The next book that I adore is Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl. This book rocked my world. I read it last June and I still remind myself of the guiding principles presented in the book.
Let me describe the setting for you: It was June 2020, we were three months into quarantine with a 2 year old and an 8 month old. They had always gone to a daycare school that taught them many amazing things and did lots of cool activities. My husband and I were working full-time jobs during this lovely time while they were home with zero help from anyone because quarantine. They basically watched a lot of tv, went outside when we had a break from work, and didn’t go anywhere or see anyone. Good times (100% sarcasm here). I work in schools so I was off for the summer. June brought me a lot of stress because I felt like I needed to be their full-time educator now. Meanwhile, I was getting no sleep due to the baby and trying to organize activities for different age groups was miserable for me. Kudos to stay-at-home moms and home educators who deal with multiple ages because I could not!
Enter the Danish Way of Parenting, which told me to let the kids decide what they want to do and go with the flow. Spend time in nature, let them get dirty and don’t follow a rigid schedule. Promote family time–If the authors only knew we had a lot of that! But that family time should be fun and cozy and warm. The name they use is Hygge. I talked about this before in another blog post, but I added twinkle lights to our dining room to give it more warmth. They also talked about reframing negative situations and using humor to get through tough moments.
YOOOO! I’m reading this book and thinking well shoot, yes I can do that! When I started living by what the book said, we were all less stressed and much happier. It also talked about how competitive American culture is–I agree and that when we start taking out the competitiveness from things our kids and we can be much happier people. I had a very competitive upbringing and while I loved sports I cannot say that competitiveness brought me a lot of joy aside from when I was winning. I was stressed and anxious and needed to perform well all the time. I don’t really want this for my children. Personally, I don’t feel like this is a good way to be.
Some of my favorite portions of this book:
- “Being aware of yourself and choosing your behavior is the first step towards powerful life change. This is how we become better people. This is how we become better parents.” Yes, we have to be aware of what we say, how we say it, and be present with our children. I so struggle with this! I realize I am the model and I need to perfect my language when speaking around them. As I said earlier, my son is sensitive. Sometimes no words or the most gentle words are what is required. I’m building awareness of my thoughts and language daily. Reflection on this practice has been very important for me to make a change. I am sassy and smart-assy–not great for little children.
- “We sometimes think we are helping kids by pushing them to perform or learn faster, but leading them in the right moment of their development will yield much better results—not only because of the learning itself, which will surely be more pleasurable, but because the children will be more assured of the mastery of their skills, since they feel more in charge of acquiring them.” When I stopped pushing counting, alphabet, writing, activities and let my kids decide what we did next, they were so much more engaged and at ease. For example, we went on many family walks and our son had a balance bike. At the start of our quarantine life he didn’t really know how to ride it, but he was interested and we never pushed him. What do you know, he figured it out and he is just so amazing at it. People pass us and ooh and aah at how well he rides his bike and he’s so proud.
- “Praise is closely connected to how kids view their intelligence. If they are constantly praised for being naturally smart, talented, or gifted (sound familiar?), they develop what is called a “fixed” mind-set (their intelligence is fixed and they have it).” We talk about this in schools all the time. A growth mindset is so important. You are learning and you may not know something…yet! We have been working on our praise with our children. It’s so easy and automatic to say ‘good job’ or ‘you are so ‘smart’, but instead, I’ve shifted things to say you have been working on those jumps and you keep getting farther or those muscles are getting stronger every day and I can tell because you can ride your bike longer. I’ve noticed a difference in the immediate reaction and the long-term output of the effort. I do still say good job sometimes–you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…overnight!