Why are Dutch kids the happiest in the world?

Dutch kids playing outside

The secret lies with Dutch parents, whose approach is radically different from that of American parents.

In 2013, Unicef released a ‘report card’ that assessed children’s wellbeing in 29 of the world’s richest countries. It concluded that Dutch children are the happiest of all, based on five categories: material wellbeing, health and safety, education, behaviors and risks, housing and environment.

The Netherlands scored highest in both behaviors and risks and education, and its excellent scores in the other categories put it firmly in the leading position, followed by four Scandinavian countries. (The United States was at the bottom, worse than Greece but better than Lithuania.) Even Dutch children vouched for their own happiness, with 95 percent “reporting a high level of life satisfaction.”

There is nothing more wonderful than thinking of children who are joyful about their own existence. That’s precisely how it should be. Childhood is a time for making memories, pushing boundaries, having great fun. What’s tragic is that Dutch children’s innate happiness stands in such contrast to many children in North America, who seemed to be plagued by chronic unhappiness.

Kids may be similar the world over, but their parents are not. The way in which a child is raised has everything to do with how a child turns out, particularly when it comes to happiness. It seems the rest of the world (are you listening, USA?) could learn a thing or two from the Netherlands. After all, isn’t happiness what every parent ultimately wants for their child?

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