The Secret To Happiness in Denmark?

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The people from Denmark have consistently been voted among the happiest in the world for several decades. As recently as 2013 they were voted number one by the World Happiness Report.

While there are likely several explanations, The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide to Raising the Happiest Children in the World by Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl, gives an eye-opening look at Danish parenting and life philosophy that appears to yield some pretty powerful results.

The Danish Way of parenting lays out the groundwork for how to raise happy kids, who go on to raise their own happy kids and the cycles repeats itself naturally. The authors use an easy to remember acronym, PARENT, to desribe this approach.

Alexander provides some brief insight into this approach in an article in Mother magazine

  • Play –  considered one of the most important things a kid can do (and learn from), even into high school.
  • Authenticity – Danes ‘keep it real.’ Everything doesn’t have to have a happy ending. Reading books that deal with hard topics helps parents cover a wide range of emotions with their children and this has been proven to improve their empathy skills
  • Reframing –  a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives (from Wikipedia)
  • Empathy – Danes actively teach empathy in school, starting in pre-school. It is as important as teaching Math or English.
  • No ultimatums –  spanking became illegal in 1984 in Denmark. Danes use a diplomatic, avoiding ultimatums approach. As a result, they are a very non-violent culture.
  • Togetherness, or hygge – one of their highest and most important values as a cultural norm. That is: Cozy time where the focus is ‘we’ not ‘me.’

It sounds like a wonderful approach, and I know my wife is excited to read the book, since she is a big proponent of teaching empathy to her pre-school students, as well as the importance of play and non-violence.

I think I may read the book as well, since research on happiness is one of my favorite subjects to read about.

With the United States ranked 15th in the latest World Happiness Report, perhaps we could all benefit from reading the book…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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