that children who always perform well to get an outside evaluation cannot develop a strong inner drive.

Therefore, they give their children a lot of freedom, show them a high level of trust and allow them to solve problems on their own and overcome obstacles independently.

Danish children are therefore more comfortable with themselves than others, consequences self-defined goals, can deal better with stress and strain and are more resilient.

But what exactly do Danish parents do differently to achieve this goal?

1. You know how important free play is for children and you promote it

Various scientific studies have come to the conclusion that playing is an essential prerequisite for learning how to deal with stress. In the game, children have the opportunity to try out, explore their own limits and valuable ones social To learn skills.

In most industrialized nations, children’s play is now far too neglected, because the little ones often have other obligations besides school, such as music or physical education. For years, the number of hours that children can just play has been steadily decreasing.

However, a large number of leading scientists believe that the lack of play threatens children’s foundations. The American Pediatricians Association American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has therefore raised the alarm and pointed out the enormous importance of free play for children. She even recommended that pediatricians issue prescriptions for more time to play.

And rightly so: "It is known from brain research that completely unintentional gaming ensures the best networking in the brain", explains the well-known neurobiologist Gerald Hüther.

"In order for the huge potential of networking opportunities in the brain to be stabilized as well as possible and the talents created in our children to develop, we have to offer them the opportunity to play as long as possible."

Danish parents attach great importance to their children playing freely and trying not to interfere too much. Every evaluation, every unnecessary external intervention can hinder the flow of the game and the children are often deprived of the opportunity to find solutions to any problems themselves.

Gaming is so important in Denmark that it is even promoted by schools. For a long time, Danish children were only allowed to start school at the age of seven. Teachers and educators found it important that children were primarily allowed to be children and to play.

To date, regular classes in Denmark end at 2 p.m. Then the children can go to the so-called leisure school, where they are primarily encouraged to play.

2. They know how to praise a child so that it develops self-confidence

The way a child is praised can decide how to deal with new challenges and how much they can rely on their own abilities. Much exuberant praise tends to limit self-esteem.

If much praised children are confronted with difficulties, they are more likely to shy away from them because they have developed a fixed mindset. It is important to them how they are judged – as intelligent or not intelligent. If these children have to make an effort, it often frightens them because this effort makes them feel stupid.

They believe that you only have to make an effort if you are not intelligent enough. However, if they have always been told that they are particularly smart, they fear that they will fall short of expectations and lose their status. Studies have shown that these children are more likely to lie or cheat to hide their apparent failure.

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What children really need is simple, honest and process-related praise: they should not be praised for their intelligence or talent, but for their work, their commitment, their persistence, their learning success.

In this way they develop a learning mindset. They know that it is their efforts that really count and they understand their brain as a muscle that gets stronger the more you train it. They therefore perceive efforts as something positive. These children don’t pull down so much after losing, and instead of giving up, they step up their efforts.

The Danish way of praising is particularly characterized by modesty. The goal is that the child does not need recognition from other people in order to feel valuable. Instead of just saying that one picture or one work "Great" Danish parents talk to their children about their work and ask them questions. They say exactly what they like about their children’s work and point out that their development is an ongoing process.

3. You stay relaxed

The Danish upbringing style is based on the basic principles of democracy. This means that Danish parents set rules for family life and also expect their children to adhere to them. But they are very responsive to their children if they follow these rules "debug" want.

This has a lot to do with the fact that the Danes have a fundamentally positive picture of their children. For example, instead of considering the autonomy phase of toddlers between two and three as terrible, they welcome it as an important development step that is perfectly normal.

Danish families neither shout nor beat much. The Danes want their children to be treated with respect. And of course this is only possible if they show respect for them.

So instead of bringing up their children with fear, which does not promote respect, but fosters fear, they treat them with kindness. So they prevent unnecessary power struggles and outbursts of anger and strengthen the bond with their children.

This is the reason why Danish children still like to spend time with their parents and families in adulthood and practice their famous hygge – cozy family time. It is an important key to their happiness and a wonderful tradition from which everyone outside Denmark can learn a lot.


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Christina Cherry
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