Usually, the start of a new year has a lot of people thinking about goals, new projects and resolutions. Generally speaking, how to make this year even better than the last. Wouldn’t this also include how to create a happier environment ?
This had me thinking about an audiobook that I discovered a few months ago about raising happy kids. As a young mom, the challenge of raising children is real, even more when they are under the age of 5. So if this can help me, I hope that it can also inspire you in raising happy and confident children.
If you’ve missed it, here is another great book that I’ve talked about in a previous post about parenting.
Why is this book interesting ?!
Did you know that Denmark was voted the happiest place in the world since 1943 !!! So maybe they are doing some things right with their kids that we can also learn and apply in our lives.
As any parent knows, parenting is one of the most challenging things. So when I heard raved reviews about this parenting book on what the happiest people in the world do to raise confident and happy kids, I was very intrigued.
The book : « The Danish Way of Parenting »
by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl
Here are some of my favorite passages from the book on how Danish people raise happy respectful and capable kids.
The Danish Way:
« Play is serious learning for children. »
Parents often fear kids will get hurt, so we prevent them from playing this and that, but this is when they learn and have the most potential for growth. So let them be kids !
Why is it so important ?
The Danish way explains that « Free play teaches kids to be resilient and to cope with stress. It helps prevents anxiety and depression. » This will be very beneficial for them later in life.
They need space to build their own trust and self-esteem. If they have cheerleaders by their side at all times, they will not learn to develop their own inner drive.
My partner always tells me, let Sasha (my son) do it by himself, stop trying to help him if he falls after the first try. For example, trying to get on a chair or going up a ladder at the park by himself (with me standing behind him…just in case). He keeps telling me, let him learn that if he falls, it is okay, he only has to get up and try again.
Falling is not a disappointment,
but failing to try again is and does not build a childs self-esteem.
« Play is crucial for learning how to cope with stress » and how much stress they can deal with later in life.
I remember playing these 2 games non-stop every time I visited friends when I was younger. Funny thing is that it became stressful trying to find the best hiding spot in 30 seconds, shhhhhh hurry, hurry! Oh those were the days before Iphones and Ipad games. The thing we did not realize is that…the more a child plays, the more his brain becomes accustomed to dealing with stress.
Play helps children learn to adapt and to approach problems in a more flexible way.
For example : in a playground children love to test dangerous situations jumping, climbing, swinging…this is the childs way of testing what is the right dose and how to manage it.
Have you ever heard of « The Healthy Play Movement »?
These are Danish ways of how to use play with your kids.
- Turn off any electrical devices as they inhibit creativity.
- Use various materials and textures that can stimulate a child during play.
- Use art supplies.
- Explore the outdoors.
- Mix children of different ages.
- Let them play freely without specific toys. It helps them to develop their imagination with limited ressources.
- Let them play alone.
- Create obstacle courses.
- Get other parents involved so more children can play freely together.
- Avoid intervening too quickly. Let them learn to deal with difficult children. (You can always intervene after a few minutes.)
The Danish way :
Parenting with authenticity.
« Guiding children to be courageously true to themselves and others, emotional honesty, not perfection is what children truly need from their parents. »
Children are great observers and will know if you are sad, angry, happy…. They need to know that it is okay to feel different emotions, not just the happy ones.
For example : instead of saying « stop crying or don’t cry» you may explain that you understand he is sad and that is okay to cry then follow with why he is crying based on his prior behavior.
What surprised me is that whenever I was really tired or angry, basically not my usual self, Sasha (my then 18 month old son) would come over and cuddle me or sit next to me and give me a kiss. Obviously he felt my emotions and it was his way of letting me know that he understood and wanted to help me feel better. Isn’t it adorable! So yes, they are smart and can feel it to at that age.
The Danish way :
Be humble. Try not to overload your child with compliments.
Here is an example from the book that I absolutely loved !
« If a Danish child scribbles a drawing very quickly, gives it to their parent, the Danish parent probably wouldn’t say : wow, great job, you’re such a good artist !! She is more likely to ask about the drawing itself : « what is it ? what were you thinking about when you drew this ? Why did you use those colors ? OR perhaps say thank you if it was a gift. »
Focusing on the task rather than over complimenting the child is a more Danish approach. Focusing on the work involved teaches humility.
Here is another favorite Danish parenting tip:
Fixed mindset (a child being told that he/she is naturally intelligent might believe that effort means they are not smart)
Growth mindset (telling a child that their intelligence can be developed with work and education, will see effort as a positive thing)
With a fixed mindset child, during difficult tasks, they start losing confidence and enjoyment when they are struggling with a problem.
With a growth mindset child, during difficult tasks, effort, strategy or process praise fosters motivation and resilience. This helps to develop their self-esteem.
The Danish way :
Danish people are categorized as realistic optimist.
– they focus on the bigger picture
– they reframe their language (ex : not limiting oneself to love/hate or i can/i can’t vocabulary)
All change involves a change in language.
A problem is only a problem only if it is referred to it as a problem. Allan Holmgren
How reframing works with children ?
It is helping to shift the focus to what they think they can’t do, to what they think they can do. It is helping them to see situations from different angles and focusing more on the things they do like.
The Danish way :
Empathy. Caring about others happiness.
Young kids learn empathy through the tone of voice, eye contact and facial expressions of adults.
Don’t avoid difficult or tragic events with your child, it helps to create empathy and to practice gratitude when things are good.
In other words, here is a quick recap to follow the Danish way of parenting happier kids !
P : play = creates happier better adjusted and creative adults
A : authenticity = honesty and praise creates a growth mindset
R : reframing a childs mind
E : empathy = understanding others makes for happier children & adults
N : no ultimatums = avoiding power struggles creates trusts
T : togetherness = creating a strong social network is important for children
**Please note that the previous informations were taken from my favorite parts of the book, “The Danish way of Parenting”. If you are interested, you can read or listen to the book for the full version.
Color your style, color your food, color your life!