It can be quite eye-opening to look abroad for new ideas in parenting. The French style was very much en vogue circa 2012 when the New York Times best seller Bringing Up Bébé brought French parenting wisdom stateside by way of multicourse meals and treating little ones like adults. More recently, we looked to Denmark for the latest and greatest in parenting, with The Danish Way of Parenting demonstrating how to raise "confident, capable kids."
Now another European country is leading the way with parenting advice, with two expat moms Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchinson spilling the secrets of the Dutch in their book The Happiest Kids in the World. "Childhood over here consists of lots of freedom, plenty of play and little academic stress. As a result, Dutch kids are pleasant to be around," they write, also citing a UNICEF report that rated "Dutch children the happiest in the world." We've highlighted some of the top parenting tips from Holland below, or as Acosta and Hutchinson put it, "what it is that the Dutch know and their British and American counterparts have forgotten or overlooked."
Rest, Regularity, and Cleanliness
Translated from the Dutch expression "Rust, Regelmaat en Reinheid," this parenting idea is instilled in the culture and encouraged by the government's consultatiebureau. As the Washington Post breaks down, "Give babies a predictable routine, limit outings to just once a day and prevent outside distractions, such as TV."
Rethink Work-Life Balance
In the book, a Dutch pediatrician describes the scenario of your child waking up with a fever when you have to go to work. Instead of stressing about making it to your office, what if "you decide to take a sick day and go with the flow"? Your baby "will be much calmer," says the doctor. "You can just pick up your child, take her into bed with you and stay relaxed until her temperature goes down. If the mother is stressed, the child will be stressed, and that will make matters worse." This ease with work is definitely fostered by the Dutch workweek (as Acosta and Hutchinson point out, nearly half of the population works part-time and those who don't work only 36 hours per week), but reconsidering work-life balance can be helpful in reducing stress and creating a warmer environment for your children.
Another Dutch mantra, "Doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg," more or less means "just act normal, that's crazy enough"—or simply "calm down." So as much as we worry about providing our children with the very best parenting habits, being yourself—acting natural and doing what you feel is best—can be the healthiest answer of all.
For more international parenting inspiration, check out these three French parenting tips every mom should know.