The year of the Panda Parent?

A baby panda climbing a wooden structure.

I made an interesting discovery yesterday. I’m becoming a panda parent. I’ve heard of numerous nicknames for parenting approaches over the years but this was a new one on me.

Coined by American author Esther Wojcicki, being a panda parent is about taking a more relaxed approach. That’s not to say it’s a licence to be lazy; rather that it encourages gently guiding children as opposed to leading them by the hand as it were.

It’s said that this approach helps children become more independent and develop a sense of responsibility.

I will soon be a parent of nine years’ experience. In some ways, it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed since oldest was born.

One respect in which it does feel like ages, however, relates to how much I’ve changed as a parent.

I can remember taking a sharp intake of breath every time he did anything new during his first few months.

This is natural, of course. No parent truly knows what they’re in for until their children are born and are learning as they go from day one.

I was terrified of getting anything wrong so definitely fell into a couple of other categories at first. For example, I was a snowplough parent for quite a while.

Anything that could even remotely be perceived as a hazard had to go. As soon as he was mobile, I babyproofed everything. As a result, he was safe but I probably denied him some important opportunities to learn from mistakes.

Once our second child was on the scene, I became more of a helicopter parent. Having learned how resilient small children are after some inevitable parenting fails, I took a slightly more relaxed approach, albeit with a caveat. Son number two was a force of nature from the start and needed man marking!

Things had changed a lot by the time youngest arrived. We knew what we were doing and were a lot more confident as a result.

With the exception of ensuring we had enough plug guards, I didn’t bother baby proofing anything else once she was on the move.

I’ve learned to let all three children get on with things without intervening every five minutes. I’ve also learned to let them make mistakes so that they can benefit from them.

While I’m still very protective of them with things like crossing the road, I’ve taken a step back with a number of other things and they seem to respond well.

So, obviously, my parenting style has evolved a lot over the years and it will probably continue to.

I don’t know whether this is simply down to experience, the shifting dynamic of having subsequent children or downright exhaustion. But being a panda parent seems to be where I am at the moment.

I’m pretty happy with that. Not only do I look like a panda after nine years of sleep deprivation, but I’m acting like one too. And who doesn’t like pandas, eh?


  1. JOhn Adams

    Your approach to parenting has to change as your kids get older too. That leaves scope for you as a parent to make a whole load of extra and new mistakes! Roll on the teenage years Tom, roll on the teenage years.

  2. Pingback: Why the naughty step has never worked for us | Diary of the Dad

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