6 Ways to Raise the Happiest Kids on Earth

Want to know the secrets of raising happy children? Parenting expert Jessica Joelle Alexander has the answers.

So, who really knows the secrets of raising happy children?

(Dead silence)

Lucky for us, parenting expert, researcher and author Jessica Joelle Alexander has devoted her professional life to providing culturally validated answers to this very question. In her bestselling book, “The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids,” Alexander provides actionable strategies to improve a family’s wellbeing. 

“Happy kids grow up to be happy adults who raise happy kids, and so on,” Alexander says.

She shared more information on her easy-to-remember “PARENT” acronym to raise well-adjusted kids at a recent ParentEd Talk sponsored by Chicago Parent as part of a series of talks with parenting experts. She recommends parents from all walks of life apply this successful strategy to their own families:


In Denmark, free play is considered the most important thing that a child can do, and has been considered an education theory since 1871. Alexander says that parents should step back from sports and extracurricular activities and believe in the power of play.

“Play teaches children life skills like empathy, resilience and helps them learn to cope with stress,” she says. “When in doubt, allow your child the freedom to be bored – it’s the birthplace of creativity.:


Alexander says that being honest with kids is crucial. She notes that while most American movies for kids have a happy ending, Danish movies are authentic in an age-appropriate way. She says this falls under the belief that children need to learn about all aspects of life and all emotions.

“Life is not a fairytale. Not all stories end happily,” she says. “The sooner we teach our children about this, the more resilient they become.”


Parents should make a conscious effort to state things in an encouraging, forward-looking way.

“Find the positive details in a negative situation,” Alexander says. “Train yourself to find the better story in life.”


Alexander says that empathy should be taught at an early age. Denmark has the lowest rate of bullying in Europe, and she attributes that to empathy being taught in the classroom.

“Children have a right to their senses and their feelings,” she says. “It is really important that we acknowledge that, because this is how they have empathy for themselves.”

No ultimatums

When you use an ultimatum, you are immediately going into a conflict or an “I win” situation, Alexander points out.  Not using ultimatums avoids power struggles and promotes democracy to foster trust and resilience between a parent and child.

“Send consistent signals and your child will learn to navigate their own lives,” she says. 


Nothing tops having “cozy times” with the people you care about. When spending time with loved ones, Alexander suggests people take out their negativity or divisive thoughts and leave them at the door like they’d be taking off your shoes or jacket.

“Be together with the people you love and be present,” Alexander says. “Think of it as ‘we time’ and not ‘me time’.”

Looking for more parenting tips from experts? Register for the remaining ParentEd Talks with one ticket!

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