How do the Dutch parent their children?

CLICK HERE to subscribe to my Youtube channel

This video asks expats from all over the world about strange Dutch sentences

  • Wat ik ook nog vragen wil, is er hier een krokodil?
  • Broodje poep?
  • Joepie de Poepie?
  • De grote grijze geitenbreier?

It all has to do with a Dutch television show: Joepie de poepie

But why is this typically Dutch?

Typical Dutch children’s shows

This show is one example of a Dutch children’s television show. What is typical about this is that it’s pretty controversial and not afraid to talk about taboos.

This is part of the way the Dutch parent their children.

You might not know this, but the Dutch have an approach that is internationally famous.

Dutch children are the happiest in the world!     

According to different sources (1) Dutch children are the happiest in the world and that has everything to do with their upbringing. There are books, guides and videos about this. But what is parenting the Dutch way?

How do the Dutch parent their children?

There are a couple of typical Dutch things Dutch parents do differently compared to other countries. And one of them is the use of the bike.

It’s not only a different mode of transport; it has several other important implications.

  1. Biking is very important, and helps with a lot of things

It’s something Queen Maxima noticed when she was in the Netherlands for the first time: ‘A mother on her bike, with two children, carrying the groceries.’ And soon the children learn how to bike themselves.

And this not only means that it’s good for their health. It teaches the Dutch about not being scared. Parents rarely make their children wear bicycle helmets.

  • ‘You’re not made of sugar’
  • ‘Nobody dies from a little rain’

This is the mentality that most children in the Netherlands grow up with. Cycling through all kinds of weather is completely normal for Dutch people, and, also, Dutch children.

A bike is very important for you when you are a child because it also gives you great freedom, which leads to the next point.

  1. Dutch parents give freedom but also make rules

Dutch parents are known to be less strict than parents in other countries. Little is punished and certainly not beaten.

You see this in the way the Dutch children are allowed to play outside. Children are welcome to play in the streets on their own. Dutch children have a lot of freedom. As a rule, Dutch parents are not helicopter parents.

But the Dutch parents like to have rules, especially when it comes to structure. Another typical Dutch trait. You can see this in the way the Dutch handle the period of time when the children are babies. In the first couple of years the Dutch like to follow the credo:

Rust, Reinheid en Regelmaat (Rest, Cleanliness and Regularity)

The importance of sleep is very clear for the Dutch. Visiting new Dutch parents you might be surprised by the schedules they have. Sleep, eat, play, and repeat. The result is that Dutch babies are one of the most well-rested babies in the world.

Later in life structure is important which can be seen in dining. Although the Dutch are not known for being very much about cuisine, this moment of the day is important for families.

Having dinner at the table together is pretty evident.

  1. Dutch directness starts here

You might have heard that the Dutch can be quite direct, saying what they want and doing this all the time.

Well that starts in the upbringing.

As a rule, Dutch parents are not very authoritarian and there is plenty of room for consultation. Instead of saying ‘This is how it is’, Dutch parents explain a lot to their children. Dutch parents give their children a voice by drawing up the rules together with their child.

Everyone in the family, including the youngest, has a say.

In this way the children are also stimulated to be independent. For the Dutch, a really important quality.

And this applies to both boys as girls. Dutch children are not afraid to give their opinions. Boys and girls are raised the same way. This is the same in school.

  1. School is not all about getting high grades

Education is seen as the route to a child’s well-being and personal development.

This is seen in the television shows. It’s about expressing yourself, and feeling free to say what you want.

  1. Both parents are involved

Children in school are taught that boys and girls are treated the same; they can also see this at home.

Compared with other countries, Dutch dads are often at home taking care of the children. There’s an ‘official’ name for a day off to take care of the children: a papadag.

Many people work part-time in the Netherlands. The work-life balance of Dutch parents is important. For example, when children are free on Wednesday afternoons, there is almost always a parent at home and everyone thinks this is normal.

  1. Modest

The schools are less achievement orientated, and more about other ‘soft’ qualities. This attitude goes along with the attitude a lot of parents have in the Netherlands:

  • Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je gek genoeg.

You don’t have to be special or the best at something. Do something that you like.

This way of living you see in other thing, like being outside a lot. Going camping on holidays and birthday parties.


1 – UNICEF Report 2013

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School