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The “less publicized” reason the Dutch are the happiest kids in the world.

The “less publicized” reason the Dutch are the happiest kids in the world.

Are there dangers in giving kids too much freedom?

It’s the bicycle. It’s the vehicle for freedom.

It sounds so simple (and it is), but the equivalent in the United States would be at age 16 when kids get a driver’s license. It’s a license for freedom–but they have to wait for 16 years.

In The Netherlands, the bike reigns king. The country is flat and crawling with bike paths. Not just a lane on the side of the road, but more often than not, dedicated paths separate from the roads. There are even yield triangles painted on the ground so they know when to yield to cars and when they have the right of way. There are even stop lights complete with green, yellow and red. It’s practically a Disney-esque existence of a miniature world that I only knew from my Tyco train set. It’s a dream.

I’m poking fun at fellow Driebergen resident Rina Mae Acosta and her bestselling book, “The Happiest Kids in the World,” which is rocking the charts and helping parents around the world learn the way of the happy Dutch.

So my 11-year old can pretty much go where he pleases after school on his bike. He might come home, he might go to a friend’s house. Or, even better, if he has a few coins, he might go with the friend and load up on as much junk food as financially possible.

He goes to the store, does a quick cost-benefit analysis of quantity of junk as related to cost, collaborates with accomplices and head to the checkout. Some more advanced specimens even have a Bonus Card where they can get deals and discounts thus increasing the junk-to-euro ratio.

As seen in the evidence (see Exhibit A, photo above), when left to their own devices, it’s not going to be carrots and fresh-squeezed orange juice. For one, that’s way too expensive. Nope, we’re talking the nacho cheesiest of chips and the sweetest of drinks.

At least they abide by the “No Soda” rule of the household, although some of those sugary ice tea drinks have as much sugar as the soda.

Rina talks about the freedom of the children in Holland and how they mature through experience and the lack of helicopter parenting. I wholeheartedly agree. But if you ask my kids why they’re happy, it’s going to come down to chips and green iced tea. What they’re really saying is that they have independence, freedom, and choice. But they can’t say all of that because their mouths are full of joy.

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