parenting,helicopter parenting,parenting styles,tiger parenting,elephant parenting,dolphin parenting,parenting personalities
ParentingReal Parenting

Tiger, Helicopter, Elephant, or Dolphin: Which Type of Parent Are You?

Find out what these parenting personalities are like, and the pros and cons of each

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Parenting has always been a hot topic because it is something that affects a great number of people. Just like with other personal lifestyle choices, the way we parent can be easily subjected to other people’s criticisms. There have been countless books, seminars, articles, and talks on different parenting strategies, styles, and techniques, and these can easily overwhelm any new parent who is trying to find a style that works for her.

The right parenting style for each parent depends on both the parent’s and the child’s personality. What works for someone you know may not exactly work for you and your child –- and what works for you and your child now may not exactly work for you and other children you have. The key is to read and learn as much as you can and then to find the right mix of parenting styles that feels right for you and your child.

Three different parenting styles have been defined in recent years – Tiger Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, and Elephant Parenting. A new one, Dolphin Parenting, was recently coined. Read more about them below to find out which one you can identify with the most.

Tiger Parenting
This parenting style is based on the term tiger mom coined by Amy Chua in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In the book, the tiger mother pushes her children to be achievers and top performers by being very strict. Tiger parenting emphasizes excellence in various aspects such as academics, sports, and music. It is characterized by harsh regimen, psychological control, and high expectations.

This type of parenting style prioritizes school work and are thought by some people as a key in developing high performing children that easily go on to achieve a lot. Parents who have this parenting style are often driven by their desire for their children to get into excellent schools, have a stellar career, or even lift the family out of poverty. For tiger parents, the success of their children in academics, sports, or music reflects on how successful they are as a parent.

Drawback: Tiger parenting is not without drawbacks and criticisms. According to studies, controlling, punitive, and unsupportive parenting styles can be psychologically damaging to children and result to them having anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Elephant Parenting
For those parents who cannot see themselves taking on the tiger parenting’s strict and disciplinarian ways, elephant parenting might be the answer. This type of parenting was first written about by Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar as an answer to the concept of tiger mothers.

Elephant parents are quite the opposite of tiger parents. Instead of strict and demanding, elephant parents prioritize being nurturing, loving, and encouraging, particularly during a child’s first few years. Just like how elephants take care of their young, elephant parents are responsive to the needs of their young children and protect them from pain if they can. Independence from the parents is not done during the first five years which is why an elephant parent would probably practice co-sleeping. They would also refrain from raising their voices to their very young children.

As opposed to tiger parenting, elephant parenting puts the focus on emotional security and connection rather than on academic excellence and achievements.

Drawback: A lot of parents who do not identify with tiger parenting may feel more in tune with elephant parenting. However, some people also view this type of parenting as permissive parenting. The concept of letting kids enjoy themselves can easily translate to not giving them boundaries and rules.

Helicopter Parenting
This parenting style refers more to a parent’s involvement in her child’s life than on how she parents and deals with bringing up the child. A helicopter parent, also sometimes referred to as a cosseting parent or a lawnmower parent, is someone who hovers over her child. This means being overly focused on her children and being very involved in their lives.

Numerous materials have also been written on helicopter parenting and often, this type of parenting is not painted in a very good light. A helicopter parent would unnecessarily direct most of a toddler’s play and activity, eliminating most of the child’s alone time. When a child has reached school age, a helicopter parent would try to have a say on a lot of her child’s school and social life, including details such as which teachers will be assigned to the child, the friends the child can have, and the activities that the child can engage in. A helicopter parent will also generously help out his child on homeworks and school projects.

Drawback: A helicopter parent is basically the main director in his child’s life – she gets to decide on almost everything that she can control. This can result to decreased self confidence and increased anxiety in the child, as well as inadequate life skills and too much dependence on the parent.

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Related: 9 Warning Signs You're a Helicopter Mom

Dolphin Parenting
Introduced by Dr. Shimi Kang in her book The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy, and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into A Tiger, dolphin parenting is a contrast to tiger parenting and helicopter parenting. According to Kang, dolphin parents are balanced and collaborative – she has rules and expectations but also values independence and creativity. She further classifies dolphin parenting by defining it with the acronym POD where P means "Play and exploration," O means "Others," to reflect community, and D for "Downtime," which includes regular sleep, exercise, and rest.

Another characteristic of a dolphin parent is the ability to adapt depending on what the child needs. She will not parent each of her children in identical ways because she will adapt a specific style that works for each child’s needs and personality.

Drawback: The term ‘dolphin parenting’ is relatively new although surely, there are parents who have actually been practicing this particular parenting style even before the book came out. A lot of people have given attention to this style for its seemingly balanced approach to parenting. The only drawback might be in how ideal it is – it can be a bit difficult for some parents to achieve realistically.

Some would say that these coined parenting styles are simply fads – there is simply no one way to parent. What is right for one parent and child may not be the best for another. Don’t feel like you have to follow a single defined parenting style, go ahead and feel free to mix any of them to find the right one for you and your child.

Related: What is "Lighthouse Parenting"?

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