Is Panda Parenting the secret to the success of local celebs like Atandwa Kani, Aisha Pandor, Elon Musk and Gugu Gumede?

Children are the future, and how you raise them can be crucial to their success.
Children are the future, and how you raise them can be crucial to their success.

Some parents purposely pick a parenting approach and stick to it, others respond to challenges on the fly, and still others let the kids lead.

For parents who pick a style, there is no shortage of suggested approaches. Snappy names abound, and include the more well known Tiger, Helicopter, Attachment and Snowplow parenting. 

Panda parenting is now being suggested as the secret to raising accomplished kids, and these successful South Africans appear to offer proof that a hands-off approach might be the right one.  

Following in his footsteps 

Atandwa Kani is the famous son of the equally famous actor John Kani, and Mandi Kani, a retired PE teacher. He and his dad have even worked together, with Atandwa playing a particularly notable role as the young King T’Chaka in the blockbuster Marvel movie Black Panther.

The accomplished actor credits his father as “a true example of resilience,” and told Channel24 “When I talk to my old man we talk about responsibilities, and what being a man is about.”

Aiming for the stars

Elon Musk’s mom credits herself with her offspring’s success, and as the mother of three successful kids, she has every right.

Elon Musk himself needs no introduction, but brother Kimbal has a thriving restaurant empire and sister Tosca is a famous executive producer and director.

Mom Maye describes how she didn’t hover over her children, schedule their lives, read to them or check their homework. She was a hands-off parent and didn’t interfere with their lives, she says, and her kids agree that they felt very independent as children.

Time alone to grow 

Gugu Gumede says she is just like her famous mom, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, describing how they are loving and “overly sensitive” to Sowetan Live. “I'm my mother's daughter. I don't accept a lot of nonsense and I'm very stubborn."

She told Channel24 “We love to laugh, have fun, pray,” and when her mom isn’t “running the world” they enjoy relaxing in each other’s company.

As the daughter of two well-known politicians, IFP leader dad Inkosi Gumede and a Minister mom, Gugu grew up to become a successful actress, starring in Uzalo, one of the most watched TV shows in the country.

The time she spent alone, studying in LA, was hard she has said, and would have taught her independence and resilience. As she describes "I was very young. I set up an apartment, got a car ... a lot of firsts happened for me in LA.”

Also read: Disciplinarian or doormat?

Best in the Business

Owner of successful start-up SweepSouth Aisha Pandor thanks her politically active parents for her success. Her mother Naledi Pandor has served in various Minister positions, and her father Sharif Joseph Pandor sits on the boards of several companies. 

She explains how they guided her to study but didn’t dictate which career to choose. Perhaps due to this she became the first person to graduate from UCT with two qualifications, on the same day.

She told a BizNews editor that because of her parents’ influence, she was “quite a responsible young adult”, adding that home is about “extended family and about support”, as well as being a “refuge in a lot of ways”.

What have these parents been getting right?

The common elements these successful kids mention all feature in a parenting style called Panda Parenting.

And now, an American woman known as the “Godmother of Silicon Valley” and “mother of a Super Family” has released a book which promises to teach parents how to raise their own successful kids.  

Also read: The three B’s of attachment parenting

TRICK your kids

Esther Wojcicki describes her tactic to TRICK her kids, using Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness to get radical results.

The influential teacher describes her tactics as a cure for the “epidemic of parental anxiety”, telling parents to relax.

“Talk to infants as if they are adults. Allow teenagers to pick projects that relate to the real world and their own passions and let them figure out how to complete them,” she advises. “Above all, let your child lead."

She can certainly prove her tactics: her three American daughters are without a doubt successful.

One is the CEO of YouTube, another is the founder of 23andme, a well-known genetics testing business, and the third is a professor of paediatrics at the University of California.

The book How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results outlines the parenting philosophy she's developed while guiding her children and her students to “the fulfillment of their potential.”

Top tips for panda parenting  

  • A panda parent guides their children, without a firm structure.
  • Children are encouraged to follow their own path, learning through imaginative play and exploring, rather than reading or studying.
  • In the panda household the emphasis is on self-esteem, self-sufficiency and building resilience.

In essence, as described by Alan Paul, the Wall Street Journal columnist who coined the phrase, a panda parent is “happy to parent with cuddliness, but not afraid to show some claw.”  

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