Parenting Tips from These Dutch Moms Could Help You Raise Happier Kids

posted: 01/18/17
by: Blythe Copeland
Happy girl with father

Rating a child's happiness isn't an exact science, but in 2013 UNICEF studied kids in 30 of the world's countries to find out where children do best in five categories -- material wellbeing, health and safety, education, behaviors and risks, and housing and environment. The winner: Kids in the Netherlands, who ranked in the top five for each category and led in both education and behaviors and risks.

As Amsterdam moms Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison write in The Telegraph the rest of the world could take a few lessons from the Dutch style of parenting: A laid-back, hands-off approach that gives kids age-appropriate freedom, encourages their independence, and doesn't put too much emphasis on success.

"[Parents] understand that achievement doesn't necessarily lead to happiness," they write, "but that happiness can cultivate achievement. The Dutch have reined in the anxiety, stress, and expectations of modern-day parenting, redefining the meaning of success and well-being. For them, success starts with happiness -- that of their children and themselves."

Acosta and Hutchison identify some of the key points of Dutch parenting. "Stress-free schooling," allows kids to learn at their own pace: They're not expected to read until age 6 or 7, and don't have homework until they're older. Parental happiness, including a 29-hour workweek, parents who set aside time for themselves, and dads who evenly split parenting and household duties, is another important element ("Happy parents have happy kids," they write). Dutch parents focus their discipline efforts on teaching "socially appropriate behavior" -- not punishments -- and encourage kids to stand up for themselves. Kids play outside in any kind of weather, ride their bikes to school, and go to the park without their parents, but start their day with a family breakfast: "The Dutch are champions of breakfast time and seem to be happier and healthier because of it. But the real point is that they put as much value on the idea of starting the day together around the breakfast table, a calming and bonding experience for all the family."

A more liberal culture and simple lifestyle also contribute to happier kids (and teenagers who aren't as rebellious), which leads to adults who are "pragmatic and confident, unhampered by anxieties about status." All of which means that doing less, not more, for your kids just might be better for all of you in the long run.

Via TreeHugger