In her new book, Dr. Kang takes the approach of offering an alternative to the controversial Tiger approach to parenting. She very clearly identifies the many challenges and stresses of raising a family in today’s modern rush. She spends some time dissecting why many parents have come to be Tigers – stressing out their children, stressed out themselves, rushing, pushing, striving. And then, thankfully, Dr. Kang offers many solutions, tips, scenarios, and true-life experiences to teach and remind how to reconnect with a gentler, kinder, ultimately more effective way of parenting and living.
There are many useful pieces of Dr. Kang’s book. One piece that I sticks with me and that I have shared on multiple occasions with friends (parents and not), is regarding the importance of free play in life. Free play is what kids do when given the opportunity to be kids (it is what adults do to with free time if they still know how). Free play is what schools, extracurricular activities, ivy-league college goals, sports, and a host of other overly-structured, time-hogging activities steal from kids and parents. Research shows that free play is essential to the development of problem-solving skills, creativity development, and social skills. Turns out, those kids who lived completely structured, planned, scheduled, achieving childhoods, look really good on paper; but they don’t have the skills to be competitive in today’s creativity driven, problem-solving, entrepreneurial marketplace. Employers are noticing too; they are changing hiring processes in search of children raised with plenty of opportunities to pursue free play.
Tonight, while putting my 4 and 2 year old girls to sleep, I asked them what they wanted to do tomorrow. They both rattled off a flurry of sentences, each beginning with the word play; play in the garden, play outside, play at the park, play with blocks. Kids learn and explore through play; it is the ultimate learning tool. Free play is also just plain old fun! You should try it some time. With and without your kids. You will all benefit. I saw a t-shirt sporting mom recently who’s shirt proclaimed, “when mom runs, we all win”. True in my family!
Another part of Dr. Kang’s book that really resonated with me was about intuition and the importance of self-care. When we can push aside the stress, concerns about public perceptions, and influences of modern culture and connect with our true intuition we can usually make good choices and decisions for ourselves and our families. The more we are over-worked and under-played, the harder it is to make that connection with our intuition. A headline in a parenting blog caught my eye recently, If you find yourself yelling at your children, you’re probably not taking care of yourself, it read. So true! As parents, if we don’t take care of ourselves, there is no way we can do a good job of meeting the needs of our children.
Dr. Kang reminds us that we can’t make decent decisions when we don’t eat, forget to drink water, don’t exercise, don’t take time to unwind and refill, don’t take a moment to watch the sunset. These things make us human and parenting is an immensely human task. As she herself admits, what she is teaching in The Dolphin Way isn’t rocket science; we can all attain the methods she presents IF we feel our way back to the little things that are really important in life. Listen to your kids, talk to your kids, enjoy your kids, enjoy your kids enjoying themselves, trust in nature, trust yourself, trust your kids, let your kids be kids and let them be themselves.
Thank you Dr. Kang for providing a tool to help us all be a little more human. Our kids thank you too!
Dr. Kang is an award winning Harvard trained psychiatrist and author of The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids Without Turning Into a Tiger. She is currently the medical director for Child and Youth Mental Health for Vancouver and a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Kang has helped hundreds of children, adolescents, and parents move toward positive behaviors and better mental health.