In 2013, Dutch children were named the happiest kids in the world by UNICEF. A few years before that, the Netherlands was named a prime example of childhood prosperity. In contrast, the U.K. and the U.S. ranked in the two lowest positions. When I read this, I wondered what the secret was. Stay tuned, and I will share them with you.
There are six reasons why Dutch children are the happiest in the world. Not surprisingly, it starts from the time they were born.
- A 2013 study from the European Journal of Developmental Psychology examined the temperamental differences between American and Dutch babies. The researchers found that “Dutch babies laugh, smile, and like to cuddle more than their American counterparts”. Their calm demeanour was due in part to a regulated sleep schedule and less intensive activities.
- Dutch children also spend more time with their parents. This is possible since Dutch employees work an average of only 29 hours a week. Most Dutch dads squeeze their full-time work hours into just four days, allowing them to spend a whole day with their kids. This day is called “Daddy Day.”
- By the time a Dutch child turns three, he has already developed adequate language skills to express his opinions. Negotiation-based parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. But by allowing our toddlers to negotiate, children learn to set their own boundaries.
- Dutch children enjoy learning because there is less pressure on them to perform academically in school. In the Netherlands, education isn’t all about high GPAs and elite universities. Education is seen as the route to a child’s well-being and personal development.
- Eighty-five percent of Dutch children between the ages of 11 and 15 said they eat breakfast with their families every day. Not only is eating breakfast associated with better performance in school and decreased behavioural problems, but encourages family bonding and fosters healthy identity development.
- Last but not least, the Dutch have a cycling culture. Even during winter, Dutch parents simply dress themselves and their children in warm clothes, waterproof coats, and rain boots. All-weather biking is truly a character-forming experience. Children are encouraged to bike everywhere and in all weathers because it teaches them grit. They learn that life isn’t always sunny and full of rainbows. They learn to face the rain. They learn not to give up. Along with improving kids’ ability to move and grow independently, cycling has been shown to boost production and uptake of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and oxytocin, along with general health.
You can start to do one or more of the things mentioned. Which one will you start with?
By Parcsen Loke, Family Life Coach, Centre for Fathering.
Food for Thought: Every parent wants their kids to be happy and not sad or worried. What are the ways the you help to make your kids happy?