7 Things I learn from ’The Danish Way of Parenting’

BD31C22D-B42A-42A4-B294-F6E9D26A83F7Do you have any kid or niece or nephew? I have 2 precious boys and raising them is the most challenging job in the world for me. I thought so many times why nobody has ever warned me about how patient you must be to grow a person. As parents, we always seek the best and right way to groom our children to be one fine/ normal/ perfect (if possible) adult. In this world of child raising, I read a lot of parenting book (well I really need to) and I found this book ‘The Danish Way of Parenting’ and was very much interested. The reason is I heard that the Dane is one of the happiest people in the world according to the World Happiness Report. Check out here if you now wonder which country are the top ten happiest countries in the world. Denmark hangs in the top rank always so there must be some big secrets in their child-raising approach considering a happy adult is cultivated more or less from a happy child. So it is very fortunate that the co-authors — Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl — wrote this book and share their secrets to the world. Jessica is an American mom married to a Dane; Iben is a Danish family psychotherapist who also a mama of 2 girls. They are credible references for me. The insight from this book is useful for all parents who — if you are like me — are wondering all the time if we do it all wrong and what is the mistake that causes our kids to behave this ’kind of a headache’ way?

So here are 7 things I learn from ‘The Danish Way of Parenting’ which I want to share with you. Some of them are a new perspective to me, some of them are what we may already know but really worth to focus and keep reminding ourselves.

  1. Building a child’s empathy is important. The author states ”The Dane has always had a fundamental belief that caring about other’s happiness is crucial for their own happiness”. What would our world look like if our kids grow up to be so smart and innovative but have no empathy? It would be like living in a desert where everyone is thirsty for ”care” I guess. One of the approaches is ’to help the child see other’s emotion without judgment’. It’s not wrong to be angry or sad or nervous, let them learn to observe and figure out the cause of those emotions. One easiest way to implement this idea is to read them books and teach them thru it. I like to read a little rabbit story ”When I feeling” series by Trace Moroney to my son. Bit by bit he learns to know what each feeling is and getting to understand when experiencing it by himself.
  2. The Growth mindset. You may have heard about it in the last few years about how you (as an adult) should develop the growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. Simply put, the growth mindset is what will push us through our life without giving up midway. It is some internal power that keeps us learning and working toward our goal. This is beneficial if built from a young age. The book suggests how you can raise a child with a growth mindset by being careful of what you say to your kids such as when you praise them. When come to praising, The Dane focus on praising the process, not the outcome. They praise kid’s effort, engagement, perseverance, and other actions.  The book states that ”Those (kids) who have been encouraged to focus on their efforts rather than on their intelligence see the effort as a positive thing. It sparks their intelligence and causes it to grow.” So instead of just saying ”oh you are so smart!” simply change to ”I like when you try xxxx” or  ”you work really hard so xxx is done, so proud of you”. Yes I know it’s harder but practice makes perfect and most of all it’s worth the result.
  3. You don’t have to play with your child. What ?!?! Is this a parenting hack I’ve never heard before? The Dane believes that children do not need adult-led play. What important is a ’free play’ which they put definition as “play in which they (kids) are left to their own devices, with a friend or alone, to play exactly as they see fit, for as long as they want.” I have to admit that this sounds wonderful and relaxing to me. I imagine sipping my cup of tea, reading books while my children play on their own….sigh…The rationalization behind this is as the author states “children fundamentally need space and trust to allow them to master things by themselves, to make and solve their own problems. This creates genuine self-esteem and self-reliance because it comes from the child’s own internal cheerleader, not from someone else.” Well, it’s not that you don’t have to play with your kids anymore. It’s just when they play on their own or with their friends now you don’t have to worry if you should always participate or intervene. For me now I can Just. Let. them. play….and forget the guilt.
  4. Accepting your child’s feeling, even kids have a bad day. Well, I have never looked that way before. In the past, when my kid started to be unreasonable, my mind just went straight to think why…why…why in the world they acted like this? (ummm yes I’m not that kind of a calm mom). Sometimes we just want our kids to behave because obviously it’s bedtime (parents also need sleep), it’s a long ride in the car (we are all tired), it’s in front of our in-laws and relatives and friends (we want our kids to look adorable). As you know our kid’s emotion does not always align with our expectation. Reading the book and think about “accepting” their feelings changes me when the same situation happen. Now I can see more the cause of my child’s behaviors such as he is unusually upset because it has been a long car ride and it’s really not designed for 4 years old. Or today he didn’t have his nap and he is tired from a long day. The book says ”If you see them (children) as innocent and doing exactly what they are programmed to do, you are much more likely to react by nurturing and forgiving them”. And yes I did. Later when I look it that way, I feel more relaxed and said to myself ‘umm he doesn’t want to act like that but he just can’t stop oh…my poor baby’.  Another thought from the book that is so true is “Patience is much more easily summoned when one sees the harmless intentions and goodness in an otherwise annoying child.”  I do really need help about increasing the patience level so this works for me and I hope for you.
  5. Calm begets calm. Have you ever been unable to control yourself and finally yell at your kids? I have more than one time (okay more than 5). I believe every parent have experienced tantrums. I regard it as the ultimate test of patience level for an adult. It is the time when this 3 or 4-year-old keep challenging you and won’t let go and at some point, you lose it. The book shares the idea of calm begets calm, good begets good and how children take us as a role model. After all, I do think it is unfair to expect our kids to control themselves while we can’t. And you know that the same thing we did to our kids will bounce right back to us in the near future. So yes, again it’s hard but I say we have to breathe and breath (take me 30 deep breath) and remain calm, use humor is also very helping. Going mad at your kids is BAD for your future self, that what I keep in mind now.
  6. Know what makes you snap. Is it lacking sleep, no exercise or zero downtime? (All of them for me) I did observe myself if I go exercise regularly, my patience is easier summoned and my humor works just fine when my kids go unreasonable. If I have no private time for a whole week, I then could easily break down. So the book suggests us to observe ourselves and know what is the trigger point. Once we know it, learn how to stop or avoid them. My personal theory is to go ahead and spend time for ourselves. It’s okay that you take care of your health, your mind before taking care of others. Exercising is a great help to fill yourself a good mood. Carve some time for exercising and I believe you will find your (busy) time with family is much happier.
  7. Sad stories teach. I always protect my child from a sad or terrible story whether it is a real story or just a fiction. Of course, I want them to see the world as a beautiful place to live. However, the book reminds me that life is not an always happy ending story (we all adults knows that) and somehow you might want to prep your kids to that too. Sugar coating everything can mislead them when they are out in the social well…in life and find out that not all the people are nice and kind. Things can turn out unexpectedly. If the children have learned this fact little by little along their journey, when they experience it, it wouldn’t be such a major surprise. No, they did not mean we are to tell the kids the horrible things and scare them. They mean to tell the kids the real story. The book mentioned how Danish children learn sad stories from the little mermaid. The story was originally written by Danish poet which version that the mermaid did not get to marry the prince and turn into sea foam. It teaches them a little that ‘look kids you might not get what you want even though you sacrifice your valuable things (mermaid beautiful voice in this case)….When the expectation is not high, the disappointment level will then follow the line.

After all, the ultimate goal for our children (or at least mine) is for them to be peaceful and content with their life when they fly out from our loving nest. To learn the best practice around the world is always helpful. Hope you enjoy reading and cheers to parenting!

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