…because some thoughts are worth remembering
The Danes are fiercely independent, and the training begins early. I see many young children running around the park far from their parents who seem to be unconcerned about their whereabouts. The kids seem to have more opportunities to explore on their own, yet they don’t seem to get into trouble and there seems to be less tantrums. They do get disciplined. My Danish is pretty elementary, but even I can see that the parents take tremendous care to explain why. I keep hearing the word fordi (because) when they deny their kids’ request. Fordi this and fordi that…to toddlers who barely speak. Apparently the development of language skills in Danish kids is slower, even compared to other Scandinavian countries, a Swedish tourist reminded me, mocking how Danes can barely understand other Danes. I suppose this characterization is the basis of the Norwegian parody of the Danish language. But I digress.
A Japanese friend of mine (who is studying the Danish system/methods for early childhood education) was babysitting some Danish kids who wanted to swim in their inflatable pool with the neighborhood kids. It’s one thing just to look over the kids she is responsible for with an activity they hadn’t cleared by their parents, it’s another to be responsible for the neighborhood kids that just showed up. She explained to the kids that she will contact the parents and if they say yes, it would be ok, but told them that their parents may not be able to respond in time. She also mentioned about her concerns with the neighborhood children being in the house. The kids simply said, “Nej, du beslut” (No, you decide) because she was in charge now. So she said, ok then, no. They accepted her decision without further argument.
It’s hard to believe the same scenario happening in Japan or the US. Kids being so bold as to tell the babysitter what to do, but at the same time acknowledging their authority? Respecting them by giving the sitter the opportunity to lay down the law, and accepting it even when the decision was an unfavorable one?
In the meantime, she received a call from the parents who echo their kids’ sentiments. We put you in charge, it’s your decision. Strangely, or not strangely, the way companies and academia are run here also echoes their parenting environment: students are expected to voice their opinions to their professors, respect is earned on the basis of your performance not assumed because of their titles, reasons for decision are given, and when you are assigned something, they do it their own way and not expect to be micromanaged.