Few spectacles are more fantastic than watching a happy child. Their well-being and, above all, their ability to enjoy life and solve problems is essential. After all, these are the generations which, before we know it, will be in charge of the world. Since 1973, Denmark has been among the five happiest countries in the world and this, of course, begins with childhood. Although an index of happiness might be questionable, the fact is that countries in the top spots on the happiness scale all have high education levels and children grow up under very specific conditions.

The reasons behind the enormous numbers of happy children in Denmark were described by American psychologist, Jessica Joelle Alexander, and Danish therapist, Iben Dissing, in their book The Danish Way of Parenting. According to the authors, a happy child needs three basic conditions: the ability to be in touch with his or her feelings, confidence, and the ability to see the positive side of anything that happens. Among the characteristics of this kind of education is an avoidance of raised voices or any kind of physical violence in the education of children. The method also aims to reduce pressure and stress on infants while basing more work on the development of their self-esteem. 

Such conditions are met within the majority of Danish families, and they’re then transmitted from generation to generation. In Danish homes, an environment of well-being for children is crucial as is an appreciation for what they are, not what they could or should be. Danish schools encourage teamwork and the development of empathy, rather than competitiveness and individualism. This encourages a sense of community which extends outward to parents, who are often in contact for the resolution of doubts and concerns. This speaks not only of an educational method, but of a deeply evolved way of living in society.

The authors’ method includes six key ideas, which they have structured into the acronym of the word PARENT: Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No ultimatums, and Togetherness.

1. Play: Children are taught to play
This includes turning off the television or other electronic devices. Free play accentuates children’s skills and teaches them to overcome obstacles, to solve problems and to set clear goals (a lesson that will undoubtedly serve them later in life). Parents must allow little ones to play as they want and with those whom they want, to get their clothes dirty, to explore new places, and to discover the diversity of their world. It’s important not to intervene in problems that arise during games and to allow children to find ways to solve their own problems. A playing child who falls must be allowed to get back up.

2. Authenticity: Children need to be authentic
Children are taught to be genuine by removing self-deceit from the vocabulary and allowing them to know that they can talk about what they feel. It’s also important that they learn not to compare themselves with friends or family members of the same age. It’s better to teach a focus on originality and authenticity. Compliments don’t need to be automatic responses but should be rewarded for specific achievements. It’s important that children know that they can become experts in something based on effort and not on what they already are.

3. Reframing: Redefinition is a tool for improvement
Danes avoid limiting and negative language. They avoid telling children what to do in complicated and unpleasant situations, because it’s important to find a way to work things out. This includes the analysis of situations and the ability to see them from multiple angles (an important lesson for the rest of your life). So, children need to learn to find the positive side of any situation.

4. Empathy: It’s profoundly important
Teaching children to be empathetic is so important that it might decisively change their way of relating to others for the rest of their lives. It’s one of the essential keys to achieving healthy, effective relationships. But you have to find a balance: it’s important to guide kids and, at the same time, to let children discover what other people feel.

5. No ultimatums: Don’t use them
Instead of conditioning, (“If you do this, you’ll get that”), an obvious power play, make children understand why doing one thing is better than doing another. In short, let them rationalize to distinguish the difference. It’s better for parents to distinguish between the behavior and the child. Rather than making them feel guilty, speak, preferably with a third person about behavior and the consequences of particular behaviors. Relying on fear-based authority distances children from their parents and may cause parents to lose the respect of their children.

6. Togetherness: Unity and companionship
The Danish term hygge is perhaps one of Denmark’s secrets to being so happy. It refers to those moments in life that we enjoy alongside others we love. It’s a key to the happiness of children. In Denmark, after school, children have free evenings to play and spend time with their families and friends doing what they like. There’s a disconnection from responsibilities and any type of stress, for the simple enjoyment of free time.

 

 

 

Image: Creative Commons

Few spectacles are more fantastic than watching a happy child. Their well-being and, above all, their ability to enjoy life and solve problems is essential. After all, these are the generations which, before we know it, will be in charge of the world. Since 1973, Denmark has been among the five happiest countries in the world and this, of course, begins with childhood. Although an index of happiness might be questionable, the fact is that countries in the top spots on the happiness scale all have high education levels and children grow up under very specific conditions.

The reasons behind the enormous numbers of happy children in Denmark were described by American psychologist, Jessica Joelle Alexander, and Danish therapist, Iben Dissing, in their book The Danish Way of Parenting. According to the authors, a happy child needs three basic conditions: the ability to be in touch with his or her feelings, confidence, and the ability to see the positive side of anything that happens. Among the characteristics of this kind of education is an avoidance of raised voices or any kind of physical violence in the education of children. The method also aims to reduce pressure and stress on infants while basing more work on the development of their self-esteem. 

Such conditions are met within the majority of Danish families, and they’re then transmitted from generation to generation. In Danish homes, an environment of well-being for children is crucial as is an appreciation for what they are, not what they could or should be. Danish schools encourage teamwork and the development of empathy, rather than competitiveness and individualism. This encourages a sense of community which extends outward to parents, who are often in contact for the resolution of doubts and concerns. This speaks not only of an educational method, but of a deeply evolved way of living in society.

The authors’ method includes six key ideas, which they have structured into the acronym of the word PARENT: Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No ultimatums, and Togetherness.

1. Play: Children are taught to play
This includes turning off the television or other electronic devices. Free play accentuates children’s skills and teaches them to overcome obstacles, to solve problems and to set clear goals (a lesson that will undoubtedly serve them later in life). Parents must allow little ones to play as they want and with those whom they want, to get their clothes dirty, to explore new places, and to discover the diversity of their world. It’s important not to intervene in problems that arise during games and to allow children to find ways to solve their own problems. A playing child who falls must be allowed to get back up.

2. Authenticity: Children need to be authentic
Children are taught to be genuine by removing self-deceit from the vocabulary and allowing them to know that they can talk about what they feel. It’s also important that they learn not to compare themselves with friends or family members of the same age. It’s better to teach a focus on originality and authenticity. Compliments don’t need to be automatic responses but should be rewarded for specific achievements. It’s important that children know that they can become experts in something based on effort and not on what they already are.

3. Reframing: Redefinition is a tool for improvement
Danes avoid limiting and negative language. They avoid telling children what to do in complicated and unpleasant situations, because it’s important to find a way to work things out. This includes the analysis of situations and the ability to see them from multiple angles (an important lesson for the rest of your life). So, children need to learn to find the positive side of any situation.

4. Empathy: It’s profoundly important
Teaching children to be empathetic is so important that it might decisively change their way of relating to others for the rest of their lives. It’s one of the essential keys to achieving healthy, effective relationships. But you have to find a balance: it’s important to guide kids and, at the same time, to let children discover what other people feel.

5. No ultimatums: Don’t use them
Instead of conditioning, (“If you do this, you’ll get that”), an obvious power play, make children understand why doing one thing is better than doing another. In short, let them rationalize to distinguish the difference. It’s better for parents to distinguish between the behavior and the child. Rather than making them feel guilty, speak, preferably with a third person about behavior and the consequences of particular behaviors. Relying on fear-based authority distances children from their parents and may cause parents to lose the respect of their children.

6. Togetherness: Unity and companionship
The Danish term hygge is perhaps one of Denmark’s secrets to being so happy. It refers to those moments in life that we enjoy alongside others we love. It’s a key to the happiness of children. In Denmark, after school, children have free evenings to play and spend time with their families and friends doing what they like. There’s a disconnection from responsibilities and any type of stress, for the simple enjoyment of free time.

 

 

 

Image: Creative Commons