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Happy education

The 6 pillars of danish happiness for rinsing happy children

Free play

Danish parents are guided by educational principles which allow children to play alone as often as possible. It helps them to become happy, resilient and socially integrated adults.

There is several proposition to get closer to the danish model:

- less screen

- opportunities to explore through art, games outside and in nature as much as possible

-multi-age games, play in mixed groups

They also point out that play can be a good way to bond with children and fill their emotional tanks.


In Danmark, authenticity begins with understanding the emotions. If we explain to our children how to recognize and accept their authentic emotions, pleasant or unpleasant, how to react in coherence with their values, then the difficulties inherent in life do not overcome them. Danish children are emotionally literate and know that their actions are in line with their feelings. They admit their own limits and respect them. Because they are based on their values, their inner compass and their self-esteem become very powerful guides, accompanying them throughout their lives, firmly resisting external pressures.

At the same time, the Danish parenting style is authentic, far from a model of perfection but close to what sounds "right", what comes from the heart

Here is some ingredients for the authenticity recipe:

- Finding our pretenses

- Embody honesty

- Share our memories of children

- Teach honesty

- Encourage by commenting on the process, the work

- Avoid comparisons


One of the characteristics of the Danish model is the ability of parents to reframe their thoughts, especially in times when children behave in a way that is disturbing for adults. Jessica-Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl expose the pillars of mental reframing in their work.


Become aware of our discerning interior speeches

We have to train ourselves to notice our negative, non-constructive inner thoughts. Just write them down and count how often we use a negative outlook when we assess a situation.


Practice reformulation

Are our thoughts realistic? Can we change the wording?

Reformulation can be difficult, but it changes our brain chemistry and influences our well-being. At first, you feel a little silly with this exercise. But as soon as we get into the habit of reformulating our negative thoughts (criticisms, judgments, self-denigration ...), we feel better.


Eliminate reductive language, black or white

Reductive language is easily identified by key expressions: always, never, you have to, it's like that, one or the other, I should, it's like that / like this ...

This reductive language leaves little room for maneuver because it only shows one angle. Adopting a language of openness can reduce the balance of power with children.

For example, we could replace "never" with "not yet" or "for the moment" because adding "for the moment" at the end of a sentence changes the inner vitality

Instead of "she is lazy" or "he is aggressive", place the problem outside the individual and not inside. "Sometimes laziness catches it" and "aggression overflows at times" are comments that do not label people.


Reinterpreting the child's story with more tenderness

A useful exercise for this purpose may be to rethink the "faults" we attribute to our children and see how to transform them into qualities and potentials in light of the child's personality.


Use constructive and positive language

We often tend to spot what's wrong, rather than what's right, and express our dissatisfaction, rather than our contentment with our children. We consider that what is good is normal, goes without saying!

This way of looking at education leads us to see the child only from the perspective of the negative: what is wrong.

However, it is possible to reverse the way we operate to encourage the least of his efforts and his smallest victories: identify what is going well, what the child does correctly (even very small things) or according to our request. .



Humor helps to change perspective and strengthens ties rather than building walls between people. The more fun, the wackier, the more effective it will be in overcoming children's crises or blockages. What's more, what's funny and unexpected is remembered more easily.


The Danes seem to have understood that taking care of the happiness of others is a critical ingredient in the recipe for their own happiness. They place a lot of importance on learning empathy. This learning is fundamental both at home and at school.


At home, parents set the tone through their words and behaviors, as main models. Jessica-Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl recall that Danish parents are strongly influenced by the philosopher Knud Ejler Løgstrup. According to him, parents have a responsibility to nurture the minds of their children, not only with entertainment and knowledge transfer, but also by developing their empathic skills. Thus, the words and stories read to children are used to equip children with skills that teach them to put themselves in the shoes of others.


Furthermore, the language of Danish parents is characterized by 4 main elements:

  • Use empathetic and caring listening (reflecting emotions without denying or minimizing them, exploring thoughts and motivations, talking about needs, finding solutions)
  • Ever mention children's faults (those of their own children and those of other children): Danish parents never speak ill of children but designate what is pleasant in others.

  • Always explain the behavior of others and the reasons behind any painful behavior ("She must have been very tired, she didn't take a nap." "Do you think he was hungry? You know, when you are hungry, you become grumpy. ”). Danish parents try to help their children understand that behavior depends on the circumstances.

  • Draw attention to and explain other people's emotions ("Look S., she's crying, she looks really sad", "It looks like A. is very ...").

At school, a compulsory national program is applied from kindergarten. In this program called “Step by step”, the teachers show the children photos of other children expressing a variety of emotions: sadness, fear, anger, frustration, joy… The pupils talk about these photos and put into words what they feel. They thus conceptualize their own emotions as well as those of others. The Danish education system also emphasizes the prevention of harassment, through the "Free of bullying" program.

In Danish schools, empathy is also taught in a more indirect, more subtle way. Children are grouped according to the complementarity of their strengths and weaknesses (example: students who understand help students who have not yet understood, shy people work in groups with social children ...).

No ultimatum

Jessica-Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl notably noticed the absence of an ultimatum (the famous: "I count until 3!") Made to children to encourage them to obey and comply with parents' requests.

They then offer keys to reason in terms of cooperation and empathy rather than in terms of power plays, threats and punishment. They invite us to make firm personal commitments to engage in this process and have key values ​​in mind as guides in this journey:

- Ask questions of personal introspection: what are my educational values? I list mine as well as those of my partner or my     companion.

- Stop spanking and educational violence (ear-tapping, slapping ...): make the vow never to give it again and make this         commitment in the presence of a witness (for example the companion)

Make a commitment not to shout at the children (to shout only when it is vital, in the event of danger for example.). This is probably the most difficult commitment to keep in practice. However, howling is not pleasant for anyone (neither for children of course nor for us because it exhausts us, makes us feel guilty and weakens the emotional bond). Besides, our children imitate us in a mirror. As we are their role model, if we want them to control their anger and calm down, it is necessary to start by learning how to control ourselves.


100% danish friendliness

Danes love to sing. This is one of their recipes for creating "hygge".

Hygge is a word that only Danes use. It designates conviviality, comfort, cocooning, a friendly atmosphere where everyone feels safe. The conviviality and the hygge favor close relationships, relationships often synonymous with a high level of individual and collective happiness.

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