I came across an interesting book this week, The Danish way of Parenting. It is co-authored by an American author and a Danish narrative therapist. They also have a blog for it, thedanishway.com. Now, the reason I stopped to have a read was largely due to the word Danish in the title. I held this to be significant largely due Denmark’s coveted position in those happiness indicator survey thingamajigs that pop up in the broadsheets once a year. It consistently occupies the number one spot or at least hovers around it. And that’s no mean feat. Simply having some nice scenery and good economic growth is not enough to secure that year on year. Common sense suggests that happy adults mean happy kids. So what exactly are they doing right?
In the author’s online blog they had some interesting things to say about the importance of play, much of which I have already discussed in previous blogs. Perhaps of more interest (and something I have touched on a number of times) is the importance they place on teaching empathy to children. The Danes it appears value teamwork and cooperation immensely. In fact this is so important that it is that is embedded as a core principle of their curriculum. According to the authors of the book they achieve this in a number of ways.
One method is through the use of language. They eschew the natural instinct to label children as one thing or another and pretty much refuse to engage in negative descriptions of other children in front of their children. They reframe negative incidents in terms of the precipitating events. The idea behind this is that children are not innately bad and something therefore must have caused them to act in such a manner. Dealing with events in this way affords greater room for analysis and less room for judgement, which itself facilitates spiralling conflict. For example, if a child describes another child they had previously liked as annoying they are prompted to analyse the difference in their perception of that individual and speculate on the reason for the change. Why were they being annoying? Perhaps they were tired or maybe they had a bad day at school. By placing themselves inside the other person’s mind they are able to understand the transitory nature of such behaviour which opens up the path towards reconciliation.