To some the Danish style of parenting might seem like a clichéd topic, but to me it’s a hand down turn on! I don’t claim to like it because I practice it, but I definitely have the inclination to do the same!
For those of you, who haven’t got much idea about Danish style of parenting, this blog can be a good beginning.
My interest stemmed from reading reports on something called “GHP” (Gross happiness product) as discussed and taken seriously in some nations, including Denmark. My research and reading further helped me to understand that Danish people are apparently the happiest in the world, despite living in dark and gloom (literally, as there’s no sun for more than half a year)!
I wanted to know what keeps them happy. Their weather is horrible and it isn’t like they are one financially prospering nation or it isn’t like they don’t have any national issues, so what defines or rather drives that happiness? In fact, my study further took me to their school education systems, which again showed that it scored pretty high in the global education map! Denmark and other Scandinavian nations apparently top the charts when it comes to school education system.
I was all the more interested to know how schools of such nations impart education successfully and effectively, especially when they actually permit basic schooling not before the age of six, with just a few hours of play every day! In fact, the schools, end by 2 p.m. and then afternoon is left for free play for children. When I went further deeper into the curriculum, it surprised me all the more because while I expected high fi concepts on certain skill based development, what I found was a curriculum emphasizing on teamwork and building empathy.
Individual development or skill building is not the focus point in their curriculum. There’s only room for team play, socializing and co-development.
This ‘holistic’ education cannot be possible for schools alone, sans co-operation from the families of the children. Therefore, this only meant that the perfect symbiosis was achieved only when both schools and families believed in similar values. In short, that ‘happiness’ quo has some strong roots at the childhood level for every individual. Both parents and a cohesive society together are keeping the satisfactory levels up, thereby generating that feeling of happiness and well being, despite all odds!
This is what led me to understand what Danish style of parenting actually does to children so that they transform into such satisfactory and happy adults! Let me elaborate on their acronym “PARENT” to help you grasp the concept, the Danish way!
- “P” is for play.
In one of my last blogs I had emphasized on free play. Well, the Danish parents are suckers for it. They allow a lot of free play time as they believe it helps in building a sense of self-worth in children. Not just self-worth, free play equips a child with a lot of other skills like social skills, coping skills, creative skills, the ability to soothe self and eventually self-confidence. Children through unstructured play, are able to cope with stress and turn out to be more resilient in life. Their ability to cope with others or a situation in free play, allows them to gain self-control. For eg. For the sake of keeping the game going, children will behave more appropriately and cohesively. That’s coping skill or self-control. And lastly, let’s not forget the quantum of learning that happens in process of free play!
- “A” is for authenticity.
In short, they like to see and teach black as black and not something else. The idea is to keep things as blatant and truthful to kids as possible, but maybe in a mild way. They don’t believe in keeping the children shielded from tragic or sad situations in life. They have a way of putting it across, but they make sure they do because protecting children from every type of unpleasant experience is likely to stunt their emotional growth and they don’t believe in that. They don’t mind reading storybooks like “The little Match girl” (where the protagonist dies in the end) or other tragic stories. They believe in letting the child know and understand every kind of human feeling and expression. Having said that, it also means that they don’t indulge in false appreciation. They don’t believe in “you are a smart boy/girl” comment. They like the idea of appreciating the effort/process rather than some innate ability.
- “R” stands for Reframing.
Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Well, this proverb is something that Danes are synonymous with. To them perception is everything and they focus on the positive aspect of every negative situation. For instance, the sight of a baby perambulator with a baby outside, all alone, can be a horrible idea to many. While people can state as “Who’s watching the baby?” the Danes have a brighter and chirpier take on this as “Everybody’s watching the baby!” Deliberately interpreting things in the bright light, not just improves cognitive control over a situation but also builds trust. It’s not that they are denying negativity but they just consciously practice “realistic optimism”, which I think makes certain negative situations so much easier and better to handle.
- “E” is for empathy.
Socializing becomes easy with empathy, as with latter one gains the ability to recognize and associate with feelings in others. In Denmark, there are national programs, which teach children empathy and other cultural and linguistic practices. The idea behind such programs is to encourage and promote emotional intelligence in children. After all, it’s the crux behind social skills and further, staying happy in life ahead.
- “N” is for no ultimatums.
This is something I still have to master. Well as per the Danes, power struggles are no-win situations and have an opposite effect on children. “My way or highway” often leads in making children rebellious and emotionally volatile rather than disciplined. To the Danes, communication and respect is the basic foundation for problem solving rather than the authoritarian way. Misbehavior of kids is often redirected with proper guidance and not punishment.
- “T” is for togetherness.
Families which stay and grow together, learn and stay together. No it isn’t KJo’s new movie tagline. It’s what the Danes call “Hygge” or staying cozy around together. For this, I highly recommend a book called “The little book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the “The Happiness Research Institute”, Copenhagen. It’s a little feel good book for you and if you really are a home bound person, it might do more good to you than anybody! They do consciously plan and do things together to improve that quality family time. The Danes take out time for their families and kids consciously and do a lot of “Hygge” than any other nation. And all this reflects on their happy faces.
As parents, we are individuals first, all wired in a certain way (you can blame that on our default settings). This programming, by way of action and reaction, stems from our own childhood experiences with our immediate family and surroundings. Hence, unlearning all that will definitely take time, but conscious parenting can help us create a better set of default settings for our children, so maybe learning and doing a few things consciously like the Danes can help.
As a parent, the only wish I have, is to see my child happy. Now again, “happiness” is s state of mind and having wished that, I simply mean that I wish to enable my child to stay satisfied and cheerful in every age and stage of life, despite all odds. If he is able to master that, my job is done! So until and unless that happens, I’ll continue to love the Danes and their style of parenting for sure!