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Do the Dutch Have It Right?

I love that a Time magazine article on children's happiness leads with a picture of a little sister pinching her brother's face. He's not crying in pain; instead, he seems to be having fun. Could that truly be real? I'm fairly certain that in my house such a picture would result in a child screaming in pain.

Despite that photo under the headline Why Dutch Kids are Happier Than Yours, the article makes an interesting case about family life in a country rated as the best for kids by UNICEF:

* Kids are taught through play, not rules. Parents and teachers say children are encouraged to form and express their opinions.

* Teens can legally drink at age 16.

* In "professional classes," most parents work four-day weeks. Each parent devotes a day off to their kids. Child-care, which most parents use for three days a week, is subsidized by employers.

* Health care is free until age 18.

The article does mention class and racial disparities in the country that seem to indicate the happiness is largely based in white, upper-class families.

What do you think? Are there lessons from the Netherlands that we can apply in the United States to make our families "happier," or is this a better country to raise kids in than we get credit for?

'Bye, Bye, Plane' Update: Kate Penland and son Garron appeared on Good Morning America (scroll down the story list at the top and click on the video icon) to tell her story. The show also interviewed other passengers on the plane who defended the mom and boy. By the time of the story on GMA, the airline still had not given any statement other than the one that they are looking into the incident.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 17, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  The Debate
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Comments


"The article does mention class and racial disparities in the country that seem to indicate the happiness is largely based in white, upper-class families. "

That's pretty much true all over the world, isn't it?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 7:35 AM | Report abuse

4 day work weeks are the only humane way to live.

And re update: The parents of Elly were asinine on the plane; why didn't one of them sit next to her? And the brat was atrocious on whatever morning show she was on.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 8:13 AM | Report abuse

"And the brat was atrocious on whatever morning show she was on."

Not to the parents. They wear blinders. What did they hope to gain by going on television?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

To anon at 8:13
The update is about Garren Penland, not Elly...totally different episode.
I think it's atrocious that a flight attendant can kick a mother and child off a plane because the child is babbling. I hope the flight attendant gets fired and the Penlands get millions.

Posted by: new mom | July 17, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

new mom

"I think it's atrocious that a flight attendant can kick a mother and child off a plane because the child is babbling. I hope the flight attendant gets fired and the Penlands get millions"

Interesting. You've heard one side of the story and you are ready to award a verdict!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

What do you think? Are there lessons from the Netherlands that we can apply in the United States to make our families "happier," or is this a better country to raise kids in than we get credit for?

Ummm - being white and affulent makes people happy. There are a lot of racial and ethnic problems in Holland that I think you may be glossing over. Additionally, many of the benefits you speak of mean signficantly more taxes which I think most Americans are not interested in. We want free healthcare and free childcare truly free. Can't be done.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I hope the flight attendant gets fired and the Penlands get millions.

You dahling are exactly what is wrong with this country. I've been kicked off flights for which I had a ticket, but were oversold and all I got was a free ticket. Honestly, you think that millions is an appropriate consequence. Who do you think will pay those millions - hmmmm, oh, passengers, in the form of higher fares. You are ridiculous.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

"I think it's atrocious that a flight attendant can kick a mother and child off a plane because the child is babbling. I hope the flight attendant gets fired and the Penlands get millions"

Doesn't anyone ever watch Airline on A&E? Airlines can kick you off at any time for any reason. Do I think its right? No. But I don't think its worth millions (or even a lawsuit). Because its a cute toddler, she goes public and makes the news rounds. If it was an adult who was kicked off for being silly, no one would care.

Posted by: RT | July 17, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

That kid does look pretty bratty! Just saying. It also doesn't sound as if the mother made any attempt at all to quiet the kid. Offer a snack, lollipop would that have killed her? I'm pretty over parents just sitting around on planes while their kids misbehave.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

"It also doesn't sound as if the mother made any attempt at all to quiet the kid. Offer a snack, lollipop would that have killed her? "

Why even do that? I tell my kids to shut up and they do so!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Why even do that? I tell my kids to shut up and they do so!

Amen

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

As someone who has seen child-rearing practices in both countries, here's what I think:

No, the US does a poor job at raising children and may get MORE credit than it deserves.

Yes, there are numerous lessons to learn from the Dutch on this subject.

No, applying them in the US would not work.

Yes, there is a huge chasm between the Dutch who have lived here for generations and more recent immigrants. One sees the difference with every trip to the supermarket. Immigrants from cultures with laxer customs regarding the nurture of children have unpleasanter offspring. Those from stricter backgrounds have better-behaved youngsters.

Dutch parents promote independence in their children, including allowing them to suffer the consequences of actions rather than buffering them against those outcomes. The parents pay all or a part of the schooling AND select the school. This keeps the parents involved. The teachers have much better training than their American counterparts, have better protection from parents, and seem able to grasp and maintain the discipline required to give lessons.

For the children, achievement in school affects choices later in life, and this point is emphasized from the beginning. If a child does not get the necessary grades, (s)he limits (her)himself in the education later available (i.e., a student must qualify for into a trajectory for the remainder of the educational period). A student who does not get the grades to study for a "professional" level job must study at the "trade" level. This sort of responsibility for one's future provides good incentives.

Further, the society promotes working together over competing. This is much different to the one winner and everyone else a loser mentality prevalent in the US. Moreover, sport and other non-educational activities are activities OUTSIDE of school, rather than the apparent raison d'etre often seen in the US.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, people in the Netherlands are taught critical thinking skills, respect (as in the Golden Rule), and acceptance.

Simply put, the Dutch manner will not work in the US simply because the societal values are too different and too difficult to change.

Posted by: ExPat2 | July 17, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

"Why even do that? I tell my kids to shut up and they do so!"
Good for you! Your kids will probably grow up well adjusted and respectful, unlike the entitled brats we all have to deal with on a daily basis.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Holland is a smaller country and people tend to move much less frequently. Growign up with solid roots in a community probably makes you happier.

People have more social ties and there are more social clubs and groups that exist as part of day to day life in Holland. That's been proven to make people happier. Suicide rates are higher in places where people are lonelier.

They have really good public transportation and shorter commutes. That probably helps everyone.

On the other hand, they have legalized euthanasia and tend to institutionalize old people and others with problems. Perhaps they are less stressed since few of them actually take care of their aging parents.

They gave up religion long ago, so no one feels any guilt about living together, having an abortion, having a child out of wedlock or having an affair. I suppose people might be happier if they don't feel guilty for their actions.

Also, Dutch universities don't grant a lot of useless degrees in subjects when there are no available jobs in those subjects. So there's less unemployment and people feel more secure about their employment prospects. That makes people happier.

I don't think we should take them as our model for how to run a society.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"For the children, achievement in school affects choices later in life, and this point is emphasized from the beginning. If a child does not get the necessary grades, (s)he limits (her)himself in the education later available (i.e., a student must qualify for into a trajectory for the remainder of the educational period). A student who does not get the grades to study for a "professional" level job must study at the "trade" level. This sort of responsibility for one's future provides good incentives."

I don't see how this is a good thing. I'm sure it's probably more complex than you are making out to be. But if you are going to put kids into different tracks at an early age, it sends the message that you can't atone for your mistakes. "Sorry, you can't get a 'professional' education because you got bad grades whe you were 12." How does that give anyone an incentive to work harder?

As for the original quesiton, I think all cultures have good and bad aspects.

Posted by: Dennis | July 17, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Wow ExPat2, it's amazing that the US has not yet slid into the mire of a 3rd world nation given how poorly it raises its children, especially compared to the Dutch, the greatest people in the entire world.

Posted by: Chris | July 17, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Why should American kids not be happy? Surely we have enough Prozac and Zoloft to go around.

Posted by: Bob | July 17, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Dennis

"But if you are going to put kids into different tracks at an early age, it sends the message that you can't atone for your mistakes. "Sorry, you can't get a 'professional' education because you got bad grades whe you were 12." How does that give anyone an incentive to work harder?"

Darwinism takes its course.

Posted by: Jake | July 17, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"For the children, achievement in school affects choices later in life, and this point is emphasized from the beginning. If a child does not get the necessary grades, (s)he limits (her)himself in the education later available (i.e., a student must qualify for into a trajectory for the remainder of the educational period). A student who does not get the grades to study for a "professional" level job must study at the "trade" level. This sort of responsibility for one's future provides good incentives"

yes, this was the absolute worst thing I noticed about the Dutch education system. If a kid has an off year or week, especially around the time they are 12 and take the tests, they are, in effect permanently locked into a career path for the rest of their lives. Heck, even if they do great and wind up on the doctor path, who on earth knows what they really want to be at 12? After all, asking a 12 year old to accept responsibility for the rest of his life may also explain why dutch children under 12 are happy-go-lucky and most of the adults are sourpusses.

Posted by: DCAustinite | July 17, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Jake,

"Darwinism takes its course."

Which totally ignores the fact that some people are just late bloomers. I know quite a few people who screwed up early in life and have gone on to have extremely successful careers.

Posted by: Dennis | July 17, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

"Additionally, many of the benefits you speak of mean signficantly more taxes which I think most Americans are not interested in. We want free healthcare and free childcare truly free."

Speak for yourself, anonymous poster!

Of course "free" childcare and healthcare is not literally free. Just like our war in Iraq is not free. The question is, how would you like our taxes spent? On lethal military invasions that drag on for years, or on our children? I think "most Americans" would stand with me on the side of children.

I don't mean to politicize or polarize this question, but it's a pretty loaded debate.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

"Additionally, many of the benefits you speak of mean signficantly more taxes which I think most Americans are not interested in. We want free healthcare and free childcare truly free."

Speak for yourself, anonymous poster!

Of course "free" childcare and healthcare is not literally free. Just like our war in Iraq is not free. The question is, how would you like our taxes spent? On lethal military invasions that drag on for years, or on our children? I think "most Americans" would stand with me on the side of children.

I don't mean to politicize or polarize this question, but it's a pretty loaded debate.

Posted by: Josh | July 17, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I think "most Americans" would stand with me on the side of children.

I don't mean to politicize or polarize this question, but it's a pretty loaded debate.

Posted by: | July 17, 2007 10:16 AM

If the Americans wanted these things then they would have demanded them and voted for it wouldn't they?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"Which totally ignores the fact that some people are just late bloomers."

But most people are not.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

There are a lot of things we could take from other countries, such as one-o'clock centers in England, or co-sleeping in a lot of countries. However, the big difference between American parents and parents in other countries is this iron-clad law of "How dare you SUGGEST to me how I raise my children! I'll screw them up how and as much as I like, thank YOU!"

This is a fine line. The federal government should not dictate a family's values (coming from a mixed-faith family, in a mixed-faith, interracial marriage), but at the same time, they're not fostering a healthful environment for children to grow up in. it's the parents who are selfish and bratty. The kids are just reflections of that until they're 10 or so.

And yes, teachers could stand to be trained better. Going through my MEd program right now, I'm apalled at how much of my classes have nothing to do with education OR discipline, but with how to conduct research. We only have ONE lesson planning class in the whole curriculum.

Posted by: Kat | July 17, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

If the Americans wanted these things then they would have demanded them and voted for it wouldn't they?

Posted by: | July 17, 2007 10:25 AM

On second thought, maybe I did mean to polarize the debate. Or rather, maybe I was polarizing things without meaning to. It is more complicated than "should we fund a war in Iraq or should we fund childcare?"

I should have simply pointed out that no governmental actions or services are free--war or childcare--so we just have to make our choices.

And the 10:25 poster asks why Americans haven't demanded the things they supposedly want. In other words, if Americans would rather spend their tax dollars on childcare and education rather than killing on foreign soil, why have they done nothing while the slaughter continues and our children's future is left in the balance.

Great question. I sincerely wish I had a answer.

Posted by: Josh | July 17, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

"There are a lot of things we could take from other countries, such as one-o'clock centers in England, or co-sleeping in a lot of countries"

What is a one-o'clock center?
What is co-sleeping? It sounds ghetto.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Isn't comparing a country of 16 million with a country of 300 million a little silly. Getting everyone in Holland to do something is akin to getting everyone in the New York metro area on the same page. Its really an apples and oranges comparison. Just because they are mostly white and western does not make much that they do comparable to our situation.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Yes let's follow the netherlands, where kids get stoned legally and can be drunk at 16. Not a chance. Ridiculous that we even entertain following people who encourage drug and alcohol use among teens.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what a one o'clock center is, but it does sound interesting.

I don't know what "ghetto" is, but it sounds derogatory.

Co-sleeping is when infants and young children sleep in a family bed with their parents. Advocates say that it promotes bonding. Critics express concern that it increases the risk of infant death due to being smothered or trapped in bedding. People with closed minds have all sorts of negative things to say about a practice that is not common in their culture, just as they do with all such practices.

Posted by: single mother by choice | July 17, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Ridiculous that we even entertain following people who encourage drug and alcohol use among teens.

---

The Dutch don't encourage drug and alcohol use among their teens. However, that Americans read the lack of Dutch laws restricting certain personal behaviors as "encouragement" is a pretty good indicator of our cultural differences.

Posted by: Josh | July 17, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, but fewer kids are drunk at 16 in the Netherlands. They are taught responsible drinking from their parents and, for the most part, follow it. Far fewer (in terms of percentage) alcoholics in NL than in the US. They also aren't allowed to drive at 16, so there are far fewer teen drunk driving fatalities

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Dutch morality does have a certain reputation, and I don't pretend to know whether it's deserved or not. I do know that when I prosecuted a young Dutchman (I privately called him "the flying Dutchman") for traveling in foreign commerce, from the Netherlands to the United States, for the purpose of illicit sex with someone he thought was 14, I was berated by the Dutch press and the consul general. Their position was that his conduct would not have led to a prosecution in the Netherlands, and therefore we were wrong to prosecute him here, never mind the fact that he traveled thousands of miles to the U.S. and made an unscheduled stop in the Midwest to meet the decoy. The flying Dutchman's chats were really repulsive, as were the photos he sent by webcam. But the folks who were speaking publicly in the Netherlands, and on behalf of the Dutch government, didn't seem to care about that. They thought we were unfair because what he had done was OKAY as far as they were concerned.

I just thought the reaction was strange. A diplomat confronting a federal prosecutor in court, as opposed to pursuing his complaint through diplomatic channels and the State Department, is very unusual indeed, and inappropriate. To me it illustrated the depth of his and his constituency's opposition to what we were doing.

I'm sure there are many very excellent Dutch parents over there, though I bristle a little at the idea that Dutch society has something to teach us as parents.

Posted by: ExAUSA | July 17, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"Co-sleeping is when infants and young children sleep in a family bed with their parents. Advocates say that it promotes bonding"

No sale here.
Sounds like something from the slums. Sounds like it increases the chances of incest among inbreds. Weird.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

The Dutch don't encourage drug and alcohol use among their teens. However, that Americans read the lack of Dutch laws restricting certain personal behaviors as "encouragement" is a pretty good indicator of our cultural differences.

Yes Josh they do. I imagine that if americans had to put up with stoned kids hanging out at the entrance of their local mall they would rabidly disagree with you. The dutch have essentially given up and follwing their lead would be the same for us.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The Dutch don't encourage drug and alcohol use among their teens. However, that Americans read the lack of Dutch laws restricting certain personal behaviors as "encouragement" is a pretty good indicator of our cultural differences.

Yes Josh they do. I imagine that if americans had to put up with stoned kids hanging out at the entrance of their local mall they would rabidly disagree with you. The dutch have essentially given up and follwing their lead would be the same for us.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

exausa, thanks for the eye opener. The Dutch way of life if really examined would be repulsive to a vast majority of americans and the liberals point to it as some shining beacon of tolerance. Well tolerance for drugs and pedophilia is not something to emulate.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I take this article with a grain of salt. There are happy children to be found all over the world, even in third world countries where there's no running water or reliable medical care of any kind. Happy parents = happy kids.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 17, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"I imagine that if americans had to put up with stoned kids hanging out at the entrance of their local mall they would rabidly disagree with you. The dutch have essentially given up and follwing their lead would be the same for us."

Oh, but we do -- we just close our eyes and pretend the kids we're seeing aren't really drunk or high until it's too late. Statistically the U.S. has higher rates of adolescent drug use, alcoholism, venereal disease, and teen pregnancies than the permissive European countries we claim have nothing to teach us, so it seems a little lame to claim that somehow americans are better parents.

Posted by: Nan | July 17, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

DH and I co-sleep with our son, and find it by no means anything other than sweet.

I find it strange to stick a brand new baby in a dark room by itself and let it cry alone. What is taught here? No one will comfort you when you feel scared and alone at night. Sure, babies stop crying eventually. But at what cost?

To those of you that bristle and say, well, my children are fine and they cried it out! Good for you. I simply choose not to do that. Why criticize love? I find that strange.

We confuse sex and simple human contact in this country. All touching is not sexual. Sometimes it is about communicating comfort and security.

Posted by: Rebecca | July 17, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

From the AAP


Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a disease of unknown cause. Despite recent decreases in the incidence of SIDS, SIDS is still responsible for more infant deaths in the United States than any other cause of death during infancy beyond the neonatal period.1


There are some reports of infants being suffocated by overlying by an adult, particularly when the adult is in an unnaturally depressed state of consciousness, such as from alcohol or mind-altering drugs. Co-sleeping on sofas has emerged as a major risk factor in 1 study (Peter J. Fleming, Department for Child Health, Bristol, UK, unpublished data presented at a meeting convened by US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Bethesda, MD, December 9, 1998). Others52 have shown bed sharing with multiple family members in an adult bed to be particularly hazardous for the infant. Although overlying may be the mechanism in some of these cases, soft sleep surfaces, entrapment, and the likelihood of rolling to the prone position in such circumstances also may have a role. The risk of SIDS associated with co-sleeping is significantly greater among smokers.1153-55 Some behavioral studies have demonstrated that infants have more arousals and less slow-wave sleep during bed sharing,56,57 but no epidemiologic evidence exists that bed sharing is protective against SIDS.

Posted by: co sleeping is dumb | July 17, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Sure, babies stop crying eventually. But at what cost?

Zero. How's that for ya. But here's the cost of cosleeping. You and your husband will stop being intimate with a kid in your bed every night. None of you get really good sleep. THe child takes the most important place in the marriage. It doesn't make sense.

No one is criticizing love, you are just confused.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Let's not lose sight of the fact that this study was sponsored by UNICEF, an organization that has virtually ZERO credibility. Possibly the only organization that Jews, Muslims and the Catholic Church all vigorously detest.

Of course, they picked the Netherlands as being the best place to raise kids. Don't you know that UNICEF has been caught many times in various countries financing sterilization and abortions? Clearly, UNICEF and the Netherlands share the same twisted moral code.

By the way, who f*cking cares if the Dutch have it right? Any of you ever been to the Netherlands? They reached their prime back in 1653. Most of them are fat from drinking beer. And the women there are ugly as sin. They're like the red-headed stepchildren of Europe!

Posted by: IVY DAD!!! | July 17, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

The effort to rein in the Netherlands' famed social liberties is not limited to the small, newly empowered Christian Union party, which holds two of the 16 ministries in the coalition government formed this year. Increasingly, politicians from the more center-left Labor Party are among the most outspoken proponents of closing some brothels and marijuana shops, known here as "coffee shops."

"Has the Netherlands changed? Yes," said Frank de Wolf, a Labor Party member of the Amsterdam City Council. "There is not only a different mood among our people and politicians but there are different problems now."

The Netherlands is going through the same racial, ethnic and religious metamorphosis as the rest of Western Europe: Large influxes of black, Arab and Muslim immigrants are changing the social complexion of an overwhelmingly white, Christian nation struggling with its loss of homogeneity.

But here those anxieties are exacerbated by alarm over the international crime organizations that have infiltrated the country's prostitution and drug trades, the increasing prevalence of trafficking in women and children across its borders, and dismay over the Netherlands' image as an international tourist destination for drugs and sexual debauchery.

"In the past, we looked at legal prostitution as a women's liberation issue; now it's looked at as exploitation of women and should be stopped," said de Wolf.

He said Amsterdam's police force is overwhelmed and ill-equipped to fight the sophisticated foreign organized-crime networks operating in the city. Laws designed to regulate prostitution and brothel operators have instead opened the trade to criminal gangs, according to de Wolf and other city officials.

"Amsterdam has a reputation that you can do everything here," de Wolf said. "That's not the way I want people to look at Amsterdam."

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

"Sure, babies stop crying eventually. But at what cost?"

They learn to self-soothe/cope at an early age!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

It seems rather obvious why the Dutch children seem, on average, happier than their American counterparts: they get to be with the people who love them the most 4 full days out of a 7 day week. On average, American kids get at most 2 full days of the parent's attention. And that's assuming that neither parent works a second job and/or a job with non-traditional hours. I can only imagine that my boys would be a whole lot happier given this scenario.

Posted by: vbj | July 17, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

vbj

"It seems rather obvious why the Dutch children seem, on average, happier than their American counterparts: they get to be with the people who love them the most 4 full days out of a 7 day week."

We don't know that for sure. The article adn the study are suspect.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The person in charge of this blog really was sloppy today. The whole premise is suspect and out of context

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"Yeah, but fewer kids are drunk at 16 in the Netherlands. They are taught responsible drinking from their parents and, for the most part, follow it."

When are the parents teaching them responsible drinking - at age 12? Who has fewer drunk 12-13 year-olds? Maybe by the time the kids are 16 they have gotten past the drink til I'm drunk stage. I teach my children responsible drinking which is drink in moderation, not to get drunk. If you are drinking, don't drive. If you are the designated driver, just one is still too many. Responsible drinking is also not drinking until it is legal.

It is quite presumptious to assume that kids are drunk at 16 because their parents haven't taught them to drink responsibly. Why don't you teach them how to smoke pot responsibly too?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"DH and I co-sleep with our son, and find it by no means anything other than sweet.

I find it strange to stick a brand new baby in a dark room by itself and let it cry alone. What is taught here? No one will comfort you when you feel scared and alone at night. Sure, babies stop crying eventually. But at what cost?"

I am not against co-sleeping, but my kids slept in their own cribs from the day they came home from the hospital. I had a monitor on my night stand, and when they cried, I got up to comfort them and check on them. I never left them to cry alone until they were old enough to recognize if it was a hungry cry, diaper needs changing cry, hurt or sick cry, or just bored cry. If they were just bored, I did let them cry it out alone.

Rebecca, there is a whole lot of middle ground between co-sleeping and leaving a baby alone in the dark to cry it out.

We always used nightlights in the baby's room. It was easier for them to sleep in daylight hours when they weren't used to having complete darkness at bedtime.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"The person in charge of this blog really was sloppy today. The whole premise is suspect and out of context"

Par for the course...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

DH and I co-sleep with our son, and find it by no means anything other than sweet.
------------------------------------
It is soo sweet to wake up next to a cold dead baby. That's the best!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

People in this country seem to be awfully interested in where everyone is sleeping. Who cares, really, as long as everyone is happy and well rested? People seem to view beds as more meaningful than they actually are. It's just a place to lie down to sleep, folks, not the center of your life, your marriage, youe sex life, or anything else.

Posted by: va | July 17, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Someone remind me... is the Netherlands the country where the kids don't start school until 7? I know it was some country in northern europe...

Posted by: reston,v a | July 17, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Someone remind me... is the Netherlands the country where the kids don't start school until 7? I know it was some country in northern europe...

not sure but they can roll a mean joint by age 5......

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"DH and I co-sleep with our son, and find it by no means anything other than sweet."

Till baby's first explosive diarrhea attack!


Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Patrick, you say that this blog entry's "whole premise is suspect." I'm afraid you may be right.

When I was living in the Netherlands, I generally needed to overcome prejudices against Americans whenever I met someone new. The common local perception was that Americans on holidays behaved poorly and loudly, and were primarily responsible for keeping many of the Amsterdam coffee shops in business.

The prejudice wasn't deserved, but after a few months there I started to really appreciate why the locals felt the way they did. In fact, I found Americans in Amsterdam to be easily discernible precisely because of the loud, childish, and depraved behaviors they exhibited. Americans on holiday in the Netherlands did not handle the notorious Dutch permissiveness well at all.

Nor, I fear, would we be able to handle socialized child or health care. Why on Earth, we would ask ourselves, are we paying for other people's children's well being with our own hard-earned cash? Plus, what will become of our mighty military? And what about all that dreadful *terror* floating around out there?

So... I agree. The premise of this blog entry is suspect. By asking if America *should* follow the Netherlands' lead, we introduce a false premise: that America *could* do so, when clearly we must still evolve a few more steps as a culture before the Dutch model could become a realistic option.

Posted by: Josh | July 17, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

" we must still evolve a few more steps as a culture before the Dutch model could become a realistic option."

Josh, if you mean "evolve" where kids can get drugs, pedophilia is socially acceptable, drinking is legal at 16, prostitution is considered to be an acceptable profession for women, you've used the wrong word, it should be DEVOLVED.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Read "Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance" and then get back to me on how great and orderly Dutch (and European societies are).

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I lived in Amsterdam for two years while attending grad school at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Believe me, the Dutch have it right in a lot of things. Holland is truly the land of the free! Of course there will be things such as the tragedy of Theo van Gogh in any country. But in Holland you are free to chose to die if you are terminally ill, smoke pot if you want, have sex with a prostitute, be gay and join the military or get legally wed and the list goes on. I was humbled living in Holland and lost alot of my American arrogance, America is a great country, but so is Holland!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

While I don't know whether the Netherlands are a particularly nice place for kids to live (and I wouldn't take UNICEF's word for it either), I do know that it is not a good place for people questioning certain religious practices...and I don't mean Christians. I think it is interesting that some people here are using quotation marks and otherwise dismissing the notion of terrorism when in fact it was the Netherlands that witnessed the assassination of Theo Van Gogh and the death threats against Dutch parliamentarian Ayan Hirsi Ali (who moved to the U.S. after her Dutch neighbors complained that she was endangering them) for questioning certain aspects of Islam . For those who want more information on the dark side of Holland, I recommend Ali's book, "Infidel."

Posted by: Julie | July 17, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I guess Patrick's never been to Nevada, where prostitution IS considered an acceptable woman's profession.

As teen drinking and drug use, you just continue keeping your head in the sand, Patrick, and don't look around you very much.

Posted by: John L | July 17, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I guess Patrick's never been to Nevada, where prostitution is legal.

As for teen drug and alcohol use, keep that head buried in the sand and don't look around you very much. We may say it's illegal but that hasn't stopped many teens from using either one.

Posted by: John L | July 17, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

As teen drinking and drug use, you just continue keeping your head in the sand, Patrick, and don't look around you very much.

Oh Joy, John L. is here to put his turd in the punch bowl. Yes since we have problems, let's make it better by encouraging it! Good Job John, another worthless post by you. Clap clap

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I remember reading on a parenting blog where a mother was worried that her son was considered strange since he was still sleeping in her bed. He was 15. Sorry, but EEEWWWWWW. The mother claimed their co-sleeping was "normal".

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Theo van Gogh's death was not terrorism, it was called homicide. I love how every crime etc. today is refered to as terrorism. And Ms. Hirsi Ali was deported from Holland because she lied on her assylum application. Look, like I said, every country has it's issues, but the Dutch model is the most progressive and they are by far leading in the civilizing process. Life is about choices, and as long as you are not hurting anyone, why shouldn't you be able to chose to see a prostitute. And why shouldn't a women have complete liberty of contract, which includes selling her body. It's her choice, and who are you to tell her otherwise?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Are there adults on this board who believe the drinking age of 21 actually cuts down on teen drinking? Really? Let's not be ridiculous.

Posted by: new dad | July 17, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

John L. as a poll taker


JL-Ma'am, i see you have 2 small children. Would you be ok with them taking drugs when they got older? .
Parent-Um, No I wouldn't.
JL- Ok, what about letting them drink legally at 16, with no parental supervision?
Parent-No , of course not.
JL- Ok, I see you have a daughter, would you be ok and proud of her if she grew up and let numerous,dirty men have sex with herexposing her to AIDS, for small amounts of money?
Parent- Get the hell out of here!
JL- Well, she obviously has her head in the sand and is culturally backward.

Welcome to the upside down world of John L. and his liberal america hating friends.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I don't think co-sleeping usually refers to your 15-yr old. Good point, though. Spot on.

Anyway, Patrick, in re: "to put his turd in the punchbowl"? heh heh. I have to remember to use that one sometime.

Also funny? People talking about the relative moral deprivation of Holland as demonstrated by the assassination of Theo Van Gogh.

Here's a partial list of famous folks assassinated in the 20th & 21st century in the good old (morally superiour) U. S. of A.:

William Goebel, William McKinley, Frank Steunenberg, Don Mellett, Anton Cermak, Huey P. Long, Carlo Tresca, Curtis Chillingworth, John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, George Lincoln Rockwell, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Fred Hampton, Dan Mitrione, Tupamaros Orlando Letelier, Harvey Milk, George Moscone, John Wood, John Lennon, Alan Berg, Chiang Nan, Alex Odeh, Alejandro González Malavé, and James E. Davis

Posted by: Josh | July 17, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

There's always good in examining other methods. It constantly amazes me how "we" all think that anyone can/should have kids, always talk about how there's no guidebook to being a parent, and then the MOMENT you suggest they think of another way to parent other than whatever haphazard/inculcated from their own parents methods they've somehow scrambled together, you get shot down for teaching them how to treat their own kids.

We're so fairly repressed and confined in our culture (American) that springing towards so much looseness would cause a bit too much backlash on the other end- but then in time it might bring about a more balanced situation overall.

Whatever the case, AWARE and EDUCATED parenting is always better than simply blindly going with whatever you were spoonfed.

Posted by: Liz D | July 17, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Also funny? People talking about the relative moral deprivation of Holland as demonstrated by the assassination of Theo Van Gogh.

This is an irrelevant red herring. Every country has murders and assasinations.
-"Cringe"- Josh is right to poke a hole in that one.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

pATRICK

"Every country has murders and assasinations."

Posted by: Spelling Police | July 17, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Guilty as charged, "assassinations".

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Are there adults on this board who believe the drinking age of 21 actually cuts down on teen drinking? Really? Let's not be ridiculous."

Yes I believe it and thanks for calling me ridiculous. Do I believe that it eliminates teen drinking? No, I don't believe that.

When I was underage, I did drink, but I drank more when it was legal and I could just walk into a store and buy it and I could drink it at home with my friends without my parents worrying about the legalities. Underage, I still had to find a place to drink with my friends, someone to buy it, or share what they had or sneak it from someone's home. I even had friends who were afraid of how much trouble they would get into and did actually wait until they were legal.

While I do admit to underage drinking, my friends and I drank much more when we were legal. Also, we didn't live at college. Teens who live at home generally don't have the same access as kids who live at college. I imagine more drinking goes on in dorm rooms on a cold winter night than out in the woods where I drank with my friends.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

"I see you have a daughter, would you be ok and proud of her if she grew up and let numerous,dirty men have sex with herexposing her to AIDS, for small amounts of money?"

HEY!!! I'm NOT dirty. Clean men have sex with prostitutes too. And I'm not exposing anybody to anything.

And small amounts of money??? It can get pricy.

Posted by: A man | July 17, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"HEY!!! I'm NOT dirty. Clean men have sex with prostitutes too. And I'm not exposing anybody to anything.

And small amounts of money??? It can get pricy."

If you say so JOHN L........

Posted by: pATRICK | July 17, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Just love these blog comments where people comment on how bad the Netherlands is having spent only a very short time - if any at all - in the country. Anyone can use examples to support their opinion but the fact is that statistically, in health and crime - the Netherlands is a better place to live than the U.S. Sure, they have their problems but what country doesn't?

Anyway, though prostitution and pot are legal, it's not like there are prostitutes everywhere or that you can get pot anywhere. These places are limited and controlled. Although many of their laws are more liberal, the majority of the people there are actually quite conservative and don't like a lot of those liberal laws, so much of the country doesn't behave recklessly. In fact, they actually tend to be a very quiet and reserved people.

Posted by: charlie | July 17, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

People come to Amsterdam from all over the world for the sole purpose of pureeing their brains into a fine, soft drug-addled paste. Hash, mushrooms and other soft drugs are easier to get than a decent ice cream cone. While drugs are not in fact 100% legal, they are tolerated more than a regular cigarette is in the U.S. these days. While owning and using soft drugs is worry-free, don't plan on collecting a duffel bag worth of psychotropic substances and opening your own Kool-Aid-style booth on the corner. If you get busted with more than five grams of gear - the amount that authorities have deemed an acceptable sized stash for personal use - you will indeed get tossed into prison. There's no need to worry about hoarding a personal inventory though. "Coffee Shops" - code name for hash bars, which are the only acceptable soft drug merchants in Amsterdam - are more numerous than Starbucks in Manhattan. There are several in each neighborhood and in places like the over-saturated city center, a modest, second-hand buzz can very nearly be attained by simply loitering on one of the busier streets.

It goes without saying that any tourist stopping in Amsterdam for more than a couple days has an agenda that includes many, many hours, slouched in a stupor in the back of a hash bar. I ran into countless people whose European itinerary went something like this:

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

So you were in one section of Amsterdam but did you find out anything about the Dutch culture? (After all that supposed to be the topic of the blog.) Saying that people come from around the world to get high to one place doesn't contribute anything. You can say the same thing about Thailand. So what?

Posted by: charlie | July 17, 2007 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The ugly side of Dutch prostitution is hard to miss. For every voluntary prostitute with a carefully thought out life-plan, there are two or three that were lured to Amsterdam with false hopes and then coerced into being a sex slave. Typically, they are forced into sex work in order to pay off a fictional, insurmountable debt and if they protest, they are often brainwashed into believing that escape would be futile and inevitably bring them more harm and misery than if they simply surrendered to their predicament. When this doesn't do the trick, spirit-breaking beatings and rapes by their "owners" are inflicted, but this is rare as the women usually submit, fearing arrest due to dubious paperwork (or lack thereof) that got them into the Netherlands in the first place. The situation is often exasperated by a drug habit, extortion and/or threats to family in their home country. In extreme cases, the prostitutes are literally held prisoner, under lock and key, during the day and only allowed out at night to work the windows. None of this was evident at the featured windows in the Red Light District's main drag, however. This is undoubtedly a calculated decision, but this high-traffic area didn't appear to be manned by any of the aforementioned sad, abused women. Sure they looked the worse for wear, but they were animated, flirty and playful, but for all I know, that could have been the heroin talking.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget one other aspect of Dutch life -- everybody rides bikes all the time.
That, I think, is one of the keys to good mental health and good family well-being. Imagine not being entombed in a car for hours on end, enduring gridlock, as we are here in the USA. If people can actually get about their business in a civilized, eco-friendly, non-road-rage way, that has to have multiple benefits.
Thanks for the soapbox opportunity for this bicycling enthusiast!

Posted by: anon mom | July 17, 2007 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Interesting bunch of generalizations here. One discernible difference between childhood in the Netherlands and the U.S. is that early schooling is much less pressured in the Netherlands. Children start a year later and formal reading instruction does not start till 7, giving everyone's developmental level a chance to catch up. The college-applications rat race does not exist in its US form. To my mind, those are important factors in childhood happiness. On the drug question, there is a strange and limited toleration for the use of marijuana, a drug favored by aging hippies and tourists and generally not fashionable among the young. Other drugs are a serious problem for Dutch youth but are neither legal nor "tolerated".

Posted by: lurker | July 18, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Not only is co-sleeping wierd, a lot of the affluent American families do a lot of co-bathing, too. That smacks of third world countries and is just plain perverted in my mind. Of course, the flaming breast-feeding feminazis on a similar blog think it's perfectly OK.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 18, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"I find it strange to stick a brand new baby in a dark room by itself and let it cry alone. What is taught here? No one will comfort you when you feel scared and alone at night. Sure, babies stop crying eventually. But at what cost?"
--Here's a really strange idea-why not set up a crib or a basinet in the parents' room close to their bed so the infant is not all alone in another room and is just within arms reach? Wow! I can't believe I just thought of an incredible idea known to man.

Posted by: Soguns1 | July 18, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Patrick, I believe the American tendency to hysterically ban things--e.g., drinking under 21--romaticizes those very things and makes them more appealing and potentially addictive. I also spent a suburban adolescence furtively drinking in the woods, plying older brothers for beer, etc. It occurs to me that if beer had been less exotic and forbidden, we all would have cared about it a lot less, and the obsessive adolescent quest for alcohol wouldn't have morphed for so many of our peers into binge drinking and alcoholism. (It also might have helped to have some of the "good" kids around us, drinking responsibly, and to be out in the open with parents, so bad habits could be seen and reacted to by experienced adults, instead of cultivated in private.)

Of course, this is just a theory. But our current regime of hysteria, rigidity, and mass cultural denial is not working. We are awash in alcoholics.

Posted by: new dad | July 18, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Hate to beat a dead horse, or write in a dead blog, but...

Bush's decision (he does love to be the decider, doesn't he?) today to snub the bipartisan children's health care plan is a perfect demonstration of what I was saying on this blog a couple days ago.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/18/AR2007071801434.html?nav=hcmodule

Bush doesn't want to fund this plan because he doesn't agree with the new taxes it would require. However, if we weren't shelling out millions of dollars on a daily basis to fund his funtime in Iraq, new taxes would not be necessary. We could simply allocate our current tax dollars to a service that could really make a difference for America's children and families.

Posted by: Josh | July 19, 2007 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Responding to Posted by: Dennis | July 17, 2007 09:38 AM; maybe someone will read it!

But if you are going to put kids into different tracks at an early age, it sends the message that you can't atone for your mistakes. "Sorry, you can't get a 'professional' education because you got bad grades whe you were 12." How does that give anyone an incentive to work harder?


They herded us into the cafeteria at my junior high school one day when we were going to pick our classes for next year. They told us to pick Academic track or General track. Seventh grade (age 12) or eighth grade (age 13). So we start selecting ourselves out early too. And you do have to start kind of early for professions like medicine, you have to be able to understand complicated science to get through the training. As opposed to training on how to run a register and stock shelves at Walmart or Target.

It may be easier for American students to make up for past lack of effort/achievement, but maybe not.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 20, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

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