Book Review- The Dolphin Way by Shimi Kang M.D

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I have a problem with the concept of “Tiger Mom” and it is a very personal one: I saw how damaging the overbearing, helicopter parenting style can be first hand during my years at an all girls private school. The school that I attended was noted for academic excellence and while the school itself was a nurturing and supportive environment (I say this with all honestly), I saw a lot of girls deal with a huge amount of pressure. Some of these students were of Chinese decent (the “stereotypical” tiger cubs) and others weren’t. I also saw students with supportive and loving families who chose on their own to strive for perfection. I saw this extreme pressure, either from the outside or the inside result in serious sports injuries, chronic depression, cutting, bulimia and anorexia.

The book The Dolphin Way proposes an alternative parenting style to the “Tiger Mom”. Dr. Kang proposes that the animal, which best represents the ideals parents should hope for in their children- Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration, is the Dolphin. She posits that these skills will set children up for success and balance in their lives. She believes that “Tiger Parents” and their dictatorial parenting style is actually detrimental to the child as they are often rigid, uncreative and EXHAUSTED. They have no balance in their lives, their mental and physical health have been compromised and they fail to thrive because they have no ability to rebound from setbacks. Dr Kang stresses that thinking and resilience are the most important skills that children need – “millennials” show a sense of entitlement that can cause trouble in the workplace as they lack innovation and social skills. Children need to be able to think on their feet and have a healthy relationship with the world around them- this creates empathy and the ability to meet challenges head on.

This book really opened my eyes to the idea that balance in parenting is as important as balance in life. Dr Kang uses evidence based research to make her points about the importance of being an authoritative parent. Much of the advise that she imparts seems like common sense, but I had so many moments where I began to nod my head SUPER vigorously.

My only real issue with this book is also one of the best things about it, if you can wrap your head around that. Dr Kang’s theory is supported by a lot of research and evidence, which is incredibly reassuring but also makes the book a little bit repetitive at times.

I feel like this book has made me understand much better the kind of parent that I want to be and I know that it will very dog-eared from all my referencing as my son grows up.

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