Danes have the right approach to discipline

Danes have the right approach to discipline
Opinion columnist Jessica Alexander and her Danish husband had very different thoughts about how to raise their children but the American transplant eventually adopted ‘The Danish Way’ and thinks all parents should too.
We were on holiday recently and I witnessed a fairly familiar scene. I don’t need to talk about where we were. It could have been Anywhere, U.S.A or Wherever, Europe. It could have been on a beach, in the snow, in a restaurant or on the street.

A family was eating dinner and a three-year-old girl was misbehaving. I don’t know how well behaved any three-year-old is supposed to be, but the father had finally had enough. He half stood up, raised the back of his hand and threatened to slap her in the face if she didn’t behave. He was a pretty big guy, as all people are compared to little children and she predictably recoiled in fear and did, in fact, “behave” after crying. He didn’t hit her then and there but clearly she had been hit before. I have seen this scene in so many different forms, with hitting and yanking, and with all ages of children. My only surprise is how foreign it becomes to me every time I see it.

I was spanked as a child as I think many of us were. I didn’t have a problem with it. I thought it was very normal to spank and why wouldn’t you spank when absolutely necessary to get a serious message across to a child? It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child that I started to have some serious doubts on the subject. I had taken it for granted that my husband and I would spank occasionally. How else do you discipline children? But even my fixation on the word “discipline” was already an issue for my Danish husband. He didn’t understand why we shouldn’t focus more on avoiding problems rather than “disciplining” them. He found my point of view bizarre. I found his impractical.
The truth is, most of us rarely question the way we are raised. Our upbringing is just normal to us. Society has some very engrained ideas about what is acceptable and what is not and we seldom challenge whether they are right or wrong. The way we were brought up is just part of our cultural heritage and we wear it like the skin on our bodies. Spanking, although perhaps not openly talked about, is more or less acceptable in many places. People do it. It happens. Maybe they aren’t proud of it but it is a way of maintaining order. This is true for many countries. But after numerous hours of heated debate with my husband, I started to waver. He wore me down with his arguments and I begrudgingly started to soften. I mean, it’s not that I wanted to spank but… what else do you do when you are desperate? And so, my final, very pointed question to him was this:
“Do you really think it’s possible to raise kids without hitting?”
His very serious pointed response was to laugh in disbelief at my question.

It was precisely his genuine incredulity at my position that made me truly start to question the cultural skin I was wearing.

While writing ‘The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide to Raising the Happiest Kids in the World’ alongside Danish psychotherapist Iben Sandahl, we did some serious research into the subject of spanking and discovered some eye-opening statistics. Spanking has been illegal in Denmark since 1997. In Sweden it was abolished even earlier – in 1979.  Spanking is now illegal in more than 32 countries, including much of Europe, several South American countries, Israel, Tunisia and Kenya.

There are mountains of evidence showing the long-term negative effects of physical punishment on children. Almost all the Danes we interviewed for the book said that they considered spanking “an extremely strange, almost unthinkable form for disciplining a child.”

So after a lot of research and careful consideration, I decided to try the ‘avoiding ultimatums’ approach and focus more on managing problems than disciplining them. I am now going on seven years without raising a hand to my children and I can honestly say I don’t think hitting is necessary to raise well-adjusted, well-behaved kids. Sure it works in the short term but is it providing that strong base for trust and self-esteem that we all wish to have? Is it teaching closeness and respect out of understanding or distance and hostility out of fear? And is this yet another reason why Denmark is constantly among the happiest countries in the world, not to mention the most peaceful?
It does make me wonder: if we could all take on the cultural skin of a Dane for a little while; would the idea of spanking our children feel like a slap in the face?

Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

One thought on “Danes have the right approach to discipline

  1. Thanks for the article. I’m a children’s entertainer and motivational storyteller. While doing research on bullying in schools I surprisingly discovered that Corporal Punishment is legal in 19 states (public schools) and 28 states (private and public). I wrote about it on my blog and created a YouTube video to let everyone know that there’s a new bill that can help kids: H.R. 2268 Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act of 2015 – Here’s a link to the blog. Would you watch the video and share the info? Thank you! Cara Zara : https://carazara.wordpress.com/end-corporal-punishment-in-schools/


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