Dutch Moms Shared 13 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child
The Dutch way of parenting doesn’t include any extraordinary ways of dealing with children, but it seems to work pretty well. Even researchers have proven that Dutch children are far ahead of their international peers in terms of well-being and happiness. So if you want to know exactly what makes moms in the Netherlands stand out from the rest of the world, just continue reading this article. We hope that you’ll find their lessons useful.
Bright Side put together 13 pieces of advice from Dutch moms that you can follow if you want to raise a happy child.
13. Give them more time to sleep.
The focus on rest is literally engraved in the Dutch parenting culture. Unlike other nations who tend to overstimulate their kids, Dutch parents usually choose lower intensity activities at home with minimum distractions. This helps their kids feel calmer and have a more regular sleep schedule.
Some studies even show that Dutch babies, at the age of 6 months, get an extra 2 hours of sleep a day, if compared to American babies. And because their babies sleep better, Dutch moms sleep better and feel more rested too.
12. Let them eat chocolate for breakfast.
Eating chocolate for breakfast sounds like a bad idea, but not for Dutch moms. They actually believe that if their children are allowed to eat some hagelslag, or chocolate sprinkles, in the morning, it becomes less of a taboo and they learn to have more self-control. The most important thing is to keep in mind that everything is good in moderation.
11. Show them that money doesn’t matter.
The Dutch focus mostly on a simple life, with low-cost activities and a back-to-basics approach. Here, children are used to having second-hand toys since they know that if they want something, they have to actually work for it. This helps Dutch kids be more pragmatic and confident and not worry about their financial status.
Even when Dutch children celebrate birthdays, they don’t expect expensive presents or fancy clothes. There’s even a silent pact that presents for these birthdays should not cost more than €10. This is done because, primarily, children in the Netherlands get together to play and have fun instead of bragging about their money.
10. Let your family members spend more time with them.
Outsourcing is a great way of happy parenting, and Dutch moms know this for sure. In this country, children spend a lot of time with their daddies, who usually squeeze their full-time work hours into just 4 days, devoting at least one day a week to spend time with their kids. This day is even called “Daddy Day.”
There’s also an Oma day when children are left with their grandparents on a fixed day every week. It’s estimated that 50-60% of Dutch grandparents are involved in some form of childcare, so nobody is surprised when they see a granny pushing a stroller in a public park.
9. Encourage them to express their own opinion.
In a Dutch family, everyone, including the youngest, has a say. And although sometimes trying to negotiate with a 3-year-old can be really exhausting, Dutch moms believe that it teaches toddlers how to set their own boundaries and express what they want in a clear way.
Dutch parents also try to make rules together with their kids. As an example, if you often struggle over too much screen time, you can just discuss it with your child and let them pick a limited amount of time for every day when they feel more comfortable watching TV or playing on the phone.
8. Create your own family rituals.
One of the most valuable pillars of parenting for the Dutch is their routine. Routine means predictability, and predictability means manageability. When you have a strict schedule, your children always know when it’s time to eat, to take a nap, and to play with their friends.
This way, there’s less mess for the parents — everybody knows what’s expected of them, the children don’t get hungry or sleepy at inconvenient times, and it’s easier to keep up with healthy eating habits.
As for eating, the Dutch truly value their family meals. These are not about trying to make your children eat veggies for dinner or cutting out the calories or carbs. For the Dutch people, family meals are sacred because they unite the entire family over passionate conversations and make them feel closer to each other.
7. Don’t put pressure on them.
In other countries, parents actually overstimulate their babies, putting an emphasis on their cognitive and creative development from an early age. In comparison to this, Dutch parents might seem a bit lazy and unconcerned because they just let their children be children.
According to the Dutch, for a newborn baby, the world is interesting and stimulating enough, without any additional things. They are sure that their baby will crawl, walk, and talk when they are ready, no extra training or pressure is needed, just a lot of love and interaction.
Dutch parents also don’t push their children academically. They don’t teach their toddlers the alphabet, their preschool is mostly for playing and the children don’t participate in extra classes after primary school hours. And most of the kids have very little to no homework.
Despite all this seeming neglect for the education process, the Netherlands is the third best educated country in the world, right after Finland and Singapore. The reason for this might be the stress-free environment that creates a healthy learning situation and makes children go to school willingly.
6. Let them explore the world on their own.
The Dutch parenting style is all about keeping a balance between parental involvement and soft neglect. Their moms don’t “helicopter” around playgrounds, trying to keep their child safe from all the dangers of the outside world. Instead, they believe that children need to play by themselves as much as possible, without them interfering.
Since the first years of school, Dutch children are encouraged to create their own play dates. Their parents talk to each other and approve whose house the children are going to be at, what time the children are picked up, and so on. During that play time, children entertain themselves, playing with their friends and siblings outside, always unsupervised.
It’s not that the Dutch are not worried about their kids. Like all parents, they have their own concerns. But instead of trying to control everything, they try to equip their children from a very young age with all the skills that they’ll need in the future. For example, since the age of 2, their toddlers are taught the basic traffic rules. And, by the age of 5, they all have their swim diplomas.
This minimalistic approach to parenting teaches children to be self-sufficient and accept responsibility at an early age.
5. Never forget about yourself.
Happy parents have happy kids — this can be applied to any nation, but it’s especially true when it comes to the Dutch. Here, moms have a more realistic vision of parenthood and understand that they and their children are far from being perfect. They never get involved in “mompetition” and feel more forgiving of their own imperfections and flaws.
Dutch women also have a good work-life balance. Most of them work part-time so that they can not only spend more time with their children, but also pencil in some time for themselves. This gives them a stronger sense of confidence and general well-being.
4. Let them bike through the rain.
The Dutch aren’t big on cars, so their children usually go to school by bicycle. But there’s one tiny problem about this — the weather. In the Netherlands, it rains a lot, there are strong winds, and the average temperatures in winter are 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, even this doesn’t stop the Dutch from biking everywhere.
To be able to survive in these weather conditions, the Dutch simply dress themselves and their children in warm clothes, waterproof coats, and rain boots and go out to face the rain. Biking in the rain teaches children a powerful lesson — life isn’t always sunny and full of rainbows, and it’s important to not give up under any circumstances.
3. Talk to them about intimate topics.
Dutch parents talk with their children about everything, there are no forbidden topics for them. So, starting at the age of 4, children are taught about how they’re different from each other and what they should know about this. As the child gets older, the topics become more detailed and explicit, so that by the time they approach teenage years, they already feel comfortable with their bodies and desires.
But don’t think that children in this country do whatever they want. The Dutch simply have a completely different approach to close relationships — instead of focusing on potential risk and dangers of them, they teach their children the importance of love, responsibility, and how to set healthy boundaries with their partner.
Dutch teenagers are allowed to have romantic sleepovers with their loved ones because parents would rather have their teenagers in a safe environment. Thanks to this, children trust their parents and always come to them in case they’re having some trouble or when seeking advice.
The Dutch government also supports this model of parenting — it made pelvic exams, birth control, and abortion free to anyone under 22, with no requirements for parental consent. Due to this policy, the Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe.
2. Make them happy, not successful.
Of course, the Dutch have ambitions for their children like all other parents do, but their vision of success is quite different. While most foreign moms brag about how many excellent grades their kid got in school, Dutch moms care more about their children’s well-being.
In order to be successful, children should be happy, self-aware, motivated, independent, and have positive ties with their family and friends — this is what the Dutch believe. And, according to them, only this feeling of happiness can lead to great achievements now and in the future.
Besides that, Dutch parents always see their children as individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses and never try to impose their own values and dreams on them.
1. Set a good example for them.
Practice what you preach — this is one of the most essential rules of the Dutch parenting. In this country, mothers understand that if they want to raise creative, resilient, happy children, they should give them a real-life example of this person.
There’s even a common expression there — “What the old cock crows, the young cock learns.”
Maybe it’s time for all of us to “go Dutch” and use their recipe for happy children? What are your thoughts about this?