Joe DeProspero | August 7, 2013

In an August 1st Daily News article about parenting techniques, Tiger Mom was pitted against Dolphin Dad. In comparing the two drastically different methods, one simple question was asked. Since I’m a football guy and the NFL’s preseason is underway (Go Jets!), I’ll use a sports analogy to describe it:  As a parent, is it more important to be a militant, hard-nosed coach that nobody likes or an optimistic, confident quarterback that everyone adores? Sounds like a no-brainer to most of us, right? Well, anyone raising children will tell you that it’s not quite that simple. Not only is it next to impossible to remain optimistic and quarterbacky under the demanding stresses of parenthood, but one unsettling, ominous fact always lingers: All children require discipline. But how much? And to what end?

Amy Chua, aka “Tiger Mom” would certainly agree that children require discipline. In fact, she wrote an entire book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” where she touts her track record of raising successful children who don’t have play-dates, don’t watch television, and don’t get grades below an A—a traditional Chinese method of parenting.

Does this mean, though, that being disciplinarians with our children is more important than ensuring their happiness? Shawn Achor, aka “Dolphin Dad” argues in his forthcoming book “Before Happiness” that by smiling around your children, they are more likely to follow suit and smile, too. In his bestselling previous title, “The Happiness Advantage,” Achor states that before we can be happy or successful, we first need to believe that positive change is possible. So while compared with one another, both the Tiger Mom and Dolphin Dad philosophies seem to ultimately focus on two drastically different end games—a child’s intelligence and a child’s happiness.

Personally, I am far more concerned with whether my sons are enjoying their lives and meeting new and interesting people than if I’m positioning them to be Harvard graduates. To assume that success alone yields happiness is an inherently flawed notion. And I believe grooming one’s offspring solely to be professional successes deprives them of not only the joys of childhood, but ultimately contentment in adulthood as well. In other words, this might be the recipe for an office with a view, but it isn’t necessarily the recipe for being able to look in the mirror at night thinking, “I’m happy with who I am.”

Don’t get me wrong. And anyone who’s seen me in public with my children can vouch for this—I discipline my kids. And I believe that’s roughly half of my parental responsibilities, showing my children the invisible line between what is acceptable and what will get you banned from The Cheesecake Factory.

So am I a Tiger Mom or a Dolphin Dad? Mainly, I side with Achor. Although, when my son dropped my iPhone on my face, I was one pissed-off dolphin, flirting with tiger status. And I think that’s the delicate balance that we, as parents, need to strike. We have to be adult enough to dictate social and behavioral norms and enforce them but still childish enough to dress up like Captain Hook (and get into full character, voice and all) for our son’s pirate party (that’s the other half of my parental responsibilities). In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that if you’re not strict when you need to be and playful when it’s time to unwind, you’re not fully giving your child a sense of life’s possibilities. I think our children need boundaries just as much as they need to see that the enjoyment of life does not stop once they’ve outgrown their toys. Besides, everyone I know who was raised with overly strict, demanding parents are either alcoholics or listening to emo music now. But at least they’ve got high-paying jobs. So there’s that. {end}

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