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Are You an Elephant Mom?

Jennifer Stauffer
Dec. 28, 2015

There's a new animal-inspired parenting trend brewing. What does it mean to be an elephant mom and how does it differ from other parenting styles?

An elephant mom is one of the many groups that parents can be classified as. Like their namesake in the animal kingdom, an elephant parent is very nurturing and protective of her offspring, especially in the earliest stages of their life. With so many styles of parenting (see Parenting Styles Revealed for more information), what makes an elephant parent different?

What Is Elephant Parenting?
The term "elephant mom" was first coined in a 2014 article by Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar in The Atlantic, to describe her sheltered upbringing.

In the animal kingdom, elephant mothers are protective of their young. Their babies can usually be found hovering underneath them. Often, other females in the herd rally to assist the mother in ensuring the youngest members are protected. When young elephants do encounter the dangers of their habitats, their mothers are quick to intervene.

Elephant parents allow their children more flexibility and choices rather than definitive and strict guidelines that need to be followed. They may rock their children to sleep where other parents would let them cry it out. They may not require kids to stick out challenging situations, and they encourage them to be whoever they want to be.

What Are the Pros?
For those who subscribe to it, elephant parenting provides an opportunity to let kids be kids. One of the main tenets of the parenting style is to give kids the opportunity to enjoy themselves and just be happy, not unlike the way you may remember your own carefree childhood. There is an important and crucial bond elephant parents hope to achieve by providing their young children with comfort and support when needed.

What Are the Cons?
For opponents of elephant parenting, one of the greatest drawbacks is the negative effects of being overly permissive. Opponents to elephant parenting believe that parental intervention makes children dependent on their parents and unable to solve their own problems, making it difficult for them to adjust to the greater independence required of them when they're older.

How Does Elephant Parenting Compare to Other Parenting Styles?
In 2011, author Amy Chua published "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," and set off a parent-as-animal trend. A tiger mom is one whose style of parenting emphasizes hard work and de-emphasizes the flexibility of just being a kid. The elephant mom and tiger mom are often described as opposites, one emphasizing achievement while the other emphasizes happiness.

Helicopter parenting, on the other hand, is considered very similar to elephant parenting, since it too involves a parent who is never far out of reach and quick to intervene on behalf of the child. Does this sound familiar?  Check out 6 Signs You've Become Helicopter Parents to learn more. Although it may be easy to confuse with the nurturing aspect of elephant parenting, helicopter parenting strives to minimize obstacles and challenges instead.

No matter your style of parenting, the goal is often the same: to raise good people with love. Styles are often mixed and matched during the earliest phases of a child's life, and being an elephant mom, tiger mom or helicopter parent doesn't have to be definitive.

Whether or not you totally identify with being an elephant mom, all moms can agree that no matter the parenting style, there is nothing more important than love. Parents may show it by preparing their child for life as an adult or by helping them deal with an immediate challenging situation. Whatever the method, the love is there.

What parenting technique is your favorite? Check out 5 New Parenting Trends from Care.com for ideas and tell us in the comments.

Jennifer Stauffer worked on Capitol Hill in PR and legislation before becoming a mother in 2011. She now blogs about parenting and pop culture at Mom Tattles and is hopeful to publish her first novel soon.

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