“I just want him to be happy!”, how many times have you as a parent thought that about your child? From a parenting perspective, “happiness” is the greatest measure of success. Every single day we are a faced with opportunities to thoroughly screw up our kids, but at the end of the day, if they go to bed happy we can chalk it up as a success. All we ever want is to raise happy and confident children.
Danes are reportedly the “happiest people in the world,” which is intriguing to me, as a Dane, as a parent and simply as a human. What is it the Danes are doing SO differently from us Americans? How can an entire country walk around in a state of happiness euphoria? I grew up there, I lived it – it flowed through my veins, and I have to admit – it is a very happy place to raise your children.Raise #happy and #confident children, the #Danish way. #Denmark is onto something special! Click To Tweet
I recently had the opportunity to interview Iben Sandahl, one of the authors of “The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World“. I wanted to know specifically what the Danes are doing to raise confident children. Iben’s answers resonated with the Dane in me, and they gave me food for thought as an American parent.
Confidence in kids: Confidence is a big driver of a lot of positive (and negative) thoughts in any person, but especially in children. One of our boys, for some reason, has a much lower confidence than his other brothers. I see how this affects him, and I want nothing more than to help him overcome this hurdle.
What can we learn from the Danish way of parenting with regard to confidence in kids?
Danes instill confidence by not being too overbearing. They trust children to learn to trust themselves and this is where confidence is born. Trusting and believing in your own abilities for real. Not because you have a lot of trophies or money or grades to prove you are confident. Confidence is how you truly feel inside.
What are the Danes doing so to instill and boost their children’s confidence?
- One way is by not over praising them. Danes don’t spend a lot of time saying how wonderful a child is but rather, focus more on the effort or the work involved. Thus, a child feels like they can do things if they work at it. They don’t get insecure from having a label to live up to.
- In American, for example, research shows the words “smart” “talented” or “gifted” are used to describe children a lot! This is a desirable cultural norm-to have a smart or talented child. But research also shows that these words can create anxiety in children because they feel if they have to live up to these labels. If they find something they feel they have to try hard at they can more easily give up because they are afraid it might mean they are not smart.
- Telling a child they can master something if they try, instead of saying that they are a master already gives a very different message to a child. This is one way to install confidence and inner drive.
In your opinion, what should American parents do more (or less) of to help their children’s confidence and self-image?
- More free play definitely.
- Less over-praising. Focus on the effort rather than saying “you are so talented”. Everyone has talents.
- We feel it is important to acknowledge that while a child may be very smart at one thing, they may be less capable at other things. And that’s ok.
- We want them to have confidence in learning and a desire to learn. To be curious to learn from others and see what else life has to teach them. This is different because it comes from within not for an external reward like a grade, praise or a trophy, and that is real confidence.
American’s put a lot of emphasis on gender, also in their parenting. What can American parents learn from the Danish way?
- We think boys sometimes have a tendency to be labelled negatively. It would be good to stop labelling and rather look for the emotions behind the behavior. This way they don’t live up to self-fulfilling prophecy of ADHD or many of the other names boys sometimes get.
- This is true for girls as well.
- Less labelling and more understanding that children are not mean, sneaky, aggressive, annoying or selfish.
- Children are fundamentally good and can be affected by circumstances that make them act in certain ways.
- By trying to understand them more, rather them label them, we are teaching them to find a more positive story line in themselves.
- This is the basis of Danish way of reframing and empathy.
For more information on how to parent “the Danish Way”, stay tuned for another blog post from my interview with Iben Sandahl.
Their book The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World is available on Amazon.com. Get your copy today, so you can be on your way to raise happy and confident children too! (It’s all the rage, I promise you!)
How do you boost your child’s confidence?