I recently read an article about different types of parenting styles. To my dismay, one particular type resonated deep within me, The Hippo Parent. While I like to think of myself as a laid-back, easy-going type of parent, I must admit, this is only half-true. As my first-born has blossomed into an exuberant, self-assured four-year-old, she has developed a strong sense of self which comes out at times as defiance…strong defiance. I have a strong-willed child which one day will be a quality that I will feel immense pride about as she deals with teenage and young adult issues. For now, it just can add frustration to our day.
The Hippo Parent is the type that deals with their child’s strong will by, metaphorically, sitting on them until they comply. In the evenings, as my husband and I reflect upon the day’s bumps, we hash out why things happened as they did, who fueled the flame and what we could have done differently. Our most common conversation revolves around dinner time….eating, staying in the seat, not interrupting, etc. Over the course of the conversations, and reading this particular parenting article, I look back and realize that while my daughter is at an age of expressing her independence, I am also in some ways squashing it by forcing her to do what I am asking.
At times I think I am doing the right thing by forcing her to do as she is told, learning respect, etc. But on the days that I decide to toss-up my white flag in surrender, she behaves well and I become that easy-going, laid back parent that I so wish to be everyday.
Looking back, I remember reading a similar article when my daughter was a toddler and then, feeling like I identified with the Helicopter Parent in the article, the type who hovers around their child keeping them constantly safe from harm, making sure they do the right thing, etc. I can only imagine how annoying that must be for the child. Same goes for the Hippo Parent, how frustrating it must be to constantly be forced to do just as you are told. While there are numerous times that my children must comply for safety reasons, I am learning that there are times that it just is not necessary.
The first child tends to get the worst and best from their parents. While they get the parents doting on them solely and persistently, they also get their parents raw and unpolished. My daughter got the Helicopter, the Hippo and now what I will call The White Flag parent. My son, the second child, will hopefully get a refined version of all of these that I have been before…let’s call her the Flip Flop Parent…that laid-back, easy-going parent who still keeps the child safe and on track, as opposed The Barefoot Parent, who lives a little more on the edge just letting things happen as they will. I strive to be the Flip Flop kind.
While I like to wear different “hats” at different times depending on the circumstance, I think I would like to say goodbye, now and forever, to the Hippo.