Photo: FamVeld/Shutterstock

How to Parent Like the Dutch

by Olga Mecking May 13, 2015

Give birth naturally, without any drugs

Better still, have a homebirth. It’s tough but after the event you’ll have a special nurse come to your house for eight days. She’ll do light household chores, prepare your meals and check both you and baby for signs of problems. I have my doubts about the natural birth part, but the kraamzorg is definitely awesome.

Celebrate normalcy

The Dutch love normalcy, as evidenced by the proverb: doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg, in other words, “just be normal, that’s already crazy enough.” When it comes to kids, it means: focus on the community and don’t teach your kids to think they’re better than anyone else. Remember, sometimes being normal is a good thing.

Work part-time

The Dutch are champions of part-time work (especially for moms), and their work week is one of the shortest in the world. This leaves plenty of time for families to spend together. It also allows moms and dads to go out with friends or work out.

Play outside

The Dutch are known for cycling everywhere, so it’s no surprise that kids learn to cycle as soon as they leave the womb. First, they ride in a maxi cosi attached to the parents’ bike, or in a bakfiets (or box bike). Then, they’re given a balance bike…and it’s on to a cute little normal bike. Also, there are playgrounds everywhere.

Get on a schedule

The Dutch follow the so called “Three Rs” of parenting: rust, regelmaat, reinheid (rest, regularity, and cleanliness). Routine is important. Dutch kids are also given the opportunity to nap a lot and are apparently way calmer than American kids. Knowing the Dutch love for agendas, it’s no wonder that they schedule their kids’ nap times.

Be hands-off and calm

The Dutch don’t hover. Their kids are free to cycle by themselves from an early age and they’re allowed to challenge boundaries in a safe and healthy way. I rarely see the parents lose their cool. They seem to prefer explanations, counting to three and re-directing rather than dishing out punishments and time-outs.

Celebrate the Dutch way

Dutch celebrations are unique. For example, Sinterklaasis much more important than Christmas. It’s also highly controversial, but the Dutch love it. Even birthday parties are different in the Lowlands: you’re supposed to congratulate everyone, not just the birthday child. Also, you’ll be sitting in a circle (aka, the circle party). And always remember to dress your kids in orange for King’s Day (April 27).

Teach assertiveness

From what I’ve noticed, Dutch kids are not rude. They’re considerate but assertive. They’re not afraid to speak their minds and the Dutch trait of directness is strong in them. This, I guess, comes from the fact that the parents value the kids’ contributions to family life.

Get dad involved

Dutch fathers are highly involved in their kids’ lives. Where else could I find myself the sole mother on a playground that was otherwise ruled by dads? These dads, I must add, are usually tall, slim, well dressed, and good looking. And they’re not ashamed of pushing the stroller, or taking the kids to run errands. In short, Dutch dads rule!

Serve lots of bread

Dutch kids are lucky because they get to eat hagelslag (sprinkles) on their bread. There are many types of hagelslag, but chocolate is the best, obviously. I swore I’d never allow it in my house, but now my kids ask for chocolate hagelslag All. The. Time.

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