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Blog: Dutch children happiest in the world

What makes the Dutch kids so happy?


Dutch children are the happiest in the world. Unicef, the Children’s organization of the United Nations, published a report in 2017 on child well-being in rich countries, which ranks The Netherlands number 1 on the list. The report lays out several dimensions of child well-being: material well-being, health and safety, educational well-being, behavior and risks, housing and environment and subjective well-being.

An important factor in a child’s happiness is the relationship with its parents, which shows an impressive figure on how easy Dutch children find it to talk to their parents (especially to their mothers):

Childeren relation to mother

As the graph above shows, Dutch children find it easy to talk to their parents. The Dutch approach to parenting combines old-school family values with a very modern respect for children’s autonomy and opinions. It not only produces very happy children, but children who grow up confident, resilient and sure of their place in the world. Children can easily discuss what’s troubling them and express their opinions. Dutch parents would always check with their children first about things, even when they are 2 years old. Dutch parents listen to and respect their child’s opinions, and it translates into producing confident teenagers. It helps them to grow a belief in themselves and their right to be heard and respected.

Family first
Family time is important to Dutch parents. Children regularly eat dinner with their parents. Dutch dads make time for their children. There’s an equal role for both daddy and mommy in parenting the kids. Many fathers take advantage of a ‘papadag’ (daddy day), a legally allowed (unpaid) day off work for dads to look after their children.Dutch women lead the way with part-time work amongst OECD countries. Dutch parents make time to raise their children. Dutch parents are among the happiest parents in the world, and it should be no surprise that this reflects on their children. Many researchers agree that the key ingredient for happy children are happy parents!

No Pressure
Parents have a pretty healthy attitude towards their kids, seeing them as individuals rather than extensions of themselves, and do not put pressure on them to perform. They are realistic about their children’s strengths and haven’t created a culture of success where school grades are taken as a measure of worth. Although the Dutch want the best for their children and stimulate them to do their best in school for a bright future, they don’t put any unnecessary pressure on their kids.Dutch parents also give their kids the freedom to explore and find their own boundaries. After school and during weekends the neighborhood kids can usually be found playing out on the street. Homework is often kept to a minimum and there’s plenty of time to play and relax.

Free and open minded
In The Netherlands you will find freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of sexual expression amongst others. The Dutch speak their minds.

Freedom to ride
The Dutch love getting around on two wheels on dedicated bike paths, and drivers reflexively looking out for cyclists means that it’s very safe. Kids have the freedom to cycle off to school, visit friends or go to sports, giving them confidence, exercise and loads of independence; what child wouldn’t be happy about that?

Chocolate for breakfast
Dutch children can eat chocolate sprinkles at breakfast, which makes a great start of the day! Dutch kids are tucking into their breakfast, liberally sprinkling ‘hagelslag’ (chocolate sprinkles) onto white bread smeared with butter. With this start of the day, why wouldn’t Dutch kids be the happiest?

July 3rd 2018

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