Nordic parenting: 5+1 ways to raise kids like they do in the Nordics

“Why are kids in the Nordics so disciplined and behave like adults?”

This is a very popular question asked of Nordic people. Everybody feels baffled as to why kids from the Nordics differ from those from elsewhere (behaviour-wise).

The answer is multifaceted. It’s not one thing only that distinguishes their upbringing. It’s a whole set of factors, some of which are external ones.

For once, the Nordics top the ranking of the best places to raise kids in the world. According to the US News, that do the research and craft the rankings, 2022 sees the Nordic countries sitting at the Top-3 while a fourth one is just outside the Top-5.

Namely, Denmark tops the world ranking, followed by Sweden and Norway. Finland sits at a comfortable 6th place.

Why these countries score so well in raising children and parenting is no wonder. Speaking of parenting, there have been gazillions of articles and blog posts about it.

What is it with Nordic parenting that makes it so effective with kids? What is Nordic parenting after all? Read on!

Raising kids under the Northern Lights

Well, it’s not exactly the magnificent Aurora Borealis that makes the difference, nor does it spread special stardust on the Nordic people.

As experts suggest, it’s the Nordic values that span parenting.

In many other countries, social values are very powerful, too. But when it comes to raising children, they come second, giving way to a less balanced upbringing. Balance is necessary in everything and this is something the Nordic people know very well.

It’s about “lagom”, not too little not too much, just the right amount. Perhaps this mix of love and affection with trust and equality makes Nordic parenting look more effective.

Parents do love their kids as they do in other countries. However, they also need their own time and space, therefore kids must learn to contribute. And when it comes to spoiling, yes, Nordic kids can also be spoiled, yet they respect rules and take their responsibilities seriously.

Let’s find out more about Nordic parenting!

#1 Play comes first

Our societies become more and more competitive, even when it comes to kids and their academic results as well as extracurricular activities.

Playing takes the spotlight in Nordic parenting. Kids are young and they need to play. Playing helps them have fun, exercise, be creative, and discover things. It’s an integral part of their upbringing.

Therefore, parents in the Nordics plan things and activities for their kids but they are not fond of packed schedules. They leave ample time and space for their kids to play, ideally outdoors. Even in winter, you will see parents and families going out for a walk, playing in the park, visiting museums, and having fun in the great outdoors together.

As they say “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes!”. We agree on that! This brings us to #2…

#2 Togetherness

Being together and sharing moments with each other is also an integral part of Nordic parenting.

Many say that the Nordic culture and lifestyle are introverted, i.e. more reserved and lonesome. On the contrary, people in the Nordics appreciate togetherness a lot. Long and harsh winters make it extra necessary to spend time together indoors (although snow and cold do not deter them from spending time together outside).

Kids need to spend time with their parents as well as other kids. Be it in family gatherings or social activities like sports or arts, kids learn to socialise and get to know new people. This is how they make their (few) friends and create stronger bonds with each other.

Kids are also expected to spend a lot of time with their parents, who usually treat them as adults (more on that further below). However, they draw a line at some point, as parents need their own time and space. Again, it’s about balance.

#3 Responsibility & equality

Based on Nordic parenting, kids have rights as well as responsibilities. And they are treated as having both.

You will often see parents calling on their offspring to clean a room, chop the carrots, water the plants or do any other chore at home as if they were grown-ups.

This comes from practising equality at home, which cultivates a culture and mindset of trust and responsibility.

Kids are not treated (very) differently from adults. Boys are treated the same as girls. There are no jobs or toys for boys or girls. Everyone is entitled to everything.

Incorporating kids in every family activity makes them feel more included, accepted (as they are), and heard.

#4 Honesty & authenticity

The mindset we talked about in point #3 leads us to this: everyone is accepted and heard so everyone, even small kids, has the right and privilege to speak and speak up.

They feel free and encouraged to speak their mind and express their opinions. It’s about being true to yourself, what you are and believe in.

It’s about fostering democracy at home, so kids become more engaged citizens when they grow up.

It’s about starting and maintaining healthy and meaningful conversations about any topic. Nordic parents rarely find a topic taboo. They prefer to discuss all things life with their children because it’s the only way to teach them what life is all about and give valid information.

As part of this mindset, kids feel free to express themselves in a way that feels right and true to themselves.

Any sexual identity or orientation is perfectly fine and instead of isolating kids, parents prefer to let them do it their way. School also helps with that by removing the obstacles, prejudices and taboos that often make it hard for children to make friends with and accept what they really are.

#5 Empathy

One of the first things Nordic kids learn is to show consideration to other people’s feelings.

That is further boosted by the equality mindset. All people are equal, no matter what, so they must all be respected and included. And if all are equal and nobody is better than any other (also blame it on the Janteloven or Law of Jante), everyone must feel respected and included, no matter the circumstances.

No judgement is also part of the empathetic framework in which they grow. Judging others for what they are is a no-no.

“Don’t judge so as not to be judged!”. We feel this quote describes Nordic parenting the best.

Empathy and the absence of judgement are also fostered in school, where a non-competitive environment lets children enjoy learning without the stress and urge to outperform all others at any cost.

#5+1 Rules are rules but…

If you read all points from 1 to 5 you may think that the Nordic society is a very liberal one, borderline with no enforcement of rules.

This is a wrong perception. Let us explain!

In the Nordics, children are rarely forced to do anything. Despite that, rules are enforced. Kids learn from a very early age that there are rules to be followed and respected as well as rights and privileges.

In order to enjoy the latter, you have to respect the former.

Kids follow rules because they want to and know that doing so grants them rights. This is another manifestation of the honesty and authenticity mindset parents cultivate for their kids.

There is no hitting or shouting. Kids are treated like adults and behave accordingly.

Power struggles are not part of the Nordic culture. Freedom of choice is respected. As well as the understanding that every action has consequences, good or bad ones.

One thing that makes Nordic parenting really effective is that parents usually separate action from their kids themselves. That means that if a child does something bad or wrong, it’s their action that is criticised, not their merit, personality or worth.

All in all, as you understand, there is no one size fits all. Neither Nordic parenting is THE best way to raise kids. It has its pros and cons. However, they use interesting methods and practices to cultivate a free yet responsible upbringing that benefits both children and parents alike.

You need to choose what works best for your case (um, kids) and be open-minded enough to practice parenting with a Nordic twist.