Dolphin Parenting

Dolphin and baby
Dolphin and baby (Photo credit: WIlly Volk)
Ever since Yale professor, Amy Chua rocked the parenting world with her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" (Penguin Press, 2011), I have heard bits and piece about this authoritarian, adamant doggedness for perfection in academics.  At first, I had no frame of reference.  I had never met parents who are so strict on their insistence that their children make perfect grades and excel in everything that the children were suffering from stress-related illnesses.  

Don't get me wrong, when I was raising my kids there were parents who pushed their kids to excel, but not so much in academics.  Mostly, the push was for being a star in whatever sport the child played.  A few wanted their child to be the star of the concert/play/orchestra, but that was it.
 
Recently, I have come face-to-face with tiger parenting.  My first reaction was, "Oh my goodness, don't you realize what you are doing to this child?" My next reaction was, "How dare you question my ability to teach!"
 
As a teacher, I am a staunch supporter of excellence.  However, and I will say this in caps so there is no doubt that I mean this - EXCELLENCE IS DIFFERENT WITH EACH CHILD!  When we hold our children up to some idea of perfection, we do them great harm.  First, we do not allow them to be their own organic selves.  Second, we force them into a paradigm in which they can never win.
 
Children need what I will coin as "Dolphin Parenting."  What does this mean?  Like the dolphins, who play with their young, guard them, protect them from predators and teach them to survive in the wilds of the ocean, Dolphin Parents offer children every opportunity to grow, nurturing them physically, mentally and emotionally, protecting them from harm and teaching them to be able to be strong, capable, creative and compassionate humans.  This form of parenting is based and founded in Love.

Dolphin Parenting reminds me of this passage from Sacred Scripture: 
  
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. 

Love never gives up. 
Love cares more for others than for self. 
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. 
Love doesn't strut, 
Doesn't have a swelled head, 
Doesn't force itself on others, 
Isn't always "me first," 
Doesn't fly off the handle, 
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, 
Doesn't revel when others grovel, 
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
Puts up with anything, 
Trusts God always, 
Always looks for the best, 
Never looks back, 
But keeps going to the end. (From The Message)

This is the love that our children need - unconditional, no-matter-what love.  

Why is this important?  Doctors have become increasingly concerned with the mounting numbers of children coming into their offices with stress-related illnesses.  Children, who are afraid to fail, are developing ulcers, high-blood pressure and compromised immune systems.  In addition, they have more instances of depression and personality disorders.

While I believe firmly in setting limits for children, I am also acutely aware that parents can become the biggest bullies their children will encounter if they cannot bend from time to time. On the other hand, there are parents (Helicopter Parents) who hover over and around their children so much that the child is never able to make their own decisions or enjoy the challenges of solving problems for themselves.  Either way of parenting, to me, is detrimental to the development of the child.

Let me share with you my own mothering experience.  My four daughters each had something they excelled in; however, it wasn't always academics.  Two daughters maintained high grades throughout school, two had an occasional B or C.  Where these two working less than their sisters? Absolutely not!  They worked harder, at times, than they sisters, who got the high grades.  They just had different abilities and this was OK with me.  

What mattered to me was that when I would go to parent teacher conferences, I would be told by each of my four daughters' teachers how hard they worked, how they advocated for other students and how they were responsible, helpful and kind.  To me, these where better abilities than high grades!  Life is not about report cards and high grades.  Life is about living with other humans and being able to cope with difficulties, being able to think creatively and being able see the beauty that surrounds us.

My hope is that parents will stop trying to force children to excel, stop living vicariously through their children and begin to see that each child is, individually, a treasure to nurture and protect.  

May Love show us all the way to caring for our children.

Namasté!
  
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