What type of parent are you?

By admin
22 September 2014

Experts say the current generation of parents are some of the most involved in history, yet children today have the highest rates of anxiety, obesity, depression and addiction. Are we too involved?

Experts say the current generation of parents are some of the most involved in history, yet children today have the highest rates of anxiety, obesity, depression and addiction. Are we too involved?

MY MOM had a strong personality, she was strict and it was important to her that we excel at school, look presentable and behave well at all times.”

Janine Williams of Durban (not her real name) says when she was young she felt her mother’s obsession with her children’s results, and the way she went about ensuring they did well, went too far.

“She once stopped talking to me because I was second in my class instead of first. My selfesteem took a knock whenever I couldn’t keep up with her expectations and it was a difficult thing to handle as a child.”

This is the typical behaviour of a tiger mother, according to Dr Shimi Kang. The term first gained prominence because of the 2011 memoir Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Chinese-American Amy Chua, in which she described her struggles to give her children a strict, traditional Chinese upbringing. Dr Kang has written a book in response, The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide To Raising Healthy, Happy, And Motivated Kids – Without Turning Into A Tiger.

Dr Kang, a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, says tiger parenting is becoming more and more widespread – with sad consequences for our children.

According to her this style of parenting – althoughit comes mostly from a place of good intentions – isn’t about raising children who will become balanced, happy adults. It’s more about having the best children with the best results who are top in their class.

And why? To ensure they get into good schools, good universities and top jobs. She believes it’s one of the main reasons for the high rate of anxiety and depression among teenagers. Janine (30) says she won’t let this happen to her children. Now a mother of two daughters, aged three and two, and a four-month-old son, she prefers attachment parenting. This is when sensitive and emotionally available parents help their child to form a strong emotional bond with them.

“My father put less pressure on us and I felt I responded to that much better,” Janine says. “While my children are still too young to be concerned with schoolwork and I won’t ever let them get away with laziness, I do feel that every child has their own strengths and that a happy child is worth far more than one who’s ill with stress but doing well at school.”

Dr Kang identifies three types of parents: the tiger, jellyfish and dolphin. We look at each and share some of her advice.


Are your expectations of your kids unrealistic?

Do you feel the need to keep up with the Joneses (or Kardashians)?

Are you trying to be perfect?

Are your children overscheduled?

Are you paving the way for your children without letting them share the job?

Dr Kang says tiger parents rely on punishment, fear or letting their children overindulge in rewards in order to achieve better results. Children are often overworked and parents tend to let them believe they’re doing well only if they’re doing better than others. She believes overprotective parents can also fall into this category.

The effects: Children could end up feeling restricted and overworked, and parents and children tend to have feelings of guilt when the children don’t achieve goals. Dr Kang says it can also lead to overindulgence by parents as they feel guilty for making their children work so hard, leading them to allow behaviours that wouldn’t be tolerated in a balanced relationship, for example having junk food or TV as a reward for good marks.

Kirsten Friis, a counselling psychologist in Cape Town, agrees.

“Children who are expected to perform above their natural ability might feel they’re not good enough, which could lead to low self-esteem and self-punishing behaviour.”


Are you sometimes afraid to anger your child?

Do you give in if your child throws a tantrum?

Do you allow things you don’t agree with so you won’t damage your relationship with your child? Are you exhausted from constantly having to attend to your child’s needs?

Do you sometimes feel your child doesn’t respect your authority?

These parents are called jellyfish because they “have no backbone”, according to Dr Kang. They allow bad behaviour, avoid confrontation with their children and don’t have clear boundaries.

Dr Kang says this often happens in the belief they’re letting their children “be who they want to be”. The effects: Dr Kang warns this style can lead to a disrespect of authority, social etiquette and personal values.

Friis says, “Children who don’t have boundaries established and maintained might be more prone to anxiety or risk-taking behaviour.”


Do you parent according to your intuition instead of rule books?

Do you have regular play or free time scheduled into your child’s life?

Do you let your children share in the work to achieve their goals instead of doing it for them?

Do you allow your children to use their inner sense of self-control to achieve goals?

Are your children aware of the importance of contributing to their community and family?

Dr Kang calls this the dolphin way because instead of focusing on rules and instructions, dolphin parents focus on playing, exploring, social bonding and making contributions to their community. They prioritise long-term goals and see having a balanced life as more important than short-term goals of medals and test results. They’re firm, have clear rules and expectations of academics and discipline, yet value individual dreams and independent choices. They guide instead of instruct and avoid outside rewards to motivate their children.

The effects: Dr Kang says this way children learn to think creatively, come up with solutions and adapt. They learn social skills, boundaries and respect for authority. They’re internally motivated and their discipline comes from inside.

Friis says this style creates boundaries that offer children a sense of security. “Children are similarly encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviour.”


Counselling psychologist Kirsten Friis agrees tiger parenting could cause low self-esteem in children and dolphin parenting offers more flexibility, but she warns you should be careful not to ascribe all issues to parenting.

“Psychological problems are understood to have multiple causes. So while parenting styles may be indicated in the development of psychological problems in children, they aren’t necessarily the only cause of difficulties.”

Although the classifications are useful in explaining different styles of parenting, it’s difficult to translate them to the broader South African context, she says.

“In many South African households the primary caregiver isn’t necessarily a biological parent. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings may fill the role of caregiver so the relationships between child and caregiver may show marked variation when compared with the classifications Dr Kang describes.”

She adds it’s also possible caregivers may move between the styles described. “Parenting is often flexible and contextspecific. So during the school term parents may adopt more of a tiger style but they may relax the rules over the school holidays.”

Friis doesn’t believe there’s a “onesize- fits-all” style of parenting.

“I’d recommend that caregivers find a way of parenting that’s sensitive to a child’s developmental, physical and emotional needs but suits their unique context and works for them.

“There’s often significant pressure on caregivers to follow prescriptive rules and schedules when parenting. I would suggest that these are used as guidelines but that caregivers also recognise and give voice to their intuition when raising children.

Children thrive when they have clear boundaries and when their needs are acknowledged and appropriately met.”


Give your children free time and allow them to play more.

Be social. Encourage connections among friends and family by doing puzzles or playing trivia with the family or cooking together. S Be a role model instead of giving instructions.

Look after your and your kids’ physical needs. Breathe deeply and be mindful, drink enough water, eat healthily, be active, get enough sleep and help your children to learn to listen to their body’s signals.

Use statements and behaviours that foster your children’s internal control. For example, if a teenager doesn’t want to study for a test, say something that will help them understand it’s their responsibility, not yours. For example, “I can’t control how your mind works so in the end it’s up to you how hard you’ll try.”

Ask open-ended questions. For example, when Dr Kang’s son skipped soccer practice she says she made the mistake of asking why he didn’t go (a closed-ended question). His answer was simply, “I didn’t want to go.” But when she followed up with an open-ended question – “What happened in your day today?” – he came out with what really happened: “Joey punched me in the back for no reason and I was so tired after school that I didn’t want to go to practice.” Local expert weighs in They’re internally motivated and their discipline comes from inside – Dr Shimi Kang

A Parent’s Guide To Raising Healthy, Happy , And Motivated Kids – Without Turning Into A Tiger by Dr Shimi Kang (Tarcher, R355* at Kalahari.com).*Available at this price from kalahari.com. Price correct at the time of going to print and subject to change without notice.

EXTRA Source: time.com

- Dalena Theron

Buy the book here.

Find Love!