7 keys to Parenting the danish way

As new parents, it often feels like we’re always living in the moment, whether we’re trying to figure out how to get through the long nights with a new baby, master the art of the swaddle to soothe a fussy baby or keep breastfeeding even while traveling. But that time goes by fast, and pretty soon your newborn will turn into a toddler (if you can believe it!). If you think that people in Denmark, consistently voted one of the happiest countries in the world, are onto something, take a closer look at how Danish parents raise their kids. Jessica Joelle Alexander, an American mom married to a Dane, and Iben Dissing Sandahl, a Danish psychotherapist, teamed up to help American families learn more from Danish parents in their book The Danish Way of ParentingScroll on for the seven Danish parenting tips they shared with us.

Tips for Parenting in a Danish Style

1. Let your child play. One of the main things that Danish parents do is let their children play freely. Instead of parent-directed activities, let them enjoy playtime on their own. “Try to get them outside into nature and explore with a group of kids of different ages. Child-led play builds self-esteem, plus they learn so much from other kids too,” says Jessica. Iben suggests taking your little ones to the beach and “letting your children explore to see what comes naturally.”

2. Be honest with your children. As adults, it can be easy to sugarcoat things for our kids. “Being honest with children is about telling them what you really think — good or bad,” says Jessica. For example, if your kid presents you with a painting, instead of overpraising by saying, “You’re such an amazing artist,” promote further discussion by asking why they chose those particular colors.

Iben mentions how we often have difficulty dealing with our child when they’re angry, aggressive or anxious, but helping them learn about these emotions (like discussing the movie Inside Out) can be powerful. “Read good children’s books together. Good books and honest conversations give children more words to discuss their lives,” says Iben.

3. Promote togetherness. Danes regularly practice “hygge,” a time of coziness with friends and family. It’s a daily part of life in Denmark. For parents, this involves time together with their children that encourages the whole family working together, like a scavenger hunt or organizing a tournament. It can also be something as simple as playing a game together. For fun ideas to craft together with your kiddos, here are some easy DIY projects.

4. Reframe negative situations. Reframing is an invaluable skill to teach your children. When your child has a complaint, discuss the issue with them. “It’s not about seeing life through rose-colored glasses,” says Jessica. “It’s about listening for the positive details in your child’s stories and helping them focus on those details.” If your child whines that they hate school, bring up the art class that they loved. Or if they think they’re awful at soccer, talk about a week that they felt they played well. “Help your child focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t,” says Jessica.

For the last two rules please check the article out at Brit & Co.


Jessica Joelle Alexander

Jessica Joelle Alexander is a bestselling author, Danish parenting expert, columnist, speaker, and cultural researcher. Her work has been featured in TIME, The Atlantic, Salon, NPR, Huffington Post, NY Times and many more. She is the author of 3 books, gives talks and workshops globally, and researches and writes for UC Berkeley's Towards Belonging Institute

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