Danish Parenting Swears By These 3 Important Rules

Ever find yourself doing everything you can to try to make yourself a happier parent and mom? Constantly wondering if you are doing things “the right way?” This is such a common question for parents because there are so many ways of parenting and it’s hard to know what the “right way” is.

But the good news is, there is a country that may have uncovered something close to “the right way.” Denmark, a small country famous for Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, has cornered the market on happiness for 40 years in a row.

This year, again, Denmark has taken the number one spot for the most contented people on the planet. And do you know what their secret is? It’s the way they raise their children.

We’ve turned to the authors of the new book, The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People In the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids, Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl to lay out the 6 pillar model of Danish parenting which has been protected for hundreds of years.

Being a society that has more or less been impervious to commercialization, these cultural gems of wisdom have only now come to light and they really do work! Happy kids grow up to be happy parents who raise happy kids and the cycle repeats itself.

So what is a glimpse of the Danish way of parenting? Here are three tips to get you started.



Pronounced hoo-ga. Hygge is one of the most Danish words there is. Hygge means cozy time with friends and family and the Danes do this on a regular basis.

What is special about hygge is not just the cozy atmosphere one creates with candles or nice food, it is about the psychological space you enter into with your friends and loved ones. Hygge is about leaving your stress, your problems, your judging and complaining at the door for a period of time so that you can enjoy real quality, connected, stress-free moments. 

Everyone has to try to create hygge for it to work. Children love being in this space because they enjoy connected togetherness with their families, free from negativity. In the book, there is a chapter devoted to this concept with a “hygge oath” that families can talk about together to prepare everyone to enter hygge as a group.

Bridget Badore for Mini Magazine


Yes, you have heard it before that play is good for your child. But in Denmark, play is crucial for children!

Play has been respected as a strong pedagogy (as important as academics) since 1871. Children finish school earlier than in other countries and go on to what is called FTS (Free Time School). This is a place devoted to children’s free play with very little structure.

Danes don’t understand the idea of wanting to “over develop” children with classes and adult-led activities and see play as fundamental for the “whole child.”

Play is considered important for kids all the way up through high school. Research clearly shows that play facilitates social skills, self control, confidence, and stress coping skills, thereby reducing anxiety.

Lindsay Brown for Mini Magazine


We are hearing more about this these days, but what is special in Denmark is that they actually teach empathy in schools. It is a subject that is as important as math or English, which is incredible if you think about it.

As early as pre-school, there are national programs in place to help children learn to understand and talk about empathy. They show kids cards with faces on them and get children to talk about what emotion the faces may be exhibiting and why they might feel that way. This helps build up a vocabulary for young children around emotions and talking about feeling for others.

Empathy has been proven to be one of the key factors in improving happiness so it’s no wonder this highly empathic society feels so good! If we could learn more about the many ways in which Danes teach empathy to kids, we could surely improve wellbeing around the world.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Danish way of parenting, pick up your copy here!

You’ll also want to read How to Avoid Spoiling Your Kids or save these Scandinavian Baby Names You’ll Want to Use This Year.

Opening Image: Lily Glass Photography for Mini Magazine

  • Some really great principles here!

    August 19, 2016

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