‘Panda parenting’ is all about giving children more freedom — but does it work?

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The concept of snowplow parenting may not be for everyone, but “panda parenting” is meant to be the alternative.

The term was first dubbed in April by author Esther Wojcicki in the Telegraph. As she described it, panda parenting gives children freedom to make decisions for themselves (within reason).

Recently speaking with the Daily Mail, Wojcicki said she allowed her daughters to walk to school alone or quit a musical instrument if they were no longer interested. Panda parents allow children to do things for themselves without parents getting in the way. But it doesn’t mean panda parents are lazy.

“Panda mums aren’t lazy. What they do is give children scaffolding to let them go free. Instead of always intervening, you only help when they need it,” she told the site.

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READ MORE: ‘Snowplow parenting’ is preventing young adults from learning ‘basic life skills’

Parenting blogger Tom Briggs of East Sussex in the U.K. recently wrote about being a panda parent himself.

“I’ve only just realized that I’m a panda parent but consider myself one as what I’ve read about it tallies with my approach,” he told Global News. “Namely that I try to gently guide my children rather than do too much for them. Obviously, I’m there if they need help, but it’s important that kids are allowed to learn in their own terms within reason.”

Briggs argued it is harder for children to be children these days.

“Here in the U.K., primary school children as young as five are getting regular homework. They shouldn’t be under such stress at such a young age so, as much as possible, I try to let them do their own thing at home,” he continued.

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Although there is some concern that panda parents allow their children to get as much screen time as they want, Briggs said this isn’t true.

“We limit screen time… They’re encouraged to play with toys or in the garden much more and they’re happy with that.”

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Pros and cons

Briggs said a pro of panda parenting is that it allows children to be more independent and pick up responsibilities at a younger age.

“It also enables them to learn from their mistakes in a way that other approaches don’t necessarily accommodate,” he added.

Parenting expert Maureen Dennis told Global News that allowing children to learn from their mistakes teaches them the importance of failing and moving on.

“[It] also teaches them how to ask for help when needed, not out of laziness or lack of knowledge but because they understand when to use the resources available to them,” she said.

“In my experience, kids who are given the chance to exceed their own expectations go on to set bigger goals for themselves and use their knowledge and resources even more effectively in the future.”

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But some panda parents are judged for these methods, she said.

“You aren’t doing everything for your children; it may be perceived as ‘lazy parenting,'” she said.

“This can leave parents questioning their own values when others judge them. I tend to find parents of lots of kids naturally more easygoing as parents. Once you are officially outnumbered, you tend to expect more from your kids, and life becomes more of a team effort, which is not laziness — it’s delegation.”

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Simple ways to add panda parenting to your routine

Dennis added that when parents are too involved (think snowplow parenting) it robs children of learning.

“Let’s take making lunches as an example. Every kid six years old and older is more than capable of putting food in a bag for themselves,” she said. “It’s the parents’ job to make sure there is food to make lunch and to give guidance on what makes up an acceptable lunch.”

She added that during this time of the year (when school wraps up), many parents post messages of relief to social media about not having to pack lunches for their children anymore.

“Which always has me baffled. First of all, kids can and should make their own lunches, and once it’s summer, don’t their kids still eat lunch? Who’s making these easy summer lunches?” she said.

READ MORE: UK mom receives backlash for giving daughters ‘time out’ on supermarket floor

Making your own lunch or packing a lunch bag is just one example of something that can turn into a routine, she said.

“I will admit [it] can be easier as a parent in the moment because it can be torture to wait for kids to do things themselves, but every time you let your child do something for themselves, you are giving them the gift of independence so I ask you, which is really the lazy parenting style?” Dennis said.
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And Briggs pointed out that it’s OK for parents to change their parenting style over time.

“I’ve definitely evolved as a parent over the years. I was probably more of a helicopter or snowplow parent before, but things have changed a lot since I first became a dad. It has probably been influenced by a combination of experience plus the shifting dynamic of having three children,” he said.

“This method definitely works for me at the moment. I don’t know whether that will always remain the case, particularly once we hit the teenage years but, for now, it’s an approach that works because my children respond well to it.”

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