You might have heard of secure attachment or even about tiger moms. But have you heard of an elephant mom? How we parent our children has a long-term impact on their health and happiness. Our parenting style is the pattern of behaviors, values, and general approach we have to raise our children, including the way we respond and make demands of our little ones.1
We convey our expectations, morals, attitudes, and love by engaging and communicating with them. Our parenting style has a lasting influence on our children’s other relationships, their self-esteem, their educational achievements, and even their mental well-being.2 If you’re looking for a parenting style that works for you and your family, you might want to learn about the elephant mom approach.
What Is an Elephant Mom?
It sounds like a zoo out there with tiger moms, dolphin moms, and now elephant moms. What are they all about, and is there a difference? Well, the term “elephant mom” or “elephant parent” came about in an article titled “Being an ‘Elephant Mom’ in the Time of the Tiger Mom” by Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar.3 She was exploring her challenges regarding being a kind and nurturing mother at a time when being a tiger mom (strict, ultra-involved) was popular. The term comes from elephant behavior — they are known for having strong bonds with their babies and have nurturing, protective, and involved family groups. These are behaviors or values that Priyanka outlined as being critical to how elephant mothers raise their children.6
Signs You’re an Elephant Mom
Although parenting is mostly instinct, we parent the way we were parented or based on what we have seen or experienced. However, many people choose to break cycles or want to be more intentional in their approach to raising their children. So, exploring parenting styles and identifying which you most align with is essential. Some signs that suggest you’re an elephant mother or elephant parent are:3,7
Elephant parents support their children emotionally. They are attuned to their child’s needs and driven to meet them by providing reassurance, comfort, and encouragement. This creates a warm, responsive atmosphere where children feel accepted, loved, and safe.
Elephant parents aren’t strict and don’t push their children in the same way a tiger mom might. But they have rules and boundaries because they prioritize keeping their children safe and secure. They might be more likely to monitor their kids’ activities or try to keep them away from danger.
Elephant parenting is all about support. This means that the expectations of children are appropriate. Because they are so warm and accepting, children can feel more comfortable reaching out for support or, conversely, feel secure enough to go out and explore the world. They are also confident they can rely on their parents if they need help.
This is where there are some similarities to the tiger mom parenting style. Both parents are very involved in their children’s lives, but the difference is that tiger parents can be critical at times or focused on academics or achievements. In contrast, elephant moms are more focused on their children’s interests. They are engaged and supportive of their children’s hobbies or passion projects and take the time to listen or be involved in these areas.
Benefits of the Elephant Parenting Style
The elephant parenting style is similar to an authoritative parenting style, characterized by a high level of expectation but an equally high level of warmth and emotional responsiveness. This means parents are child-centered, and while they have high expectations, they back this up with support, guidance, and teaching their children how to manage their emotions or solve problems. They encourage independence but ensure that they welcome their children with open arms when things get tough and they need comfort or safety.4
These kinds of parenting styles (authoritative and elephant) can result in:1,4,5
- Increased independence
- Increased resilience
- Better problem-solving skills
- Better quality relationships
- Higher achievements (academically)
- Better compliance with boundaries/rules
Yes, there are both benefits and pitfalls associated with every parenting style. But regardless of which one you instinctively or intentionally follow, remember that raising our kids is about love. All the different parenting styles are, in some way, different ways of expressing love, so it’s important to remember there is no right or wrong. Just parent in a way that is right for your family and makes you feel comfortable and happy.