Stand aside tiger mums, the panda parent is here

Posted in Family.

There are so many different types of parenting these days; it’s hard to keep up. Just when you think you’ve got it sorted, another parenting trend bursts on to the scene, making you question all your parenting choices. However, the latest technique in the spotlight, called panda parenting, is a little different, offering kids more freedom, independence and responsibility.

What is it?

While helicopter parents hover over their children, ready to minimise any risk, issue or disappointment that comes along, the lawnmower parent pre-empts any possible problems, clearing a child’s path of any issues well in advance. However, the panda parent, a term inspired by educator, author and super mum, Esther Wojcicki, in her recent book Raising Successful People, has a more relaxed approach, where the child leads the way.

According to Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University and author of The Coddling of the American Mind, there has been an epidemic of over protecting children and not letting them learn to be independent. So maybe panda parenting is a step in the right direction.

Does it work?

It certainly paid off for Esther, who has raised three highly successful children. One is CEO of YouTube, with an estimated fortune of £385 million (approx $690 million), another is co-founder and CEO of direct-to-consumer DNA testing company 23andMe, worth £542 million (approx $972 million) and another an associate professor of epidemiology.

With such offspring, you might expect Esther’s parenting techniques to be similar to those of a ferocious tiger mum, but nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Daily Mail, Esther let her children walk to school from the age of five, and when they could count, she gave them a budget to do the family shop. And although named after an extremely lazy animal, the panda parent is far from it. “Panda mums aren’t lazy,” Esther told the Daily Mail. “What they do is give children scaffolding to let them go free. Instead of always intervening, you only help when they need it.”

Letting go

While I’m not a total helicopter mum, I often do things for the kids that they could easily do for themselves, like stacking their plates in the dishwasher and putting away their laundry. They never do it, because I get in first. Now I’m trying to stand back. I force myself to leave their plates, and I leave their laundry in a pile for them to put away.

Esther told the Daily Mail that when one daughter graduated from Yale and decided to be a nanny, she did not comment. “As a parent, you have to keep it zipped,” she says. However, it can be challenging to try and keep your opinions to yourself. I remember shopping with my daughter at about age three. We were choosing some wall stickers for her room, and I liked one design while she liked the other. But when she was going to pick my design just to keep me happy, I suddenly realised how much I was influencing my child and not allowing her to make her own choices that were essentially part of her development. We got the wall stickers she wanted.

Now inspired by panda parenting, I’m trying not to hover as my kids navigate their way through life. I’m trying not to protect them from making mistakes, nor am I continually question their choices. I leave their school bags for them to pack themselves. And if they forget something, then I don’t drop it off to school, and instead, let them deal with the consequences. It may not make them successful CEOs, but they will certainly learn to be a little more responsible and independent, and surely that’s a good thing.


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