Despite my take on the Dutch soccer team and its performance in both the last and the current world cup, there is something quite intriguing about the way Dutch parents raise their children.
Despite my take on the Dutch soccer team and its performance in both the last and the current world cup, there is something quite intriguing about the way Dutch parents raise their children. Based on the 2013 UNICEF Child Welfare Report, the Netherlands is the number one country for raising happy children. Here I share the five main reasons (plus one extra):
THE EXTRA: Hagelslag with bread and butter for breakfast. Each day every day. I couldn’t resist writing the extra first, as in my opinion it has a lot to do with the happiness of children in the Netherlands. The most popular breakfast in the Netherlands is a slice of bread covered with chocolate shavings (Hagelslag). An Amsterdam magazine recently reported that the amount of hagelslag consumed in the country involves about 15 million kilos of chocolate sprinkled on 850 million slices of bread. To get a visual picture of it, if “crust to crust were lined up, there’s enough chocolate drizzled toast to go around the equator twice!” According to urban legend, it all started in 1936 when a five-year-old boy complained to the Dutch company Venz about their boring toast. Now the report …
Children have what they need. The first finding in the reports has to do with the children and their friends. Do children see poverty in their friends? Do they live in similar conditions? In the Netherlands the poverty gap between rich and poor children is the smallest among all first world countries. Several countries have allowed the child poverty gap to be greater than 30%. They are Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the United States. For UNICEF, raising children is not an isolated experience within the family, but an effort of the whole community that is influenced by interaction with children, which seeks their personal well-being.
The children are safe and healthy. Children receive their vaccinations on time and as a country, they have a low infant mortality rate, since parents have access to a health system that works. The Dutch Health System reports that only 1% of the population has no health insurance with an average annual cost of € 33,000. Fortunately, according to this report, most of the first world countries have a good vaccination rate, except Austria, Canada and Denmark, with vaccination rates below 90%.
Constant learning opportunities for all ages. It all starts at an early age. Preschool education has a rate greater than 90%. Here I am intrigued as to whether working parents use the preschool and daycare system. Unfortunately the report does not shed light in this regard. However, the incredible statistics come later, on how children continue their studies: the percentage of school dropouts in young people who do not study or work between the ages of 15 to 19 years of age, is less than 3%. On the other hand, the quality of education, in reading, mathematics and science, places the Netherlands among the first three places in the industrialized countries of the world. I’m sure there is something here that we could learn.
They are disciplined and avoid addictions, fights, bullying, and teenage pregnancy. This is an amazing category that I never imagined UNICEF would take into account, but is as important to me as the others. The Netherlands had a low score for being overweight, tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use, and a high score for breakfast (and hagelslag has a lot to do with this), fruit consumption and exercise. Other issues that were measured in this category were bullying and teenage pregnancy, against Romania, England and the USA, which have the high adolescent birth rates of 29 per 1000.
Housing and environment. This is not all about the number of rooms per child or environmental pollution, although that is a big part of it. This also has to do with children’s mental health and physical environment. Homicide levels are a determining factor in children’s depression and mental health. The Netherlands has the lowest level of homicides, with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the United States at the other end of the spectrum.
Even when these five categories have more to do with children’s “environment”, the Netherlands also has the highest levels in the section that we could call “interpersonal”, which includes “children’s relationship with their parents and friends” and “Satisfaction of children with life.” The most interesting aspect of this section is that children have their own voice, as well as a close relationship with their father, mother and others. If you are interested in this topic, you can read this article about the importance of communication with your children.