You’ve probably heard all about the Swedes’ generous parental leave policy (more on that below), but that’s not the only parenting pointer we’re coveting from the Nordic nation. Here, nine Swedish child-rearing principles we’re adopting on this side of the pond.
1. Nap outdoors (no matter the weather). News flash: It gets cold in Sweden—like, really cold. But that doesn’t deter those Viking descendants from bundling up their babies and leaving them outside in their strollers to nap in sub-zero temperatures. It’s thought that kids sleep better that way and that the fresh air is good for them. Not only that, but Swedish parents will often leave their sleeping babies outside while they go into a coffee shop for fika (keeping strollers in their line of view, of course). Which kind of makes sense when you think about it, because why would you bring your sleeping baby who’s nice and snuggly outside indoors where he’ll either overheat or you’ll be forced to wake him up to remove his layers?
2. Divvy up parenting duties evenly. OK, this one isn’t so easy to adopt since it depends on your partner’s (probably pretty stingy) parental leave policy. But in Sweden, parents get a whopping 480 days of paid leave to share and 90 of those are non-transferable days for fathers only. Not only that, but parents also receive a “gender equality bonus” (i.e., slightly higher pay) if they split the time evenly. All this leads to a more equal division of child-rearing responsibilities. Granted, your S.O. may not be able to take more time off but what you can control is who’s in charge of what at home. Meaning there’s no reason for mom to be cooking dinner, doing bath time, reading a story and putting Junior to bed.
3. Play outside every day. There’s a Swedish expression that goes a little something like this: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” In Swedish schools, kids are expected to go outside and play every day—regardless of what the weather is doing. In fact, school closures because of bad weather are practically unheard of. Again, that’s because fresh air is seen as vital to a child’s development, as is getting dirty in the mud, which is good for your kid’s immune system.
4. Fridays are for family. You’ve heard of hygge, yes? Well, Swedes have their own version of comfy-coziness called mysigt. And on Fridays, it’s peak snuggle time (“Fredagsmys”). That’s when families curl up under a blanket, light some candles and watch a film together—all while eating candy. Yep, sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?
5. Embrace daycare. Nannies are rare in Sweden with most families choosing to send their kids to daycare when they’re one year old. Here, they’re expected to spend most of their time playing—the main focus of the Swedish school system until kids turn seven and begin their academic schooling. It helps that daycares are government-subsidized in Sweden, but keeping the focus on play is a lesson we can all get on board with.
6. Don’t think too much about gender. Gender reveal parties? Not in Sweden. Scandinavian parents work hard not to limit kids to social expectations based on gender. Case in point: Gender advisers are common in schools (there’s even a gender-neutral pre-school in Stockholm), and the language has evolved to become less discriminatory with the addition of the genderless pronoun “hen.”
7. Or about nudity. Come summer, it’s not unusual to see children running around the park or beach naked. There’s a relaxed attitude about being naked in Sweden, which helps kids become more comfortable in their bodies. (And don’t worry about this laissez-faire viewpoint making teenagers more promiscuous—Sweden was actually the first country in the world to introduce obligatory sexual education in schools in 1955.)
8. Relax about schedules. Soccer practice then a piano lesson followed by baby gym—and that’s just what you’re doing this Saturday. Sound familiar? Embrace a more Swedish parenting style by not packing your kids’ schedules with extracurriculars. Instead, just let them have fun and play (outdoors).
9. No spanking. Sweden was the first country in the world to ban spanking and all corporal punishment in 1979. Instead, parents discipline their children by talking and reasoning with them.