Are you a ‘tiger’ or a ‘jellyfish’ when it comes to parenting?

Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to help determine your style of parenting: 

  1. I make decisions for the kids and I don’t feel the need to explain my reasons.
  2. I’d rather back down from an argument than get into a fight with my kids.
  3. I need to demonstrate respect for my kids in order to expect to be respected by them in return.
  4. I shouldn’t have to deal with my kid’s mistakes. 
  5. There are times when I need to stand firm on a decision but it’s important to explain the reasoning behind the decision.
  6. I don’t care what my child believes.
  7. I believe parents should set the rules and kids should follow them.
  8. I don’t pay attention to what my kid likes.

Yes to #1 and #7 –  This style is referred to as “Authoritarian or tiger” parenting. It’s the “I know best” approach. No questions asked. 

Yes to #2 and #8- This style is referred to as “permissive, indulgent or jellyfish”. The parents place few demands on their children. They avoid confrontation and provide few guidelines regarding behaviour because they don’t want to upset their children.  They tend to strive to be seen as a friend to their child and have difficulty when it comes to setting and enforcing rules.

Yes to #3 and #5 – This style is generally referred to as “authoritative or backbone” parenting. It is a blend of caring with structure and consistent limit setting.  Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions.  These parents expect a great deal of their children but they provide warmth, feedback and adequate support.  When children fail to meet expectations, these parents are nurturing and forgiving rather than punitive, although they do impose consequences for not adhering to family rules.  

Yes to #4 and #6 – This style is referred to as “Uninvolved parenting”. This style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and very little communication.  While this style ensures kids’ basic needs are met, it offers little guidance, structure, rules or support.

Different parenting styles have different impacts on child developmental outcomes and their health habits. Research suggests that:

  • Authoritarian or ‘tiger’ parenting style generally promotes obedience and proficiency in children.  Ironically, children that are raised with this approach often lack respect for authority.  They rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem. Because of a lower self-esteem, they may be more likely to follow the crowd in making less healthy, possibly risky choices or may bully others. 
  • Authoritative parenting style sets a positive foundation based on clear rules and expectations and non-physical discipline. It’s the combination of expectations and support that helps children develop independence and self-control, a strong self-esteem and self-confidence.  It is this parenting style that is considered to create the strongest bonds between parents and kids and leads to the development of thinking and social skills important for young people to be successful in the adult world. Kids raised with an authoritative parenting style are more likely to make good decisions that lead to positive health behaviours.
  • Permissive  or ‘jellyfish’ parenting places few rules or demands on kids and parents seldom follow through on consequences when children do not follow the rules.  This parenting approach often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation.  These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school. They are at higher risk for health problems such as obesity perhaps because of parents’ struggle to limit unhealthy food choices.  
  • Children from families where parents are uninvolved tend to lack self-control, have lower self-esteem and are less competent in decision-making than their peers.  Consequently, they are easily led to risky health behaviours such as using drugs and/or alcohol.

You may be a mixture or use different approaches depending on the situation – that’s more likely the case. And two-parent families may have different styles all together. Try to decide together what parenting style works best for your family.  Make a plan that you are both happy about.  Be flexible and seek professional support if there are strong differences in your approaches to parenting or you feel confused about what to do. Here are some additional resources you may find helpful.


What’s Your Parenting Style? – video

Nobody’s Perfect – Facilitated Parenting Program

Nobody’s Perfect Parenting Tip Sheets

30 Ways to stay Connected with your Teen

Parent’s Guide to Separation and Divorce

Why the best parenting style isn’t one style at all, but many

A Family Snapshot

Just as we love introducing our fantastic team members, we want to highlight one of our amazing families from Generation Health. And what better time for that than Family Day! This program is all about family—building connectedness, sharing time together in healthful pursuits and taking care of each other so we are all thriving. Here is one family’s inspiring story:

Amber (age 8) and her parents Amanda and Jeff from Burnaby.

1. How did you hear about Generation Health?

I believe it was from one of the posters at a local rec centre. Pre-pandemic, Amber was quite active so it was common for us be at a rec centre. I usually snoop around at the bulletin boards for new updates and programs.

2. Was the time commitment manageable and worthwhile for your family?

This program filled the Sunday afternoon spot just beautifully. If it was any other time it would have been in conflict. Back then Amber was busy every night except Monday nights. Her friend joined dance so that took up the weeknights. Chinese school and SFU science are half days on Saturday and piano and swim on Sunday mornings. She said she was bored on Sunday afternoons so Generation Health was a nice find.

3. Was the content new for you and your family? Did you learn some things?

The concept of eating healthy and exercising, etc was not new to us but it was the first time we enrolled in this type of program.

4. What was your one biggest takeaway from the program?

This takeaway is more about self discovery. This was the first course we took together. As much as we are mindful about eating healthy, family time, exercising, etc, as a parent I need to be more focused but more importantly tune out the distractions and get Amber to be more focused as well. We needed to live, breathe, eat and sleep the program for the duration of the program. In order to truly change our habits we first need to change ourselves. In marathon training we were told the body normally doesn’t want to run (human nature) but after 3 times a week for three weeks the body will not want to stay home. I would encourage others to live, eat, breathe and sleep the program when taking the program.

5. Would you recommend Generation Health to other BC families?

Oh definitely! Being an active person and hearing less active people saying things like, “Are you nuts?”, and “Why do you want to work so hard?”, it just feels good to live life– that includes eating healthy. As a young dad, my purpose of trying to stay active is to introduce Amber to all these beautiful activities. It could be something both of us can be passionate about knowing the activity is a vehicle that provides us bonding time.

6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your family?

We are parents in training and forever will be. After Amber was born, as parents, we have been guided by that principle since day one. ‘Life is hard, everything else is easy’, is my personal slogan.

At the age of two she wanted to butter her own bread. Giving her a butter knife and butter was easy enough. We just had to keep cool when it was time to clean up. By three she wanted to cut fruits and veggies. It was concerning as the stakes got greater but we just learned to be more cautious. We gave her the sharpest dull knife in the drawer. She complained about how it doesn’t cut like our knives. We simply told her she needed to learn how to better utilize the knife.

By four she wanted to use the stove. Now we really started sweating. We started with eggs, oatmeal, noodles to fried rice. We bought a long spatula, got her an apron and a chair with a high back. She was reached the frying pan with her spatula just fine. I would have one arm around her and one hand on the frying pan. The stove wasn’t pretty but experience was priceless. Every one of these activities she wanted to learn was a teachable moment (according to Oprah Winfrey) not just for Amber but also for us. The more she can demonstrate her confidence with each too the more we gave her freedom to explore. The beautiful surprise came last year on a weekend morning. She came into my room and woke me up just to tell me breakfast is ready. I had egg and toast with avocado and a glass of milk. She is now comfortable with cooking her own simple meals and even added baking to her repertoire.

Two years ago, I wanted to get back into long distance running. Amber asked if she could come along. I knew I shouldn’t say no but I also knew I wouldn’t get far if I said yes either. Because we lived by the principle, I reluctantly invited her along. We jogged no more than two blocks before the walking started. Crappy thoughts ran through my mind until she started telling me her stuff. You know, things that parents are always curious about but didn’t really know, like her friends, how their friendships are and the things they enjoy doing together at school. We grabbed a snack along the way just to make sure she had more energy to keep on sharing and those lips moving. After that experience and what I learned from reluctantly inviting her on my run I will never say no to her joining me on a run.

Hobbies and Habits

The start of the new year is a time when we often feel the need to better ourselves. From eating healthy to moving more to sleep routines, resolutions abound, but we can often lose steam after a week or two and that can leave us feeling down on ourselves.

Consider another approach to building healthy habits and breaking the less healthy ones by starting a new hobby! This can add a new focus and inspiration to our lives. It may also help us stay occupied so are minds are distracted from falling into our routines of sedentary behaviour, unhealthy snacking or excess screen time. And during a pandemic, we all need different things to do at home to minimize boredom.

The key is to choose a hobby for which a S.M.A.R.T goal can be created. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based which means setting a specific time target that is realistic to achieve each day or week. See our post on Family Goal-Setting for more detail. 

Here are some hobby ideas to choose from:

  • Learn a new instrument. Ukuleles and keyboards are more affordable introductory instruments than guitars and pianos and are great for kids! There are now fantastic new apps that turn learning into fun, like Simply Piano®
  • Learn a language. We are all missing travel! Think about a place you might like to visit in the future and consider learning the native language in preparation for your trip. Even better if you do it as a family so you can all practice together. There are also great programs available, like Rosetta Stone® or Dua Lingo® to help you along.
  • Sewing, knitting or embroidery. A great way to occupy your hands and create something with your efforts! 
  • Painting, drawing, photography or writing. There are simple tutorials available in print or online that can walk you through introductory painting and drawing. Writing can be as simple as journaling to trying your hand at poetry or a short story.
  • Gardening. Late winter is the time to plan your garden. Get seeds started inside in late February so the starts are already to plant in the spring. Growing food like vegetables and herbs is a fantastic way to build food literacy in children—watch them munch their way through the garden.
  • Woodworking or scale modeling. For those with a little more space around the house, these traditional hobbies can be very meditative in their need for focus and patience.
  • Jewelry making or papercraft. Create beautiful pieces to wear or give to others.
  • Juggling and magic. Build coordination and dexterity, not to mention multi-tasking and presentation skills, if you entertain others with a performance.

Back to School

The end of a relaxing summer and the start back into September routine can be a stressful time for all of us. One way to manage these feelings is to try to get back into a schedule and routine. Here a few things to consider:

1. Sleep—in the summer, we can quickly get out of our usual sleep routine, staying up late and sleeping in more. In the week leading up to the start of school, try to make the usual bedtime a priority and inch closer to the wake-up time that will be required for September. We may sleep less overall in the summer with longer daylight hours, but it’s so key for optimal mental and physical health to get the appropriate hours of sleep. The Canada’s 24 Hour Movement Guidelines recommend children 5 to 13 years old get 9-11 hours of sleep and 14 to 17 year olds need 8-10 hours per night with consistent bed and wake-up times. Lack of sleep can make anxiety, irritability and difficulty concentrating worse.

2. Activity—ensuring we get the recommended amount of activity each day can set us up for optimal health, both physical and mental. It can also tire us out so we sleep better! In the summer, there may have been more time for family activities like swimming, hiking and biking, but as we head into the fall, work and school priorities may get in the way. Children 5-17 need 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous activity each day that gets their heart rate elevated. If that’s not going to happen through sports and activities, it needs to happen at home and after school is the best time to do it. Do you have space to set up a small home gym or a basketball hoop? Is there a yoga or dance class that they enjoy doing online? Or can you get out to your local park for a run or a game of catch? Creating an afterschool routine of activity will help to shake off any anxiety or stress that has accumulated through the day.

3. Screen Time—the recommendation is to limit to a maximum of 2 hours of recreational screen time per day, although many families find that restricting recreational screen time Monday-Thursday can allow for a better routine of homework, physical activity and family mealtime.

4. Eating—packing a healthy lunch is a great way to ensure kids have the energy they need to learn and be active at school. Get them involved from the earliest age to help build their food literacy and get their buy-in about what gets packed. Use the Canada’s Food Guide ( plate model to pack a balanced lunch with half coming from vegetables and fruit. Prep these the night before to save time in the morning or choose produce that comes ready-to-eat like mini-cucumbers, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, apples, pears and oranges. Include a protein source like smoked or baked tofu, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, hummus or a sandwich made with canned salmon, tuna, cooked chicken, nut or seed butter (depending on the allergen restrictions in your child’s classroom). Be sure to choose whole grain bread or crackers as the fibre and nutrients will provide more lasting energy and overall better health than refined grain products. As a change, try a hot lunch by sending a thermos of leftovers like pasta, curry or stew. Don’t forget a water bottle.

Then prioritize a family dinner where you can come together and share the positives and negatives from everyone’s day. Talking through the changes can help to alleviate the anxiety that may be building.

Keeping Connected

The time of physical distancing has been a challenge for us all but some may struggle with mental health more than others, especially without the usual support of our friends, far-away family or being face-to-face with our healthcare providers. Anxiety may be exacerbated by concerns about risk of disease, outlook for the future and worry about loved ones. Although this is common and understandable, it needs to be addressed if it is decreasing quality of life. 

Symptoms like sleep disturbances or difficulty getting out of bed; decreased appetite or binge eating; uncontrollable stress or depressed mood, substance abuse or thoughts of self-harm, are signs that help may be required. And there is no shame in asking for it! It’s the opposite—total respect for reaching out, being vulnerable and trying to make a change for yourself and your family.

Ways to manage symptoms and stay positive might include:

  • Talking to family and friends, whether about your feelings or just to stay connected
  • Stress management techniques—meditation, yoga, hot bath, walking, journaling
  • Creating a routine for eating, exercise and sleep
  • Limiting substances like caffeine, alcohol, cannabis and added sugar
  • Including key nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and protein from salmon, sardines, chia and ground flax seed, as well as antioxidants and fibre from vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains
  • Prioritizing moderate to vigorous exercise (at least 60 minutes per day for 5-17 year olds and 150 minutes per week for adults)
  • Focusing on the present and enjoying time in nature

The BC Centre for Disease Control and the Canadian Association of Mental Health have online self-assessments and free resources, as well as a crisis line to call anytime. If you, or a loved one, need support, please get help today: 

Family Cycling

The start of summer activities during a pandemic looks a little different than usual, with less vacation possibilities, summer camps and team sports. Rather than focus on what you can’t do this summer, take the opportunity to try a new activity as a family or visit a new spot close to home.

Cycling as a family can quickly become a regular pastime. The breeze blowing in your hair, the sense of freedom and adventure and a different way to see the landscape around you are just a few inspiring reasons. Not to mention sustainable transport! 

Cycling is a great form of moderate to vigorous exercise which raises our heart rates for optimum health and it can be competitive or not, to meet anyone’s activity preference. It is also an activity that can accommodate many differing abilities and health conditions. The key is to teach children to bike at a young age as it becomes harder to learn and they may become more hesitant as they get older. 

Cycling is also great for mental health, as is any form of exercise, but cycling especially because it keeps you very present. It is hard to think about what went wrong in the past or what problems could arise in the future when you’re cycling, as you need to stay focused on what you’re doing.

British Columbia has so many different cycling opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, whether on paved, gravel or forest trails. Check what is available in your community or within a day’s trip of home to find somewhere you haven’t tried before. Just a few of the best trails include:

  • Stanley Park Sea Wall (or the shorter Beaver Lake Trail for novice riders) in Vancouver
  • Vedder River Trail in Chilliwack
  • Whistler Valley Trail in Whistler
  • Kettle Valley River Trestles in the Okanagan
  • Cowichan-Shawnigan Trestle Trails in Cowichan Valley
  • Galloping Goose or the Lochside Trail near Victoria

If cycling is new to you and your family, be sure to prioritize safety, by always wearing a helmet, staying on top of bicycle maintenance, and learning the rules of the road:

If you’re ready for even more fun cycling, consider joining a club at: 

Family Day Fun

The name says it all! In BC, Family Day falls on Monday, February 17th, 2020 and many of us get the day off work and school. Family day should be a day spent together doing activities the whole family enjoys, so that likely doesn’t mean household chores like cleaning and laundry. Cooking together however can be a whole lot of fun and a great way to build memories and traditions.

In the days before, perhaps over a family dinner, discuss as a group an exciting meal to prepare. It might be something from the family recipe book or a dish you’ve always wanted to try to make, maybe from a different culture or even a favourite restaurant. This is the time to try something that needs some extra hands, like making perogies, calzones, dumplings, salad rolls, sushi, samosas, tamales, pupusas—the possibilities are endless. After you’ve settled on a dish, search out some recipes together and make your grocery list. It’s good to do this in advance of Family Day so you don’t feel the pressure of organizing and shopping on top of the family cooking project.

On the day of, get out all the ingredients and consider printing a couple copies of the recipe so that it’s easy for everyone to participate and read along. Assign tasks according to age and skill level—older children may be more competent at chopping harder vegetables like onions, celery and carrots. Younger children may enjoy helping to measure and mix ingredients. The key is to make sure everyone has a role and the confidence that they can achieve success in it, even if it’s a learning experience.

Before, during (while waiting for dough to rise or fillings to cool) or after cooking, try to get a family physical activity in as well, even if just a walk around the neighbourhood or an impromptu dance party in the kitchen. The BC government also funds many activities for families on Family Day with free or discounted admission, as do other private organizations including many ski hills. For a list of free events that are accessible to everyone, please visit:

The key is to spend time together! Families who eat and are active together tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally, and that can certainly last a lifetime.

Family Goal-Setting

As the New Year rolls around, we all tend to think about resolutions or accomplishments we hope to strive for individually or as a family. Sometimes all we do is think about them or perhaps work towards them for a brief time then feel lousy when we don’t meet our goals. It’s key to focus only on a short list of achievable or S.M.A.R.T. goals if we want to be successful instead of demotivated.

S stands for specific—instead of saying “we’re going to be more active”, individually or as a family, quantify it like “we are going to do one family physical activity each weekend” and brainstorm together to create a list of ideas to get you started (e.g. going to the pool, trying a new hiking trail or hitting a trampoline park).

M stands for measurable—ensure you set a target so you stay motivated and know you’re reaching success. Think up a fun, non-food reward, for meeting those milestones like buying a new board game or going to a movie everyone is excited to see.

A stands for achievable—it wouldn’t make sense to choose the above goal of adding a family physical activity each weekend if one family member works weekends for example, or to train for a full marathon when current running levels are only a couple of kilometres. Make sure everyone is in agreement about the attainability of the type and timing of the activity or family goal.

R stands for realistic—perhaps your goal is about cooking and eating at home together as a family more often. Is it realistic to set the goal for every single evening, especially on a day that’s busy with extracurricular activities? It might be more realistic to strive for 5 out of 7 days for example or one more day than your family is currently cooking and eating together.

T stands for time-based—consider setting one or two long-term goals but also some short-term daily, weekly or monthly goals. It’s very motivating when you achieve success with the short-term goals and can continue to strive for the long-term ones.

Top Tips to Become a Physically Active Family


With the new year upon us many people are looking for ways to be more active in their day-to-day lives. However, meeting the daily physical activity recommendations laid out by Canada’s 24hr Movement Guidelines can be challenging for many, especially youth in late childhood and the teenage years. As schedules grow busier, youth become more independent, social lives blossom and social media is introduced, finding time in the day to fit in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity can seem near impossible to a young person. As such, parents can play an important role in educating, motivating and role modeling active living for their growing children.

Here are 3 tips you can try to help your family increase their daily physical activity in 2019!

Remember, Canada’s 24hr Movement Guidelines recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children and teens and 150 minutes of physical activity a week for adults.

1. Do it Together – Have Fun!

Your kids are watching you. Share your enjoyment of physical activity with them and bond by being active together:

  • Pass on knowledge of a traditional or cultural sport you know.
  • Spend quality time bowling, skating, hiking, or going for a bike ride.
  • Take the pedometer challenge with your child. Add 2,000 steps to your day and build up from there to eventually accumulate 12,000 steps per day.
  • Go to a park and play frisbee golf, kick or throw a ball or play hacky sack.
  • Try a class together! How about spin cycling, yoga, pilates, fencing, a new style of dance or group fitness class? Many community centres, fitness centres and studios have no or low-cost options for teens
  • Take an active vacation (camping, surfing, skiing, canoeing, etc…)

2. Be Outdoorsy

Being active in nature is good for the body, mind and soul! Talk with your family about planning an outdoor activity the whole family will enjoy such as visiting a community garden or local farm. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Go for a walk before or after dinner – it’s a great way to connect with your child and add extra steps to both your days.
  • Engage the family in active chores like gardening, sweeping, mowing the lawn, raking leaves or shoveling snow.
  • Hike, bike, fly a kite, walk the trail system – check out Canada Trails website for a trail near you.
  • Try orienteering or geocaching. Both are takes on outdoor scavenger hunts and involve map reading. Look them up online for an opportunity near you.
  • Identify at least one winter activity and one summer activity you want to do together as a family like snowshoeing, skating, skiing, indoor climbing gyms, or snowboarding in the winter or frisbee golf, cycling, swimming, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking in the summer.

3. Introduce Variety

Children and teens are not always aware of the many physical activities that are available close to home:

  • Encourage them to check out school teams (recreational or competitive), club teams, or recreational teams through community centres and local sport organizations. Some girls prefer to play on female only teams led by a female coach or leader.
  • If your child is not the team sport type, look together for opportunities within your community. Visit community centres, pools, arenas, courts, climbing gyms and parks. Archery, martial arts, dancing, kickboxing might be some options for individual sports.

With these new tips in mind, what sort of physical activity would you like to do with your family this weekend?

SMART New Year’s Resolutions Help Kids Succeed

(Original post Healthy Families BC Dec 27th , 2017

The transition from one year to the next provides a great opportunity to celebrate the
accomplishments of the year gone by, and set goals for the year that is coming. For kids, reflecting on all the things they have learned to do independently or improved on can set the stage for talking about what they want to achieve in the New Year.

Making SMART Resolutions

Most kids will need some guidance to create New Year’s Resolutions. As a parent, you can suggest a few broad categories such as health, school or friendship. But kids should come up with their own resolutions so they take ownership of the goals and learn to plan. You can make sure they are age appropriate, and help them use the SMART approach. SMART resolutions are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely:

Specific – A resolution to eat healthy is too vague. Be specific; “I will eat healthier by only having fast food once per month,” or “I will eat more vegetables by having salad with dinner four nights a week, and taking raw vegetables in my lunch four days a week.”

Measurable – Once there is a specific goal, figure out how to track progress. Mark it on a calendar, or keep track in a journal.

Achievable – The goal should be ambitious but attainable.

Realistic – The resolution needs to be something your child wants to do, that is relevant to their life.

Timely – The resolution should specify a reasonable time frame and can include goals along the way. Reaching milestones can motivate them to keep working toward their goal.

Sticking with it

It is easy to let a New Year’s Resolution slide. Here are some tips to set your child up for success:

 If your child agrees, consider joining the resolution. A support system helps us all persevere. If they have a fitness resolution, ask if you can join them one or two days a week. If they are trying to eat healthier by having more vegetables, ask if you can help by committing to a vegetarian meal once a week, such as Meatless Mondays.

 Expect lapses. That is part of the learning. But remind your child that it is not all or nothing. Even if they don’t meet the goal, getting part way is still progress.

 If the plan isn’t working, adjust it. Talk through other ways to work toward the resolution.

Turning a good intention into a habit is an important skill. And don’t forget! Celebrate the milestones along the way to help keep everyone motivated to meet their 2019 goals.

Author’s Bio:  Moira McLean is a communications manager at Island Health with 20 years of experience as a television and radio journalist. She is a mom of twin boys, and loves to write about issues facing parents and kids.