Review: The Danish Way of Parenting, Jessica Alexander

Rating: 4 out of 5

A very straightforward book, this read in the majority like a dumbed down, combined, version of ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ and ‘Emotional Intelligence’. The ‘tricks’ that the author, an American who lives in Denmark, learns from the locals perhaps aren’t that surprising for most Europeans who’ve never gone along with the American ‘child-has-to-be-best-in-everything’ culture.

Yet, undoubtedly Ms Alexander’s experience in how she learns about these differences makes this an interesting and relevant book—though for me the dozen-or-so anecdotal stories that formed the backbone of how the author developed as a mother would have been more effectual if more situations had been described—say a few for every principle they were trying to get across, perhaps featuring different people (i.e., characters) to her own family to show wider uses.

More than anything else, the book created in me an interest in the Danish way of life. I’ve seen plenty of books on offer in the past which attested to explain how and why the Danes were the most joyful nation on Earth, but that sales angle didn’t work on me (at that point). This one here, however, tried to explain the philosophy of parenting through the same medium (happiness), giving reasons for why something in their culture works while other things don’t, and that approach did make the Danes stand out.

One of the aspects which captured my interest was the very short passage where Danish schools were described. The methodology the author mentioned, where a cooperative process exists for establishing rules between the teacher and the students, sounded incredibly progressive as well as effectual. This is something I intend to follow up on.

Overall, a quick and worthy read, but the overly American angle may prove too much for many Europeans. Nevertheless, the synthesis of the principles that are established in many more thorough works of psychology makes this worthwhile if one doesn’t want to plod through Kahneman or Goleman.

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