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The Happiest Kids in the World: How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids (and Themselves) by Doing Less

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  808 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Discover how Dutch parents raise The Happiest Kids in the World!

Calling all stressed-out parents: Relax! Imagine a place where young children play unsupervised, don’t do homework, have few scheduled “activities” . . . and rank #1 worldwide in happiness and education.* It’s not a fantasy—it’s the Netherlands!
Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison—an American and a
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by The Experiment
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Meghan Davis strader
Short of moving to the Netherlands, there wasn't much practical advice for those of us living in the US.
Jane Eyre
It's worth getting to know Dutch parenting methods, however not necessarily from this book. I found the narration where the author is constantly comparing US/UK to the Netherlands quite annoying. Im not from any of these countries but after a while it became so predictable that the US/UK methods are gonna be portrayed as hopeless while Duch pure perfection.

There was no critical examples of Duch methods what so ever. That made the book quite one-layered. Seemed to me that even when authors menti
Christine Fitzgerald
I liked this book, it made me laugh out loud. As always, reading about parenting in other cultures is fascinating to me. However, other than move to Amsterdam, this book really did not have a lot of practical advice for life here in states.
Becky Diamond
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When American ex-pat Rina Acosta stumbled across a 2013 UNICEF report stating that the happiest kids in the world live in Holland, it spurred her to write a blog piece about her observations, which went viral. Teaming up with Michele Hutchinson (also an ex-pat from the UK), they explain how the Dutch culture is rooted in simplicity, with families choosing low-cost activities and a back-to-basics approach. In addition, they have observed that Dutch schools invest more energy in motivation than ac ...more
Fliss Van Steenbergen
I was interested in reading this book, as I'm married to a Dutchman myself. Whilst there were some interesting points raised, the book was incredibly anecdotal and not particularly representative of Dutch parenting/culture en masse. There were some scientific studies included, but I got the feeling they had been chosen to back up the authors' opinions, resulting in a skewed perspective. Perhaps the writers simply needed to convince themselves they'd done the right thing by bringing up their fami ...more
This was interesting, but I didn't love it. I agree with some of the things they do and disagreed with some too. But it's always interesting to see life through someone elses eyes.
E. H. Nathasia
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman on French parenting wisdom was an eye-opener for me, the Dutch makes me take a step back.

I hesitate because of one thing, they can do it because of culture and the support of government and society.

It's a way of life for them. Therefore, it makes it easier to do what they do with their children. Their easy going approach on parenting can only be done in the kind of environment they live in the Netherlands.

To compare
May 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book has few interesting points but not sure it all needed 300 pages of explanation (maybe because I live in the Netherlands and many things were not new to me). Also I missed some points of critique, the book presents the Dutch way in pink colors and relays mainly on some good examples from friends and family. Would be far more interesting to know also the darker side...For example we have many Dutch friends with divorced parents and the Netherlands is pretty high on the divorce rates lists ...more
Abby Klauck
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the first of many parenting books I assume I'll be reading as my husband and I embark on our child-rearing journey. I knew I was going to enjoy The Happiest Kids in the World because I'd read a couple of Rina's blog posts in the past, and this book mostly solidified my thought that, if it were easier, moving to The Netherlands seems like the best way to go. Given that is unlikely, and that The Netherlands sounds too cold and wet for my tastes, we'll have to settle for adapting Dut ...more
Theunis Snyman
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reminded me of my childhood. There was no pressure from my parents to perform. In primary school there was really not much in the way of homework. We played after school, or read books. I could walk the streets to the library, the butcher and the grocer. My friend and I wandered through the woods nearby. And we even walked to primary school. We went to High school by bus. We talked to each other during dinner and then listened to the news and the radio soap at twenty past seven. It was ...more
Allysia K
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't get enough of cultural parenting books! I enjoyed this one both for the content, and also because my husband and his family are Dutch. It's also an interesting read back-to-back with the French-focused Bringing Up Bebe, since they basically have opposite philosophies.
Michael Wear
Honestly, could not finish this one. Did not enjoy it at all.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should have been born in the Netherlands! 🇳🇱 I loved the ideas behind their bicycling culture, schooling philosophy for children, and national emphasis on family connection.
Jackie Bonath
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Raising kids to be happy, what more could you possibly want?
Nov 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great ideas, not so great presentation
Initially I was unimpressed and suspected this book of being an unoriginal knockoff of Bringing up Bebe, only with the Netherlands subbed in for France as the paragon of perfect parenting. And if you are reading it as a parenting manual, it will be largely useless since most of the insights cannot be transplanted from outside of the Dutch context (ie. the pervasiveness of getting around on a bicycle, or the way children are evaluated in the education system).

However, if you just want
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dutch education and parenting system seems wonderful. While I was listening to the audio book, I kept stopping intermittently and texting my husband fervently, “We should move to the Netherlands, for the sake of the baby!” We most likely will never move to the Netherlands, too cold and acquiring citizenship is very difficult, but the book did bring up a lot of interesting points. Letting children solve issues between themselves without intervening to let them solve their own problems. If a c ...more
Alicia Harding
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Good Enough” :)

I called this review “good enough” because one of my favorite takeaways was the idea of good enough parenting. This book was the cure for what my own neurotic, anxious, guilt ridden, sparenting in the US. The Dutch talk about “good enough” parenting and living. There isn’t s drive for perfection like there often is here.

One of the criticism I keep seeing about this book is that it constantly compares Dutch parenting to that in the UK and US, but I felt the writ
Oct 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
This is an extension of an American ex-pat's blog about parenting in Holland. She has preschool age kids. The other author has older children and is a British ex-pat. Both are married to dutch men. If you're looking for lots of case studies, this is probably not your book. There was some insight though. Mostly that having low stress due to better work-life balance and less competitiveness (both as parents and as general members of society) creates more relaxed parents (vs helicopter parenting). ...more
Carrie Ann
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book I thoroughly enjoyed, especially since I'm third generation Dutch American and many of the observations of Dutch people rang true with me and my family. Unfortunately, it also made me a little depressed because I read it while pregnant, and living in southern California makes it impossible to replicate much of what is so good about raising children in the Netherlands. But overall, it was excellent food for thought, and I think got me started down some good paths of preparing myself for ra ...more
Kevin Lim
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a step-by-step guide for dummies, or a list of specific instructions from this book, you will be sorely disappointed, however, you clearly need to give this book a read if you are expecting DIY how-to. Maybe, you'd need professional help first to get the basics.
Now that I've cleared up misplaced expectations I saw from other reviewers, this book is wonderfully written with academic rigour and delivered with a familiar prose.
More than just parenting, this book d
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read and really insightful. Some reviewers commented that this advice wasn't practical for the states and I agree but only to a point. Sure, as an Alaskan I won't' be biking to and from work along to road in deep snow 16 miles and I'm not sure I feel that Alaska is as safe as The Netherlands with regards to kids just playing out in public alone, but a lot of what Acosta discusses can be applied to everyday life. The Dutch have a really laid back approach to parenting that focuse ...more
Like all parenting books, you pick out what you agree with. This one is another 'Bringing up Bebe' but in a good way. Basically, Americans are too involved and doting of their children, creating little snowflakes. Unlike the French, the Dutch kids are little monsters. They are independent and noisy, but they are always topping charts for well-being and satisfaction. My favorite parts were about education and that it is less competitive and achievement-oriented than the US system. Nobody cares if ...more
Ben Snowden
Dec 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's bad news when a book's contents can be replaced with one sentence: "The Dutch parenting technique is perfect."

Basically, the book's premise is, "move your family to where it's perfect, and your family will be perfect, and did we mention how perfect it is here?"

Don't get me wrong, it's interesting to see how another culture works. However, the syrupy sweet depiction plays out like a Hallmark movie called "My Heart Is In Holland."

You won't find much nuance in these pages. What y
Jeri Lin
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved. Loved. Loved. I think I live in the wrong country. I resonated with so many of the outlooks the Dutch have about life and parenting. I want to be better about helping my children be more independent and happy. I think the principles in this book can help.

If only I lived in a country where cycling is the main mode of transportation...seriously daydreaming...

The biggest takeaway for me is that we don’t have to be perfect parents raising perfect children. That’s an I achievable
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A provocative idea of more freedom and less restraints on children being raised in the Netherlands from the viewpoint of two women - one from England and one from California - who are both married to Dutch men. I really agree with the view of the Dutch schools on no homework and much less testing, competition and more emphasis on problem solving and social interactions than the US schools who test ad nausem from day one of school. Interesting views on social issues, vacations, taxation, family r ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of me loved this book and another part was like “hallelujah” when it was over. Some things really resonated and were great take homes. Other parts of this book were a total snooze fest—ie when the authors say “i talked to my neighbor about...” and a whole entire chapter about riding bikes in the rain, wind, and snow. The appeal is broad but the application of certain points are very narrow.

My favorite takeaways:
Walking to school instills excited to walk to school next year.
Liz Voce
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I didn't like the portion discussing controlled crying, because I don't agree with it. She mentions that her sister-in-law (I believe) had her child sleeping through the night by 3 months. Children at this age still need nourishment throughout the night, and parents could believe that this should be the norm, when it is not. I also wasn't comfortable with the incredibly liberal take on sex, but I know that the Dutch are incredibly liberal, so this didn't shoc ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book explained two expats' views on parenting in the Netherlands. The expats were one British woman and one American woman and their insights into raising children (from infants to eleven year olds) was based on the fact that parenting in the Netherlands focuses on creating happy children. The whole society gets involved to make it a priority. It's a good read and I recommend it for any parents that are worried they are holding on too tightly or trying to push their children into checking o ...more
Angela Hedworth
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew I wanted to be Dutch? This book, written by an American and British expats, did an excellent job of describing with lots of interviews from professionals as well as other parents, how parenting and childhood is different -- BETTER in The Netherlands. And they've got great ideas that we should really implement. The challenge, of course, is that their culture supports it. Short work weeks, lots of vacation days, a focus on social-emotional development in grade school, lots of bike racks, ...more
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