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The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids Paperback – August 9, 2016
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“An emotionally smart, gem of a book. The Danish Way offers a shining alternative to high-stress modern parenting, and families from New Delhi to New York will shout with joy. Forget the pursuit of happiness, this book gets to the authentic roots of family happiness. I guess I'm Danish.”
--Heather Shumaker, author of It's OK Not to Share and It's OK to Go Up the Slide
"Everyone around the globe can gain something from the valuable wisdom found in this book. Concepts such as reframing and hygge prove useful to families from all cultures. It's wonderful to see that Danish parenting has so much in common with Positive Parenting! I highly recommend this book!"
--Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide
"With a profound understanding of the positive impact that empathy and connectedness bring to parenting, The Danish Way empowers parents across the globe to check their own default settings and consider the whole child. Their take on the importance of free play is a breath of fresh air in a time when young children are over-scheduled and under stress. Highly recommended for parents everywhere."
--Katie Hurley, LCSW, author of The Happy Kid Handbook
"Having studied the the reasons behind the Danish happiness model for years. I found this book to be a clear-sighted, very useful and smart guide on how to improve your own happiness level as a parent and how to foster happier children the Danish way. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to give themselves and/or their children the best chances of a happy life."
--Malene Rydahl, keynote speaker and Goodwill ambassador of Copenhagen
“I believe in free play. I read this amazing parenting book called The Danish Way of Parenting, which talks so much about free play and how it really develops their mind."
--Kristen Bell, on Parents.com
About the Author
Jessica Alexander is an American columnist and mom living in Europe, with her Danish husband and kids.
Iben Dissing Sandahl is a licensed psychotherapist and family counselor working for many years in her private practice outside Copenhagen, Denmark. Learn more at: thedanishway.com.
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The Danish Way of Parenting encourages us to take a long view in children's development, and this can allow us to see our role as parents in a new way. For example, the authors claim that in Denmark there is no such thing as the "Terrible Twos." Of course two-year-olds in Denmark are not some placid freaks of nature, but the Danes call this step in children's development the "Boundary Age," and don't see it as something to dread or get upset about. In other words, while we in US tend to see a two-year old at a defiant, willful stage that we must deal with by establishing our authority, the Danes see this age as the time when children start growing and experimenting to find out about the world and their abilities. Part of that experimentation involves the child learning where his boundaries are. No one argues that the child should get his way through temper tantrums, but it's easier not to overreact to children's behavior if we don't frame it as a direct challenge to our authority, but instead see it as an attempt to find out where their boundaries are.
Much of the Danish way to parent seems to depend more on both parents being more involved in hands on parenting than we usually see in the United States. And their culture seems to encourage more interaction with the extended family than ours does, with their socializing appearing to be more child centered than ours. Those sorts of conditions require a larger number of people being on the same page to support children, and may not be useful as a model here. But the general way Danes see children's development and their relationship to their children might shed a lot of light on child rearing practices we can, and perhaps should, change.
First, some of the way that she writes is a little bit annoying at times. She keeps reminding the reader that they are the happiest people so everything they do must be right. I remember watching a documentary or something on the fact that Danes are the happiest people in the world, and when several Danes were told that by the interviewer, they responded first with surprise and then said that the reason was probably because they had low expectations. It is nonetheless a good read and this little bit was easy to skim over.
The second reason I cannot give it 5 stars is that the chapter on no ultimatums sort of lost me. I wish I would have skipped it, actually, because it tainted how much I loved the rest of the book. She seems to assume that all children act rationally and can be reasoned with all the time and if you parent them with authority you will eventually resort to what she seems to consider the American thing to do i.e. to parent with "fear" and beat your children or scream at them. Balderdash, all. You can parent with authority and at the same time respect them, not beat your kids or make them fear you.
Ultimately, it is worth the read and I will recommend it to friends. You might like the no ultimatums parenting--it might work for your parenting style and you might have extremely reasonable kids, or if you think it might annoy you and ruin the book for you, tear that chapter out and read a discipline book by Ray Guarendi.