Are you a tiger mom? A helicopter dad? A slacker parent? Do you even have a style of parenting? And would the style you claim to practice match what others say you are?
I thought about this while reading some commentary on one of the latest most-talked-about books on parenting. Yes, being an actual parent, I only have time to read commentary, not the books themselves.
There are so many competing styles in modern parenting. All have a slew of books about them too. And to endorse one style is taken as an insult to the others, with a predictable vengeful backlash. It’s like a bad kung fu movie. Except it’s nowhere near as fun to watch.
Now I don’t have the expertise to stop the fighting between rival parenting styles (picture me running through the streets trilling shrilly, “Think of the children! Think of the children!”), but I do have it within my capacity to make it a little more fun to watch. Just like a kung fu movie.
I used to run home after church every Sunday to watch them, which does make me an expert (e.g., every movie must include a variation on the line, “You killed my master. I will kill you now!” or “You killed my brother. I will kill you now!” or, if you’re making a blockbuster like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “You killed my master — who was like a brother to me!”). Oh, yes, I studied well. I made this dash home for WPWR’s “Samurai Sunday” well into my late 20s, which may also explain why it took me so long to find a wife.
But now that I have one, and the kids to go with her, I feel I owe it to my fellow parents to share my accumulation of insights from my protracted unmarriageablity. So let’s give better names to these competing styles. And then invent a few more, just to make the competition more entertaining.
Hummingbird Style — This is a less frequently used term for Helicopter Parenting, but it fits the kung fu naming paradigm better.
Sloth Style — For, like, y’know, Slacker Parenting,… dude.
Toad Style — For that permissive, supplicating, “Is that okay with you, sweetie?” toadying parenting you sometimes see. But only in other parents.
Koala Style — Attachment Parenting. Hey, it’s better than “Leech Style.”
Dragon Style — Always in the minivan, dragon ‘em to soccer practice, dragon ‘em to school, dragon ‘em to dance class. By the end of the day, you’re totally dragon yourself.
Spider Style — Previously dubbed Snowplow Parenting (a variation on Helicopter— er, Hummingbird Style), the practitioner of this style has a hand in everything the child does, and the child’s life is entirely entwined in the parent’s web.
Snapping Turtle Style — Lay the eggs, bury them, go back to work. If anyone criticizes that you’re outsourcing your child’s upbringing, you— Well, there’s a reason this isn’t called Sea Turtle Style.
Frog Style — You read the oft-emailed article, “Why French Parents Are Superior,” and thought, “Hey, I like baguettes and wine. This could be the style for me. “Then you read that it basically amounted to saying “no” a lot, which is “non” in French (pronounced, “no”). To which you said an emphatic “Oui!” As long as the kids don’t, you know, grow up to be quite so French.
Squirrel Style — Read something in a magazine, try that for a little while. Read something online, try that for a little while. Hear part of a “Dr. Phil” episode, try the part you heard…
Gnat Style — Always buzzing about and getting into your kids’ and everyone else’s faces.
Peacock Style — Constantly strutting and won’t shut up about your child’s achievements (“Gosh! Walks and chews sugar-free dental gum?”) and attributing it to your parenting prowess.
St. Bernard Style — Always coming to the rescue. But the kids will likely grow up to be drunks.
Housecat Style — Will lie around with the kids in front of the TV, but runs away and hides the moment they leave the couch.
If you just can’t settle on one style, you can always default to calling yourself a plain old Kung Fu Parent. The Chinese translation for kung fu, after all, is “hard work.” And that describes parenting perfectly, whatever style you happen to fall into.
Now, excuse me. I have to go split a cinderblock with my forehead. I mean, pick the kids up from school. While I’m gone, please feel free to add your own styles in the comments below.