Raising kids who have the wherewithal to work past challenges and persevere can be a fine line to walk. You don’t want to be overbearing and force your kids to succeed; that’s a miserable and exhausting experience for both of you. It’s a balancing act: giving your kids the guidance they need while also giving them space to try and fail.
Be a “Dolphin Parent”
Dolphin parenting was coined by Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang as a response to the once-popular Tiger Parenting. Dolphin parenting, jellyfish parenting, and tiger parenting are three distinct and common forms of parenting. Dr. Kang defines tiger parenting as authoritarian, while “Jellyfish Parents” are often permissive. Comparatively, dolphin parents are the ideal balance between the two: authoritative parenting that is gentle guidance, and nurturing the child’s nature.
“Dolphin parents have rules and expectations but also value creativity and independence,” says Dr. Kang. They gradually increase the autonomy of their children as they age, giving instruction when necessary with a focus on learning from trial and error.
This type of parenting gives children the confidence to trust their own choices, which motivates them to continue being decisive and confident in themselves.
Guide their schedule
You definitely want your child to be active and challenged, but don’t overdo it. Make sure your child has the time and attention span to commit to all of their extracurriculars. Dr. Kang asserts that an overly sleepy, exhausted, or overly busy child will lose steam.
Make praise specific
Instead of just saying “good job”, praise specific character values such as honesty, integrity, respect, and responsibility. Focusing on building the inside character versus outside leads to greater internal motivation.
For specific successes, such as an aced test or first place in a spelling bee, praise the effort. Remind them how hard they had to work to get to that point. It can make the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset.
Let them fail
Failure just means you’re trying. Let your kids experience this, as they’ll surely have to endure it later on in life if they take any kind of meaningful risks. If they glide through childhood without any obstacles to overcome, they’ll be clueless about how to break down barriers later in life.
The common thread is building autonomy. Your child needs to see themselves as a whole, independent person who can fail or succeed based on their input to any given task. It’s worth noting that sometimes effort alone isn’t always enough, but establishing a strong connection between input and output is crucial.