Being born into a family with dual nationality has its pros and cons. I was nearly seven years old when my parents decided we should move from Denmark to Portugal. I had only been there on holiday, spending a few weeks every year with my mother’s family who spoke a language I understood but I wasn’t able to reply back. My perception of the Portuguese was that they had very dark hair and always had a tan. The men had big moustaches and the women had big curly hair. The ladies were inside their homes and the men in the cafes. There was also a lot of smoking involved. That was the 90’s for me.
I believe moving to Portugal was quite a success for me as, apart from a few years abroad, I am still here, alive and well. Nevertheless, there really are a few things that struck me back then and still do now.
Here’s the list:
1 – Why is there no proper Portuguese made television shows for children?
I’m not talking about fantasy land where real live actors exaggerate their performance in such a way that children don’t even want to watch it, or international cartoons. Or even those programmes where the children are supposed to learn something. STOP! Children in Portugal spend so many hours at school learning (usually from 9am to 6pm), why would anyone think it would be good for them to watch something on television where they can learn something? They need a break, just like adults need a break and watch football, soap operas, reality tv. We all need to take our minds off work/school, why should it be different for children? Portugal made their own Sesame Street which was a huge success, but after that nothing happened. Children’s television in Portugal urgently needs to change.
2 – Some children are not allowed to do much.
Please, do sit down and be quiet while the grown-ups are having a coffee for an hour or so. It doesn’t matter if you are too young to sit still for so long. Your parents will not understand it. They will tell you they have little patience for you and that you are annoying. Most probably they will also tell you to shut up – loudly. Some parents like to show their authority to their children in public. Because that will teach them who’s the boss! Children are to be seen, not heard.
3 – “Don’t go there or else you’ll fall!” or “Stop! You’ll only hurt yourself!”
Many parents and grandparents say to their children and grandchildren who are only walking down stairs (yes, children, not babies or toddlers) or trying to climb up the ladder to go down the slide or just want to go on the swing. They have to hold the grown-ups hands or they will be held very tight. I experienced that and still see these situations more often than I wish. Self-esteem issues, weak motor skills and no capability to self-assess any issue? What? Where does that come from?
Now, I’m not saying Danish parents are perfect. Far from it. Of course I notice Danish children are far more capable to think for themselves and have more confidence in their capabilities than the average Portuguese child. But, I also see issues in the Danish way of parenting:
– I have the feeling that some parents (specially fathers) are a tiny bit afraid of their own children. Or are they afraid of showing their authority? I have seen plenty of outrageously misbehaving children and the parents talk with them, but their body language and their tone signal they are extremely uncomfortable with the situation and would rather prefer to ignore it. Well, the children end up laughing at them, yell at them or walk away. It has actually been in the news ever so often that Danish parents lack authority towards their children.
– Danish children become very materialistic at an early age. They want money to buy the things they want. Either the parents give it to them or they find an after-school job to earn the money they need. But this just digs one big hole between the grown ups and the wanna be grown ups, because the later become so independent so quickly that they spend very little time with their family (yes, the hygge thing). In stead, they prefer to work to earn money and spend it with their friends. No bonding or “hygge time” with the family brings me to the third point.
– Well, the time the children spend with their friends is not like five or ten years ago. They spend it online. Computer games, social media and so on. That’s where they mostly hang out these days. And because parents also are hooked on their smartphones, tablets and computers the younger generation lacks basic human interactive knowledge that you can only learn with your family and peers: empathy and social competences. Isn’t that scary?
So, don’t go buy any book about the Danish way of parenting. Just let your children play without threatening them about the dangers out there, I promise you they will not get badly injured. A scratch is a scratch and they will be proud of it and show it to their classmates the next day. While the children’s television in Portugal doesn’t take a drastic change, just don’t turn on the television as soon as you get home, bring their the toys to the living room and let your children play. It’s a good way for them to calm down after a long day and that is a good way to bond or hygge.