Elephant parenting was a concept first introduced by Priyanka Sharma Sindhar, in 2014, in an article called “Being an ‘Elephant Mom’ in the Time of the Tiger Mother”. She explained the difficulties she faced on her journey to becoming the kind and nurturing mother she wanted to be, during the rise of the “ultra strict disciplinarian” tiger mother. Priyanka talked about her experience with judgement in her elephant parenting choices and how she juggled cultural expectations from others. This resulted with Priyanka feeling like a “misfit” and an “outsider”. 1
What is an Elephant Parenting Style?
Elephant parents strive to emotionally support their children. As well as nurture them through hard times, compared to a tiger parenting style, which forces children to make choices and behave like adults. An elephant parenting style is flexible, it allows children to reach out for help, and depend on their parents for comfort whilst young. Elephant parents allow children to be children and seek happiness rather than academic success. This parenting style is filled with warmth, encouragement and protection. While tiger parents prepare their children for independence and the harsh realities of life from a young age. 2
Why is it good for you and your child?
Parenting styles can affect every domain of your child’s life, from their sense of worth to their values, the same concept applies to their feeding patterns. Child – parent interactions have a large influence on children’s relationship with food and future eating behaviours.
Elephant parents seem to have healthier children
An elephant parenting style is most closely related to a responsive feeding style, and research has demonstrated the tremendous benefits this style has on children’s future relationship with eating. There are four feeding styles, however Dr MacLean encourages a responsive feeding style. Similar to an elephant parenting style, a responsive feeding style allows children to be flexible. Parents to be responsive and emotionally available to their children’s needs. This feeding style is formed on the basis of mutual respect between the parent and child.
As well as an understanding of what the child wants and needs. Therefore, the child can choose what they would like to eat from what’s given, and how much they want to eat based on their levels of hunger. Good listening, trust and boundaries are the crucial aspect of this feeding style. Findings suggest that this interaction provides children with the ability to self-regulate food intake in the future. Research also illustrates that children who received a responsive feeding style are more likely to eat more fruit and vegetables in the future and be more physically active. Therefore maintaining a healthier weight as they grow up and become more independent. 3
Elephant parents are more likely to have a responsive feeding style
Similar to an elephant parent’s perspective, Dr MacLean said “It’s not a parent's job to control a child’s food intake. The parent’s job is to provide balanced meals, making the eating environment positive, and respond to children appropriately.”
Click here to read more about feeding styles.3
Dewey KG, Mayers DR. Early Child Growth: How Do Nutrition and Infection Interact? Maternal & Child Nutrition 2011
1 Priyanka Sharma Sindhar. The Atlantic: Being an ‘Elephant Mom’ in the Time of the Tiger Mother, 2014. Available at https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/12/elephant-mom-timeof-tigermother/383378/
2 Parenting Desk. The Indian Express: Parenting Trends: Are you an elephant mom or dad? 2020. Available at https://indianexpress.com/article/parenting/family/parenting-trends-are-you-an-elephant-mom-or-dad-6223251/
3 Raja Jumier. Abbott Family: How your eating habits can affect your kids. Available at https://abbottfamily.com.sg/articles/toddler/feeding-style