🇩🇰 The Danish Way of Parenting

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How should we raise our children to be happy, successful and contribute to society?

We have become so fixated on keeping our children busy.

I’ve just finished reading The Danish Way of Parenting (Alexander and Sandahl, 2017), offering insight into why the Danes are continually voted, the happiest people in the world!

How should we parent/teach our children in the UK?

I’ve touched the book for two reasons. One, as a parent and secondly, as an educator working in various contexts, understanding ‘what works best’ for developing our young people to become happy, healthy and productive contributors to society.

Inside the book are some interesting ideas for managing behaviour that teachers and parents can use. In terms of developing a purposeful script, strategies focus in on the \behaviour event’ rather than the emotions.

A range of techniques and strategies to help manage behaviour in the classroom through positive reinforcement and providing structure. It also looks at creating an environment where children feel safe and secure to learn without feeling anxious or stressed.

At this point, there’s not much difference to what we aim to achieve in the UK. However, other book sections that interested me included developing mindset, reducing suffering, and managing stress and anxiety. All topics we are all managing post-pandemic.

Play well …

Play is a strong feature of Danish schooling for the healthy development of children’s learning. I’m not sure if this process is structured or unstructured. I think it could be the former. (Let me know in the comments.)

There’s an interesting fact that a carpenter in Denmark created Lego, or “leg godt”, meaning ‘play well’, and that Kompan is the world’s leader in indoor and outdoor playground supplies. If you are a parent or have taken a young child to a local playground, you will likely have interacted with some of their products.

There is also a reference to locus of control; the degree to which people believe that they, as opposed to external forces, have control over the outcome of events in their lives (Rotter, 1954).

 Facts about Danish schooling

Some facts about Danish education include:

  1. There are nine-to-ten years of compulsory education.
  2. Children start formal schooling at six years old
  3. Children are taught in groups, in a system that tries to avoid class rankings and formal tests.
  4. Teachers are called by their first name.
  5. There is an emphasis on problem-solving, not memorisation.
  6. Danish educational institutions govern themselves.
  7. Higher education is free, as it is in my birthplace, Scotland.
  8. School finishes at 2 PM, and,
  9. There is a strong promotion to play.

What is it like to be a British parent?

Being a British parent is a unique experience that comes with its own set of rewards and challenges. I suspect, like any country, there are positive and negative examples.

From the perspective of an individual, we can assume all parents want to raise their children with good values, such as respect and kindness. To provide a safe environment where children can learn, grow, and explore their interests, developing their sense of identity and self-confidence. However, we do know this is not the case. Otherwise, we wouldn’t live in a society with child abuse happening in the home, sexual abuse in our schools, or grooming and other extreme possibilities happening via social media.

One critique from The Danish Way of Parenting is the assumption that, as parents, we must keep our children busy. From a young age, at the weekends, many parents take their children to different clubs and activities to establish what they enjoy, providing experiences at a cost. Access to extracurricular activities, such as sports and music, helps them develop their skills and interests. Something slowly eroding in our English schools …

When something sticks from our parental endeavours, such as weekend football, we can see how we have established that keeping our children busy is normal. Compare this to when you or I grew up in the 70s or 80s?

Playing with marbles, reading a book or dealing with boredom, having to ‘think outside of the box’ because we didn’t have a Wi-Fi connection or a device to entertain us. Instead, we played, building assault courses in our bedrooms and dens, or constructed tower blocks from Lego bricks for height and destruction.

British discipline

Regarding discipline, British parents have a mixed approach, to say the least.

In some of the best scenarios, we try to explain our expectations to our children, without resorting to physical punishment. I’m sure I am not alone in saying I was ‘beat with a stick’ growing up before corporal punishment was banned. Smacking your child is now banned in the UK, and it was only recently made law in 2020!

Generally, parents should believe in setting boundaries and enforcing them when necessary. Still, we also understand the importance of providing our children with the freedom to make their own decisions when the time is right.

In our schools, behaviour needs significant improvement, and almost every state school teacher will tell you how difficult behaviour can be and how it often gets in the way of learning. This is despite the research suggesting that behaviour is no better or worse in our schools than it was a decade ago (EEF, 2019), which leaves all teachers with a bit of a conundrum.

Above all, British parents – and teachers – strive to provide a loving and supportive home and school environment for all children, and I mean everyone. One size doesn’t fit all, and parenting still, despite billions of people doing it, is largely done without any formal training …

The challenge is ‘How do we achieve better parenting and behaviour in our schools?’ (in an ever-complex society) when Britain is currently going through an identity crisis …

 Find out more: thedanishway.com/about-book


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