How the Dutch raise their kids to be independent

It’s just another weekday for Dutch children: As their parents wave goodbye from a distance, they make their own way to school on their bikes without a second thought — or a helmet! 😯

As a newly-settled international living in the Netherlands, you might be wondering how on earth these young kids are travelling to school without a single guardian by their side.

Well, that’s just one of the many ways the Dutch raise their kids to be pretty independent, well-adjusted, and assertive young adults.

How the Dutch raise kids in their early years

Dutch kids earn their independence from a young age, and when we say young, we mean straight-out-of-the-womb young.

It all started when the Dutch came up with the curious idea to put their babies to sleep outside. Yeah, you read that right. They have what can only be described as “chicken coops for kids”, which they call lutjepotjes. 🤔 (Go on, Google it!)

READ MORE | 5 reasons why Dutch kids are happier than American kids

Originating in Groningen, these fresh air beds with a roof, three side walls, and a removable mosquito net can be found in many daycare centres across the country. Apparently, the Dutch took the health benefits fresh air can give their babies and ran with it.

The independent mindset the Dutch have for their kids is so great to the point that even healthcare professionals get involved.

As Dutch babies grow up, parents reach the point where nurses at the wellness check start to ask them if their children are “lekker in zijn eigen vel” or “do they feel good in their own skin.

Why? Well, basically, they want to know if your child feels content when they play on their own and if they feel comfortable around others. They want to be sure that they feel good about themselves and who they are.

How the Dutch raise kids when they go to primary school

Come time for early childhood, when kids enter elementary or primary school, the encouragement to express their individuality becomes stronger.

From the age of five onwards, Dutch parents are advised not to hover and to let kids find their own way to the classroom — and to add a little spice to the mix, children also don’t get homework until they’re about 10 years old! 🤩

READ MORE | The Dutch mindset: 5 secrets to the Dutchies’ happiness

Dutch schools believe that plenty of playtime equals very happy children. Not only that, but schools also allow children to freely express themselves through their choice of clothing, hair, and makeup.

A little bit of homework and a whole lot of recess time. Image: Depositphotos

Kids are given the chance to attend school with pink hair or punk rock clothing, all in the name of being independent and confident. (Wishing you grew up in the Netherlands right about now? Ditto.)

In fact, if you search up school websites in the country, the only dress code rules you’ll find are these:

  • Take care of your own things, the school, and those of others,
  • keep the school clean inside and out,
  • if you need anything, just ask, and if something goes wrong, tell someone,
  • be nice to others, then they will be nice to you!

That’s it! No tucked-in polo t-shirts, high-tied ponytails, and polyester pants or skorts. 🙄 Nothing to make your child feel bad about how they dress or who they are — from tom-boys to girly girls, as well as boys looking to rock a long hairdo and an earring or two. How cool is that?

READ MORE | The Dutch school system for dummies: a guide from one parent to another

In this day and age, where stories of girls being punished for wearing “revealing” clothing that would “distract” boys from learning are not hard to come by, this Dutch attitude is very refreshing.

As a parent of both boys and girls, I am glad to see that kids are being treated equally when it comes to learning and dressing in this tiny country.

How the Dutch raise kids when they enter high school

The independent vibe of the Dutch doesn’t stop at primary school. When high school rolls around the corner, youngsters are once again given the chance to dress as they please and express who they are. Want to dye your hair neon blue or get a septum nose piercing? Geen probleem for Dutch kids! 🤪

When it comes to dating, it’s actually encouraged! Parents even go as far as allowing their 15 or 16-year-old teens to sleep over at their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s house — but that’s a whole other ball game for now.

High schoolers in the Netherlands are free to dress as they see fit! Image: Depositphotos

In high school, kids are introduced to the club life with “teen clubs”, which are often set up once a month and include DJs and wrist bands for those above the age of 18 who are allowed to drink.

READ MORE | Heart-warming: Dutch city offers cycling lessons for Ukrainian children

Pretty early on, kids are granted the freedom to enjoy a night of fun and dancing until midnight, so long as they’re doing it in groups. One thing my daughter learned was that you never left anyone behind.

On a night out, it’s an essential rule for the Dutch to arrive as a group and leave as a group — certainly a valuable lesson for ladies to learn at a young age, especially in this day and age where spiking drinks is, unfortunately, a common occurrence.

How the Dutch raise kids when they go off to university

At last, that time eventually comes when parents have to say goodbye to their little ones as they leave the nest and head off into the great unknown that is university or college.

Dutch kids turn into young adults and spend their days studying and finding their passion in life — and here too, they are groomed to be independent.

READ MORE | 8 things to know about having a child in the Netherlands

They’re so used to growing up uncoddled and unconstrained that many look forward to the days they can spend outside the safety net of tulips and windmills. 20-year-olds go as far away as China or even the Caribbean to spend six months working abroad, doing internships, or other learning courses.

So, if you’re worried about how your children will adapt to living in the Netherlands, have no fear. They will turn out just fine. In fact, they will learn to be productive, independent, and confident young adults who feel comfortable in their own skin!

Would you raise your kids the Dutch way? Tell us in the comments below! 👇

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2017, and was fully updated in August 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Heather Court
Heather Court
Heather was born on the Dutch island of St.Maarten and recently traded in her flip flops for snow boots. Her blog documents her not so Dutch observations.

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  1. I LOVED your article, especially the tongue-in-cheek video of “Totally an actual representation of Dutch youngsters partying”. As an ex-pat I know that the costumes worn by the ladies on the bridge are for very special events only. I do believe the man in coat-tails is none other than André Rieu, who I saw perform here in Vancouver, BC a few years ago. What a wonderful representative of the Netherlands!

  2. Dutch raise mediocrity. Teachers are uneducated. Few moth of courses isn’t an education. As the result-ignorance and short sightness in everything from the young.

  3. Basically not teach them what’s correct or righteous. Just let them find out their way on their own and as parents take a holiday and let the system do everything..

  4. I was born in the Netherlands and raised in the 50s. Even then my parents taught us to be independent. Want an ice cream? Dad would give us his (coin) purse and we had to pay with that once we could count. School was within walking distance and we went on our own. Secondary school was 12 km on the bike each way. I remember school parties. Yes, exactly as described. Holiday abroad? Take
    ‘the pill’! No, mum, I’m not sleeping with boys yet. ‘ Take it anyway, you never know…’
    My parents had the courage to let me make my own mistakes. And I grew up to be a sensible and responsible adult ( now pensioner) .
    My mum, now 96, is alive and well. We often talk about my childhood etc. what a privilege to grow up in the Netherlands.


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