Habyts has a new focus! Learn more.

15 Tips from Dolphins That Will Transform Your Parenting

Ever feel like a zookeeper – rather than a parent?

Well, you may not be that far off!

From tiger moms to dolphin parents, recent analogies about child rearing have sounded like a zoo.

As it turns out, the latest buzzwords are closely aligned with the  authoritative parenting model that experts have recommended for years.

Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang has attracted a following for her theories about the Dolphin Way, which is a firm but flexible approach that strikes a balance for parents who want to avoid being too strict or too permissive.

Long-time parenting expert Dr Laura Markham provides a slightly different emphasis – she prefers to call the authoritative parenting style 'Empathic Limits'.

Dr Markham describes this style as the sweet spot between permissive and authoritarian parenting.

These parents offer their kids lots of empathy and support, like the permissive parents. But they also hold high expectations, like the authoritarian parents.

The difference is that because they're seeing things from their child's point of view, they know what expectations are appropriate for that child. Because of this respectful understanding, they're not imposing goals based on their needs; they're supporting their child to live up to the family's values and the child's own goals.

Finally, they're offering their child complete support to achieve expectations over time.

- Dr Laura Markham, Founder of Aha! Parenting & Author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

So, let’s take a closer look at some basic principles of authoritative parenting…

…and some practical tips on how to implement this parenting style with your kids.

General Principles of Authoritative Parenting

  1.  Balance expectations with support. Kids will accept high expectations – if they also get your empathetic support. According to Dr Laura Markham, that means that along with limits, these kids get tremendous empathy, and step by step help in learning to manage themselves. How much support you give determines whether your child will be able to meet your expectations.
  2. Take risks. Reward your children for thinking big. Praise them for making an effort even if they’re less than perfect. Kids learn to problem-solve when they are allowed to solve a problem – their own way. (Read how Leon Scott Baxter celebrates his daughters’ failures!)
  1. Explain your reasoning. Authoritative parenting allows plenty of room for give and take. Discuss why it’s important to brush your teeth or share your toys. Grab older kids’ attention with shocking facts they may not know about screen time and their health!   Listen respectfully to your child’s input, but you make the final decisions.
  2. Offer choices. Having options helps kids to prioritize and feel engaged. Ask them if they want broccoli or spinach on their pizza. Would your developing tween prefer to wait until after homework for their daily hour of screen time  - or use 15 minutes of it to play before they start?
  3. Build community. Just as dolphins live in pods, we all need a support network. Welcome the input of relatives, friends, neighbors, clergy, and teachers who are a positive influence on your kids.
  4. Respect individual differences. Realize that each child is unique. Your younger daughter may be able to dress herself while her older brother struggles with buttons. Your older son may never have bothered with Minecraft - while you can’t get your youngest away from the seemingly infinite array of Minecraft YouTube videos.
  5. Set boundaries…using empathetic limits. Yes, it’s important to clarify household rules and enforce them consistently. You’ll be teaching your children values and reinforcing good behavior. Kids need appropriate limits, but it's how you do it that counts.
Laura Markham [Blog]

“Research shows that children develop optimally when we set limits as necessary, but do so with empathy.”

- Dr Laura Markham, Aha! Parenting

  1. Express your love. Authoritative parenting is both demanding and responsive. Hold children accountable for their actions while you tend to their emotional needs. Strong bonds will help your kids feel confident and secure.
  2. Embrace CQ for success. Dr Shima Kang places a unique emphasis on how dolphin parenting is the best preparation for 21st century success.

Dolphin parents value IQ, EQ and especially CQ. CQ is the integration of IQ and EQ and are the core 21st century skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking -- all needed to constantly adapt for lifelong health, happiness, and success.

- Dr Shimi Kang, Author of The Dolphin Way

Let your kids know they can count on you for guidance and support as they learn to be self-directed and create a meaningful life for themselves.

Parent Style Checklist:

If you want to identify the kind of parent you are, then you may want to check out this article.
Click here to view the article

How to Handle 6 Common Challenges...the Authoritative Way

Struggling with homework, chores, eating habits or other challenges?

Then go dolphin for a day!  Just choose one of the issues below and try the authoritative approach.

  1. Study hard. Focus on study habits that will empower your child to do their homework. Start with talking to your kids about how they like to work – you may learn from their responses.

For example…

I recently came across the story of an eager mom who was ready to put up a white board and calendar in her son’s room and put everything on his Google calendar. But he said, "OK Mom, but I won't use it".  As she paused to regroup, he continued with "we need to just put it on the calendar on the fridge - I look at that every day when I come home so I know what's going on."

Lesson learned:  he knew what he needed - she just had to help him unlock it.

Still - when it comes to homework and revision - don’t be afraid to provide supportive guidance.  Create a binder system – together - that organizes their assignments. Designate a portion of the dining room table as their homework station.  Use screen time management tools that cut distractions by limiting certain apps & websites during homework.

  1. Make friends. Arrange opportunities for your child to interact with diverse groups. Praise them for being considerate and kind. Teach conflict resolution skills through role playing exercises. Empathize with the fact that they might feel nervous and scared  – then gently support them as they reach out and try.
  2. Finish your chores. Children will be pleased to know they’re a valuable part of the team. Make it clear that everyone is expected to pitch in. Don’t re-do the job if it’s been done with an honest effort – even if it’s not yet at the standard you would like. Then recognize these efforts with descriptive praise.
  3. Develop interests. It’s natural for children to sample a wide range of activities. Let them try out the debate club and soccer team. Over time, they’ll learn more about themselves and their world. They’ll discover where their strengths and passions lie. Let your kids experiment – and even fail - as you guide them to to be self-directed and create a meaningful life for themselves.
  4. Care for your health. Early lifestyle habits can have a profound impact on your child’s well-being. They’re less likely to crave doughnuts if they get used to eating vegetables at every meal. That’s especially true for young kids if you make carrots fun with dipping sauces and funny shapes. The dolphin way incorporates balanced parenting with a balanced lifestyle.
  5. Have fun. Be cheerful around your children so they’ll pick up on your positive mood.  Embrace the benefits of unstructured play to help children develop academic, social, and psychological skills. Demonstrate the advantages of looking at the bright side and bouncing back from disappointments.  Put your oxygen mask on first - and PLAY!
What can habyts do

Dolphins are a positive role model for authoritative parents who want to raise their children to be resilient and content.

After all, dolphins look like they’re having a ball -  while being smart and sociable!

So, questions for you!  Are you a Tiger (a la Amy Chua) or a Dolphin (a la Dr. Shimi Kang) when it comes to parenting?  Is there a bit of Jellyfish mixed in for fun?  And do you set "empathetic limits" as recommended by Dr Laura Markham?  We’d love to know what you think!

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Return to the Habyts Blog
Notify of
1 Comment
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

I learned so much about myself – Im a dolphin parent!
Thank you🙂

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x