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Anthem of the Jellyfish Father: A Laid-Back Guide to Parenting

12/07/2014 10:49 EST | Updated 02/06/2015 05:59 EST
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jellyfish in the north sea in iceland

Three year ago, Amy Chua's provocative book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother initiated a heated debate over the so-called Chinese parenting style. Ms. Chua detailed how she enforced rigid study habits on her two daughters and forbade them from such common pastimes as play dates, sleepovers and school plays. All in the name of turning them into high achievers.

Looking back on my 18 years of parenting experience, I have concluded that it likely didn't matter what approach my wife and I took to raising our daughter. She's her own person and it became readily apparent right out of the womb that she would do things her own way.

So stop worrying about your child's performance and future achievements. Follow my seven simple rules for jellyfish parenting and save yourself a lot of grief and possibly a stress-induced stroke.

1. Buy the sugarcoated cereal. Sure, the whole-grain, unsweetened brand is likely healthier. But at least she'll eat the ones with candy stars and chocolate moons, probably with some milk, too. Do you really want to spend an hour fruitlessly trying to get your child to eat his vegetables? Personally, I preferred watching cartoons with my daughter as we both enjoyed a tasty bowl of Froot Loops.

2. Timeouts are for coaches. Don't waste them on kids. And like coaches, you only have a limited number you can use anyway. So why bother? They're only a temporary fix and more trouble for you. You don't like your child's behaviour? Fine; then you take a timeout -- at your local bar.

3. Don't worry about her room. It's a mess and it will almost always be a mess. You can shout and yell and scream until you're blue in the face but her room will not get cleaned. Sometimes she will even promise to clean her room but don't believe her. She won't. Unless she invites her boyfriend over and that's not something you want to encourage.

4. It's her homework, not yours. Too many parents jump right in and try to help their children tackle their homework. Why bother? Leave her alone and chances are she'll get it done. No kid likes to incur the wrath of her teachers. That's motivation enough. No need for you to pop a blood vessel stressing over her daily assignments.

5. Avoid any requests that can result in the answer "No." Asking your child to do just about anything is stupid since you already know what the answer will be. Most times it's simpler just to avoid the issue or do the chore yourself. But remember; "No" is a two-way street. When it's her turn to ask for something, you know what to say.

6. Don't insist that she follow up on anything. Piano lessons, dance recitals, soccer games. What's the point in insisting that she see these things through to completion? If she has lost interest, it's not going to be fun for either of you to hound her until she completes the task at hand. Plus, you'll likely save a bit of money.

7. Adopt the Zen of the fish, i.e. - do not accept the bait. You will be insulted, berated, belittled and accused of all kinds of mean and hateful actions. Instead of reacting, just remember to silently chant that childhood proverb: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me." While it's not entirely true that words can't hurt, they'll hurt a lot less than the huge yelling matches you'll get into if you choose to react to every mean thing your child says.

Just follow these guidelines and your life as a parent will be immeasurably easier. Sure, your child may not be a concert violinist or have straight As in school. But chances are she also won't be in jail, therapy or rehab either. And most importantly, you won't be a stressed out gibbering idiot wasting your time exercising all those so-called parenting skills.

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