• Sweden edition
 
Is child-centred Sweden ruled by bratty kids?

Is child-centred Sweden ruled by bratty kids?

Published: 28 Oct 2013 07:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 28 Oct 2013 07:51 GMT+01:00

Sweden had a head start in the good parenting debate as the first country to outlaw smacking but some argue that its child-centred approach has gone too far and children now rule the roost.

"In some ways Swedish kids are really ill-mannered," David Eberhard, a leading psychiatrist and father of six, told AFP.

"They shout if there are adults speaking at the dinner table, they interrupt you all the time and they demand the same space as adults."

Eberhard recently published a book entitled "How Children Took Power" which argues that over the years Swedes have effectively extended their 1979 smacking ban -- now adopted in more than 30 countries -- to a ban on correcting children in any way.

"Of course you should listen to your children but in Sweden it's gone too far. They tend to decide everything in families: when to go to bed, what to eat, where to go on vacation, even what to watch on television," he said, adding that the permissive approach to child-raising leaves young Swedes ill-equipped for adulthood.

"Their expectations are too high and life is too hard for them. We see it with anxiety disorders and self-harming which has risen dramatically."

A question of culture

That view is contested by several experts including family therapist Martin Forster who says that on the whole Swedish youths still top international rankings of well-being.

"Sweden was very much inspired by ideas that children should be more in the centre and they should be listened to," he said.

"That children decide too much -- that's a matter of values. Different approaches to parenting and children produce different cultures."

Nonetheless, there is a lively debate about how the approach has influenced schools with falling grades and complaints about rowdy classrooms.

"Two boys were swearing at each other -- I didn't think seven-year-olds even knew words like that -- and when I tried to intervene they swore at me and told me to mind my own business," said Ola Olofsson, a journalist at a southern Swedish newspaper, describing a visit to his seven-year-old daughter's classroom.

When he wrote a column about the chaos he witnessed at the school, the paper's website was inundated with hundreds of comments from exasperated parents and teachers.

One preschool teacher from Stockholm wrote that the four and five-year-olds she teaches regularly say "You think I care!" when asked to do something.

"Just the other day a four-year-old spat at me when I asked him to stop climbing on some shelves," she added.

Parenting a political issue

But what is it that makes Swedish parenting different?

Family therapist Martin Forster says it's more of a political issue and that all the public debate about right and wrong may leave parents more confused than elsewhere.

Following a government inquiry on child welfare in 2010, a free parenting course, called "All Children in the Centre", was offered by local authorities to support parents struggling with young children.

Its main message is that punishing children does not make them behave in the long run and setting boundaries is not always the right approach.

"If you want a child to cooperate the best way is to have a close relationship so the child will want to cooperate with you," said psychologist Kajsa Lönn-Rhodin, one of the architects of the course, rejecting the idea that children have taken over.

"I think it's a bigger problem when children are treated badly... when there's harsh parenting," she said.

Marie Märestad and her husband took the course in Stockholm in 2012 when their daughters were aged two and three. At meal times the children often ran about and pushed toys around the kitchen table.

"We found we were nagging them all the time, they were fighting a lot... we had a lot of disputes in the morning when it was time to get dressed," said the energetic 39-year-old personal trainer.

"Our youngest would have tantrums and nothing worked... We had a pretty tough time so we thought it would be a good idea to get some tips and advice," she added, pouring coffee as her daughters played with Lego on the birchwood floor of their suburban house.

She said the course helped them "pick their battles" and communicate better with the children -- but she added that children do often tend to dominate in Swedish homes.

"You can see it with many of our friends, that it's the children who are in charge, it feels like."

Parents are not pals

Hugo Lagercrantz, a professor of pediatrics at Karolinska University Hospital, believes Swedish parenting owes a lot to the country's emphasis on democracy and equality.

"Swedish parents try to be too democratic...They should act like parents and take decisions and not try to be popular all the time."

However Lagercrantz also sees an upside to the Swedish approach.

"Swedish children are very outspoken and can express their opinions," he said, adding that the country's tradition of equality helped spawn homegrown multinationals like H&M and Ikea, known for their flat management style, where there are fewer layers of middle management.

"Sweden is not very hierarchical and in some respects that's very good, it's one of the reasons why the country is doing fairly well economically."

AFP/The Local/dl

Follow The Local on Twitter

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

All aboard! We're off to the island of Gotland for our Property of the Week - a home right in the heart of Medieval Visby. Whether you're looking to buy or dying to look - this is the place for you. READ  

Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year
Stockholm Pride. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year

The largest pride festival in Scandinavia is back for the 17th year in a row. The week promises to be packed with activities - and a glamorous opening gala with Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. READ  

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total problem in intelligence". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

729
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se