By Kristen Kemp
May 2, 2014
Another much-needed new book, The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into a Tiger, hits shelves today. The author, Shimi Kang, M.D., is just amazing.
tiger mom) firsthand. As the mother of three children and a child of Indian immigrants (ones who couldn’t afford to send their kids to special summer camps or music lessons), she also knows that raising kids who are successful and self-motivated isn’t a matter of piano lessons, math tutors or money. It’s about helping your children embrace and rely upon the instincts that come naturally to them.
|Shimi Kang, M.D.|
“How can it be that the most informed generation of parents in human history are raising children who have poorer problem solving skills than generations prior and higher incidences of anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and addiction? When we hear such concerning facts about our world’s future decision makers, it’s natural to wonder what more could we be doing, what more can we as parents control for?
The truth is that, the more we try to control our children’s lives and “prepare” them, the more harm we cause. In our ever-changing, ultra-competitive and socially connected world, overparenting is truly underparenting. Instead, we need to guide our children The Dolphin Way and help them develop skills that will be key to their survival in the 21st-century, skills such as collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking Below are some of the parenting “don’ts” we need to be mindful of—as well as a few essential parenting “dos.”
Overparenting Dos and Don’ts
Set reasonable schedules: Schedule 1 or 2 activities that encourage your child’s natural interests but no more. Eat meals together as a family as often as you can. Children who eat family meals at least five times a week perform better academically and are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems and substance dependencies.
Make sure your kids get enough sleep every night (7 to 10 hours depending on age). Adequate sleep is one of the simplest ways to boost health, happiness and motivation!
Encourage role-modeling and free play: Provide some instruction when needed, but also encourage free play and exploration. Play and exploration build neural tracks in our children’s brains that help them become comfortable with uncertainty, trying new things and learning through trial and error. Simply sending your child to play outside is a great start. If they complain of boredom – excellent! Boredom is often a spark for the imagination.
Step back and resist the urge to overprotect: Whether it is bruising ones’ knee or ones’ ego, it’s good for your child to make some mistakes and experience the natural consequences of them. This can be scary for parents, but we have to take some deep breaths and stand back. When our lungs are fully expanded, sensory receptors send a signal to our brains that we are ok and we move out of fear mode.
Instead of removing all the obstacles out of your child’s way, allow him/her to occasionally fall over. Of course, you can be there to support and guide them through it. This will teach your child that they have the ability to cope with the ups and downs of life.
Over-scheduling. We are scheduling our kids and thus ourselves into an endless cycle of activities, leading to personal, familial and financial stress. When we do this, the home becomes a pit stop between activities and is no longer a place of rest or family connection.
Over-scheduling leads to all the unhealthy habits of being “too busy” such as eating dinner on the go, chronic sleep deprivation and “socializing” but not social bonding. It is not sustainable and leaves our kids stressed, anxious and “burned out.”
Over-instructing. Research has shown that kids need to learn through play, exploration and trial and error. By favoring instruction through tutors and coaches, we are standing in the way of our kids’ natural curiosity and experimentation. Over-instructed kids have difficulty with critical thinking, are unwilling to take risks and lack spontaneous collaboration and communication skills.
Over-protecting. Yes, the world can be an unfair and dangerous place at times and no parent wants their child to experience hardship. However, exposure to adversity, learning from mistakes, and solving real-life problems is precisely what allows children to acquire the resiliency, accountability andadaptability that will protect them from harm throughout their lives. When parents step in too soon and too often, they stand in the way of their children acquiring these important life skills.