Women's Health

The Dolphin Way of Parenting

dolphin-parentWe have discussed the elephant and of course the tiger mom way of parenting. But we have not discussed the dolphin way. Dr Shimi Kang, a Harvard trained child psychiatrist recently discusses her concept of parenting in her book “The Dolphin Way”. She has been fairly successful in discussing and promoting her concept: she has spoken on the Oprah Show as well as various media outlets regarding parenting.

She speaks of her childhood as the youngest of a struggling immigrant family in Canada. She speaks of her success and states it was by no way any magic. Her parents gave her both freedom and responsibility. Freedom that she could have hours of imaginative play and digging the yard for worms and at the same time have household duties such as cleaning the dishes. A combination of freedom within the boundaries of discipline seem to have brought magical success for her and her siblings. In many ways her concepts are similar to Maria Montessori regarding play and imagination and the importance of these areas in a child’s development. At the same time she resonates themes of parenting similar to Ross Green in avoiding parent child conflict by working in a collaborative, structured program of behavior and discipline in a home. Like the dolphin, they’re firm and flexible and use their community to nurture their child’s nature. This balanced approach results in children who develop a sense of autonomy over their lives but still have impulse control. Dolphin children are able to follow appropriate rules and guidance and are better able to establish healthy independence. Research shows that children of dolphin parenting have better social skills, increased self-confidence and creativity, better academic performance and enhanced self-motivation.

She warns of overscheduling and “stressing kids” out with too much homework and activities. She speaks of the increase in depression and anxiety in adolescents throughout the world as competition and the global economy make the stakes of academic testing very high. She speaks of intuition.

Let me repeat again, deep breath – she speaks of intuition. Why have so many parents become fearful and either overprotective, critical or dismissive of children. Because they have too many messages and too many professionals and too many books telling them the “right way to parent”. There is not “right way”. The journey and the joy of parenting is very personal and individualized. Whether tiger, dolphin, elephant or whatever other images to construe, each family and each child is unique. That is why we as child psychiatrists want to encourage families who are well meaning and searching for guidance to trust their intuition. The intuition regarding safety. The intuition regarding diet, sleep and healthy habits. The intuition to bring out a child’s stregnths and self esteem rather than be overly critical and rejecting.

It is a tough road to parent, no easy guide or book. Many times the answer lies within.

  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Princeton University
  • Dr Shillingford
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  • International OCD Foundation
  • American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • Tourette Association
  • Indo-American Psychiatric Association
  • Childrensyoga