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The Danish Way of Parenting - Book Review

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by KJ (subscribe)
Published September 7th 2016
Parenting principles from the happiest people in the world

There are plenty of parenting books around these days, however The Danish Way of Parenting caught my eye, as I'd previously read about how the Danes continually rank highly in the World Happiness Report, and was interested to learn how they raise their children, and the things they do differently.

The book uses the acronym, PARENT to list the six main principles of Danish parenting.
These are:

Each chapter focusses on one of the six principles, with anecdotes, examples and information, along with information about research and studies that support each principle.

Chapter 2: Play
This chapter discusses the importance of unstructured play, and how it can help children develop self-confidence, handle stress better, and reduce anxiety. The authors suggest that it's important to let children engage in "free play", as opposed to just organised activities, and they discuss research which supports childhood play.

They also recommend that parents try not to intervene too quickly, as "sometimes it is learning how to deal with the more difficult children that provides them the biggest lessons in self-control and resilience" (p. 27)

Chapter 3: Authenticity
This chapter is about embracing and accepting all emotions (both 'good' and 'bad'), the importance of honesty, praise (and avoiding praise as the default response), and tips on helping children develop a growth mind-set (as opposed to a fixed mind-set).

Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish writer, wrote many fairy tales, however the authors point out that most of his original stories didn't have a fairy-tale ending, and were in fact tragedies, which were "tailored to fit our cultural ideal of how things should be" (p. 33).

The authors also mention how Danish people often enjoy films that are sad or tragic, and quite different to Hollywood films which generally have a happy or "fairy-tale" ending.

As the authors write, "Danes believe that tragedies and upsetting events are things we should talk about too. We learn more about character from our sufferings than from our successes; therefore, it's important to examine all parts of life. This is more authentic, and it creates empathy and a deeper respect for humanity" (p. 33)

Chapter 4: Reframing.
I really liked this chapter, particularly because it was quite humorous, and that was one of the points - that using humour can help reframe, as per the example below:

'Reframing' is about looking at things in a different way. As the authors write, "...what if we could see the truth in a new way? What if we could take the truth as we see it and put it into a new mental frame - a broader, more open-minded frame - and hang it back on the wall? If we looked at that picture we call "the truth" again, how would we see it?" (p. 50)

The authors point out that for Danish people, reframing isn't about being over-the-top with positivity, ignoring negative realities, or pretending negativity doesn't exist.

"[Danes] just point out in a rather matter-of-fact way that another side also exists that you may never have even considered thinking about...Danes are what psychologists call "realistic optimists""(p. 53)

This chapter also includes a list of tips for reframing, including using humour, using less limiting language, separating the actions from the person, and paying attention to negativity.

Chapter 5: Empathy
This chapter discusses the importance of empathy, how children develop empathy (and how the household they grow up in can affect their ability to practice empathy), the Danish way of teaching empathy, and tips for empathy.

Chapter 6: No Ultimatums
In this chapter, the authors discuss the four parenting styles (Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive and Uninvolved), spanking, techniques Danish parents use for difficult behaviour, avoiding power struggles, and a list of tips for no ultimatums.

Chapter 7: Togetherness and Hygge
This was perhaps my favourite chapter. The concept of Hygge has been suggested as one of the main reasons behind the happiness of the Danish people. The literal translation is "to cozy around together" (p. 123), and it refers to the act of creating a warm, cozy atmosphere to spend time in each other's company. It's an idea that's starting to gain popularity outside of Denmark, with several books on the topic due to be published later this year.

The book includes a 'Hygge Oath' on pages 141-142, which outlines a simple way for families to create Hygge.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and although there were quite a few things mentioned in the book that I already have in place and practice with my children, I also learnt a few new things that I will be incorporating into our lives.

I would recommend this book for parents/guardians, grandparents, or anyone who is involved in the care of children.

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Cost: RRP $29.99
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