Parenting is hard. We always want the best for our children but how do you define what is the best? How do you encourage your children to succeed without pushing too hard?
Dr. Shimi Kang has written for parents The Dolphin Way – A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids, Without Turning Into a Tiger.
Dr. Shimi Kang is a Harvard trained child and youth psychiatrist. She is currently in the role of Medical Director for Child and Youth Mental Health Programs in British Columbia. It is within this background that she has developed this guide based on current behaviour research and first hand experience. She is also the mother of three children and the daughter of immigrant parents so she definitely knows a thing or two!
The Dolphin Way explores the Tiger Parent model and explains (with statistics and real life examples) why this model does not work. She uses the tiger parenting model to illustrate a better parenting approach that follows the intelligent, playful, joyful and social nature of the dolphin. Parents using the dolphin model focus on maintaining balance in the home and in their children’s lives to gently (yet authoritatively) guide them towards lasting health, happiness and success. She encourages parents to trust their intuitions about what is best for our children and that this will help them in turn to obtain the traits needed in today’s modern world : adaptability, community, creativity and critical thinking.
She uses a four part approach and I honestly believe each part is needed to fully understand and appreciate her approach to parenting skills. She breaks down current parenting models (some which I have seen but never knew the names of!) especially Tiger parenting (but also looks at Jellyfish parenting). I had to admit to myself that I have been guilty of both while trying to do what I honestly believe is in the best interest for my children. We live in such a competitive environment that it is important to take a step back and look at the effects of this aggressive and competitive culture that we are fostering especially in our children. She presents all of her findings with some eye opening statistics on child and youth depression, anxiety and suicide. At times I wanted to cry reading these statistics – it is terrifying, shocking and upsetting to see how much our youth is hurting.
On a personal level this book hit close to home. Growing up I was not raised by Tiger parents. They never forced me to participate in sports, excel at school or volunteer. But I was constantly pushing myself. All around me were people telling you what career paths were the best choices for you, what good paying jobs should be, what you had to do in order to get there, what marks you need to get in to school and not to mention supplementary applications that you need! I would get up at six every morning, sometimes have a swim practice, go to school, come home, do some homework, off to soccer or to teach swimming lessons, make it home for nine and then more studying into the wee hours of the morning. It was a vicious cycle. But to my credit I also managed to do a lot too. I achieved fifth place in the Aventis Biotechnology Challenge, I earned my Canada Cord from the Girl Guides of Canada, Citizenship award, Art and Religion awards at school, my average was always above 92%, I taught Red Cross and Lifesaving programs as well as life guarding. I also volunteered twice a week in the hospital and my local church. I also made the choice to move away from my art (my one and true passion) and pursue Kinesiology. I burnt myself out in my first semester of university. I literally broke down, cried and could not continue. Like Dr. Shimi Kang mentions so many times once you achieve the main goal of getting into university all goals are done and you are lost. And this is how I felt.
I have since then graduated, matured and although still have growing pains I have adjusted and have begun to really enjoy life. My only concern now is in how I raise my children. I want them to know I love them, that I support them and want for them to be happy. I do not want them to think I want them to be machines, memorizing every fact and note for school. But it is the how that I find so difficult. How do you empower them? How do you encourage them to strive to be their personal best without pushing too hard? How do you ensure they will be ready for the real world when what will their world look like in fifteen years from now?
Dr. Shimi Kang breaks down her tools and then hands out “prescriptions” on how to approach parenting – from the simple get more sleep, drink more water to how to talk to our children (using questions versus telling). She gave such clear examples of what may not have been the best approach and the WHY and then goes on to show how that parent could have changed their wording. It actually has me focusing more on the language I am using with my own children and rephrasing sentences to ensure I am supporting and guiding my children instead of lecturing.
The Dolphin Way is an excellent parenting tool to implement in our daily life to help guide our children to be happy and healthy. She focus on adaptability and uses fantastic resources and examples from her own experience to solidify her case. An excellent read through and through. The Dolphin Way is a parenting guide that every home should own. It is essential not only for parents but also for many adults to understand the culture we are being raised in, how it is affecting us and how we can change our own behaviours for our own personal health and well being.
Disclosure: I received a copy of The Dolphin Way in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.