Tiger Parents: are you tired of tearing your kids to shreds? Try The Dolphin Way


Anais Nin wrote that love “begins where the myth fails. Then we love a human being, not our dream, but a human being with flaws.” If there is such a thing as modern mythology it can be found in our pursuit of perfect parenting. We live in constant fear of making a bad decision or saying something that will negatively impact our cildren. We stress about whether we’re doing it “right” or doing a better job than our neighbours and friends. Or our parents.

It’s incredible to contemplate the struggles and sacrifices we make professionally and personally in order to give our children “the best” and how much we push them to make them want the best for themselves.

But myths are cautionary tales told from the perspective of immortals or gods in order to expose our all too human fallibility. We are meant to learn from the mistakes that the gods make in their pursuit of perfection. But in our pursuit of perfect parenting, who gains? And who suffers?

“The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids Without Turing into a Tiger” may win an award for Longest Book Title but it was also an engaging, meticulously researched common sense book on parenting in the 21st century. Dr. Shimi Kang is a world-renowned expert on motivating children and youth toward positive behaviours and better mental health. She is the medical director for Child and Youth Mental Health for Vancouver and has helped literally hundreds of children and their parents through times of crisis . She has witnessed first hand the perils of parental pressure: anxiety, stress, suicide and addiction.

Our dream of having the perfect children is, quite literally, killing them.

Dr. Kang is a Harvard-educated medical doctor and psychiatrist and internationally respected for her expertise. She is the child of immigrant parents who struggled to give their children “the best in life” which for them didn’t mean endless practicing, around the clock tutoring or ruthless competitiveness. Her father taught his five children math while he was driving his taxi cab while her uneducated, illiterate mother trusted deeply rooted maternal instincts to stay in tune with her children’s needs. But despite her impecable credentials and charming upbringing, I related most to Dr. Kang as a former “Tiger Mother” who ignored the roar of the masses and trusted her gut to  find a better way to raise happy children.

Although the title refers specifically to the “tiger” parents illustrated by self described  Tiger Mother Amy Chua’s outrageous parenting porn polemic “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” Dr. Kang also questions the permissive “jellyfish” parents – first identified in Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids are Worth It!” attached, free floating and permissive, allowing their children to grow “organically” because they lack the spine to parent with authority. Dr. Kang prescribes a new parenting style, modelled on the joyful, playful and highly social dolphin.

Dr. Kang believes that the key to raising healthy, happy and motivated kids is to instil a combination of IQ (intellectual quotient or ability) and EQ (emotional quotient or intelligence) known as CQ – the cognitive quotient. And she’s not alone: organizations like Google and PwC, institutes of higher learning such as UBC and the Harvard Business School and even college board standardization tests like the SATs and MCATs are all moving away from choosing candidates and employees based solely on test scores. These progressive organizations are looking for a skill set that encompasses creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Or in less consultancy firm terms: adaptability, self motivation and grit. It’s a healthy dose of reality for those of us who believe that putting our children in a pool seven days a week will automatically turn fast swimmers into great business leaders, or disciplined pianists into inspired innovators. Athletic pursuits or performance capabilities may teach our children discipline and perseverance but it will not instil in them self motivation, passion, personality, three things 21st century children will need if they are to be successful, happy and healthy.

Ah, personality. My younger son has it in spades and has always been more challenging to parent than my older son. His antics are the stuff of legend and his stubborness would make a mule blush. Most of the wrinkles on my forehead are because of this child and he is only 8 years old. This past weekend I was reminded of his quick temper and slow forgiveness and meditated on what his future may hold if we don’t give him to tools to deal with his strong personality. Reading Dr. Kang’s book and preparing to write this review I was struck by how many CQ traits my son already possesses, and how many he still has to learn. It is our job as his parent to That is our job: to guide him persistently yet playfully, with the assistance of our pods, to embrace and celebrate his uniqueness. To let go of our preconceived and outdated notions of “success” and empower our little square peg to be his best self.

*I received an advance copy of “The Dolphin Way” from Penguin Canada for review purposes. I was not compensated  for this post.  


About Pamela

I’m a Vancouver-based divorced mother of two awesome boys embarking on a respectful, amicable and often humorous co-parenting adventure with their father. By day, I'm a publicist for good causes + companies at ElevatedPR.com

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5 Responses to Tiger Parents: are you tired of tearing your kids to shreds? Try The Dolphin Way

  1. BadSandy April 25, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Great write-up. I’m going to throw my kid a fish right now.


  2. Anne @ FoodRetro April 28, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    Love it. I’ve only got the one kidlet, so I don’t have much to go on by way of comparison to other siblings. I wonder if I should refer to him as a square peg when he’s being particularly trying… :)

  3. mom April 28, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    The book sounds like a great read for any parent .Each child is an individual and unique in their own way, we as parents have to recognize that and guide them, not change them to the way we want them they will grow to be great just believe in them.Great write-up Pam.

  4. Jennifer Dyer April 29, 2014 at 1:49 am #

    This is fascinating. I’ve always thought the tiger parenting approach could lead to ulcers and kids who have anxiety/perfection issues. Sometimes our striving to make our kids successful in a job can overlook helping them to be successful emotionally. A wise author Tim Shoemaker once said something like we make our kids want to rebel when we demand perfection from them, especially since we cannot achieve that perfection ourselves. Good food for thought here. :-)

    • Pamela April 29, 2014 at 2:05 am #

      Thanks, Jennifer! It was a surprisingly common sense book but one that every parent should read since our kids don’t come with instruction manuals! ;-)

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