We all want to raise happy children, so who better to ask how to do that than the Danes? Denmark is consistently ranked one of the happiest countries in the world, churning out generation after generation of happy people. It seemed logical to turn to the book, The Danish Way of Parenting – A Guide to Raising the Happiest Children in the Worldby Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl, to find insight. Within this gem of a book are several Danish secrets, two of which I’m going to share with you here.
Our perceptions of our experiences greatly impact our happiness. We all have a filter through which we see the world around us. The perceptions of our parents, role models, and culture tend to become our own perceptions, which we unconsciously accept as truth. The language that we use reflects and shapes our perceptions. When we change our language, we can effectively change our perceptions, and this not only helps us relate more positively to children, but it gives our children a more positive and optimistic internal dialogue, which leads to increased happiness. Right now, we have the tremendous responsibility of framing how our children view themselves and the world, so it’s important to be intentional in giving them a positive filter.
One way to accomplish this is by being aware of limiting language. In The Danish Way, Alexander and Sandahl say, “Reframing with children is about the adult helping the child to shift focus from what they think they can’t do to what they can do. The adult helps the child see situations from different angles and gets them to focus on less negative outcomes or conclusions.” So, practically, when you hear your child use limiting language such as, “I’m no good at this” or “I can’t do it,” you direct her to focus on solutions with positive outcomes. You might say, “I understand that this math is difficult for you right now, but with practice, you can succeed.” Then, when you notice even the slightest improvement, you point out, “See, you can do it! You’re getting better with practice!”
“Danes, on the whole, use less limiting language and don’t tell children how they are or what they think they should do or feel in different situations… They tend to focus more on using supporting language, which leads children to understand the reasons for their emotions and actions,” say the book’s authors. What does supporting language look like? It looks like finding the positive in the situation. In fact, it looks a lot like being a light reflector. It’s holding onto the good, both in people and in situations, and helping children learn to hold onto it, too.
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