My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 4:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 4:33am

Psychiatrist Shimi Kang offers the dolphin way to bring up children

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Just being a parent is confusing and exhausting enough without all those conflicting parenting styles being sold by photogenic people with PhDs. They only serve as criticism to accentuate our shortcomings and ignorance.

Boy, have I ruined my kids' future by failing to play Bach and Mozart to them when they were in the womb.

The latest parenting sensation is Shimi Kang, who advises us to follow the way of the dolphin.

The Canadian-Indian Harvard-trained psychiatrist's offering, The Dolphin Way offers a sensible alternative to training tiger cubs.

We all fear a tiger but everyone loves Flipper. That may be why tiger mum Amy Chua provoked such animus. We should instead raise our children like baby dolphins, so Kang says. Parents, release your inner fins!

So why dolphins? Well, we all know IQ and EQ. Dr Kang here offers what she calls CQ: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. These are the core skills, she argues, a child needs to thrive in the 21st century and dolphins, we are told, excel in all of them. Let's not try to be marine biologists here. But as Kang points out, dolphins use tools such as sea sponges over their snouts to forage for food [creativity]. They work around problems such as avoiding fishing traps [critical thinking]. They whistle, squeak and physically gesture to communicate. And they play, hunt and socialise together [collaboration].

Tiger parenting, Kang argues, not only fails to encourage these skills, it stifles them. Why? Because the cubs are over-scheduled, over-structured, over-managed and over-protected. She also claims tiger cubs on average do worse than their well-adjusted, well-rounded peers in the one area their parents claim superiority: academic performance. As evidence, she cites a University of Texas study which tracked more than 300 Chinese-American families over eight years. Those with "harsh parenting" styles on average produced children with educational achievement and attainment lower than families that were "supportive" and "easygoing".

My take is that most parents are tigers, dolphins and pussycats at one time or another. Sometimes you have to be a tiger. Other times you just have to play with Flipper.

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