9 Ways Danish & American Parenting Differ

Denmark consistently ranks highly among the happiest countries in the world, while America's ranking has been falling fast. Although a lot of factors go into measuring a country's happiness, one that deserves a closer look is family life. So exactly how does Danish parenting differ from American parenting? There are some very specific difference but, in general, the Danish have a much more relaxed parenting style.

Danish parenting practices have become somewhat trendy thanks to a recent bestselling book, The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids. The book uses the acronym "P.A.R.E.N.T." to describe the Danish style, which stands for:

  • Play
  • Authenticity
  • Reframing
  • Empathy
  • No Ultimatums
  • Togetherness.

That first tenant may be the biggest differentiation between the two cultures. Danish kids spend a lot more time playing, and lead much less unscheduled lives than their American counterparts. To parents running around driving their kids from lesson to lesson and from practice to practice, the Danish way could just be a breath of fresh air.

Here are nine things Danish families focus on that could work for your family, too.


Danish Kids Play More

As mentioned above, Danish kids spend plenty of time at play. Jessica Alexander, one of the co-authors of The Danish Way of Parenting, told Brit + Co that letting kids play on their own actually builds their self-esteem more than participating in activities lead by their parents. Try giving your child some alone time and watch the flourish.


Danish Parents Don't Overpraise

According to HuffPost, Danish moms and dads don't lavish their kids with unwarranted praised. Doing so can actually do more harm than good, because a child who's constantly told they're smart may become overly frustrated when they're confronted by something too challenging for them. Instead of praising a child for being naturally smart, try to give them props for being so hardworking.


Danish Parents Don't Totally Shield Their Kids From Negativity

Sometimes sad things happen in life, and it's natural to want to protect children from anything bad. But according to Fatherly, Danish parents are more likely to let their kids process their negative emotions (for example, by speaking frankly about the death of a loved one) so they can learn to work through them in a healthy way.


Danish Kids Practice Empathy

Empathizing, or being able to relate to other people's feelings, is a skill that the Danish practice starting at a very young age. Co-author Jessica Alexander told Mother magazine that empathy is something that's taught beginning in pre-school. Focusing on empathy can help make kids kinder, gentler human beings.


Danish Parents Aren't Necessarily Disciplinarians

Alexander also told Mother that spanking is banned in Denmark, so Danish parents have to find other way to discipline their kids. Instead, they focus on talking through issues with their children as opposed to taking a hardline approach.


Danish Families Spend Tons Of Quality Time Together


The Danish practice of hygge, getting cozy at home, has blown up in recent years. To Danish families, though, it's not about being trendy but simply about spending quality time together according to Reader's Digest. Things as simple as sitting down to a meal together or watching a movie strengthen the family bond.


Danish Parents Don't Bother To Baby Proof

Step inside the average American family home (mine included) and you'll probably see signs of baby-proofing everywhere — gates to stop kids from climbing up or down stairs, cabinet locks, outlet covers, etc. You won't find a ton of that in Denmark though. According to Time, Danish parents don't bother to baby proof. Instead, they focus on letting their kids explore and be independent, risks and all.


Danish Parents Take Time To Themselves


Time also noted that Danish parents take guilt-free breaks from their kids, believing that a happier mom or dad makes a happier child. That's something that many American parents might love to be able to do, but struggle with actually accomplishing.


Danish Parents Put A Greater Emphasis On Teamwork


American parents can sometimes get caught up in wanting their child to be the best and the brightest at everything. But Danish parents don't get so worked up about a child's individual achievements, according to The Guardian. Instead, they focus on teamwork as something that benefits not only kids but society as a whole.