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Porcupine Parent




I coined and defined a new term about a post-pandemic prickly parenting style full of quills 


By Rochelle E. Brenner


A porcupine parent prioritizes protecting their child above all else. Like a porcupine that uses its quills to defend itself, a porcupine parent is overly defensive and guarded when it comes to their child’s well-being. They are quick to react and put up barriers to shield their child from any potential harm or even disappointment. While their intentions are rooted in love and concern, the approach is overly cautious, smothering – an intimidating protective cocoon that prevents so many of life’s meaningful lessons.

While a porcupine parent has some positive attributes, it’s beneficial for the parent to smooth the quills a little bit. Let disappointment, loss, struggle and hard work enter a child’s life. 

A helicopter parent looms on the sideline yelling at a ref that their child didn’t get a fair shot. A tiger parent intensely demands the child train for first place no matter what. A participation trophy parent wants recognition and celebration for every little thing the child does. A porcupine parent convinces the child not to even try. 

In the post-pandemic world, after the fear of illness and isolation, martial arts instructors have observed a change in parenting I call porcupine parenting. Trying to get a child to do their best, we are poked with quills:

Are you sure you want to take class, sweetie?

He doesn’t like to exercise.

She’s more into video games.

He wants to try other things.

I know he hasn’t been in class but I want to be sure he will get his next belt.

As a martial arts instructor, those are sharp edges. Here are some Resilient Parent strategies to turn pain points into sharp lessons: 



Porcupine Parent

Resilient Parent

Emotional Distance: Porcupine parents may inadvertently create emotional distance between themselves and their children. Their instinct to protect and shield their children from harm can lead to a lack of emotional connection and open communication. Children may feel hesitant to share their thoughts, feelings, or problems with their parents, fearing judgment or rejection.

Embrace the power of routine. Just like brushing their teeth and going to school, a consistent schedule for martial arts classes helps children understand commitment. By incorporating it into the routine, you are sending a message that this is a non-negotiable essential pursuit.

Overprotection and Dependency: Porcupine parents' tendency to shield their children from challenges and struggles can hinder their development of independence and resilience. By constantly intervening and avoiding problems, it inadvertently fosters a sense of dependency, preventing children from learning important life skills and problem-solving abilities.

Remove the Option: Avoid asking your child if they want to go to class. By removing the choice it becomes an expectation and not up for negotiation or devaluing the beneficial experience. However, it’s important to remember that struggle provides valuable lessons building the “grit muscle” instead of the “quit muscle.”

Unrealistic Expectations: Porcupine parents have high expectations for their children's quick success, driven by their desire to protect them from failure. Instead what they get protected from is: practice. And the confidence that comes with getting good at something.

 Empower them with choices. Offer choices related to their martial arts journey to continue giving them agency over their lives. Make the choices more palatable toward their growth. Do you want to put your uniform on now or in 15 minutes? Do you want to practice kicks or punches or both? 


Kids’ Choice: With their strong protective instincts, porcupine parents may struggle to give their children enough confidence to make their own choices and decisions. This lack of independence can hinder children's self-esteem and critical thinking skills, as they may become overly reliant on their parents' guidance rather than developing their own judgment. They are asked to make decisions that aren’t in their best interest.


Celebrate the fun. Ask your child to highlight the fun moments, the part where they smiled or learned. When they respond positively, it serves as a gentle reminder to keep going even if they were initially reluctant. POsitive reinforcement builds enthusiasm and motivation for future classes.


Limited Resilience and Coping Skills: By sheltering their children from adversity, porcupine parents may unintentionally deprive them of opportunities to develop resilience and effective coping mechanisms. Facing and overcoming challenges is an essential part of personal growth, and shielding children from these experiences can hinder their ability to navigate and cope with life's ups and downs.


Leverage the power of inertia. Present inertia is when people are more inclined to continue doing what they are already engaged in. If your child is on TV or video games before class, they will want to keep doing that. If they are busy with chores or homework, they will be more eager to take a break. Bonus: After an uplifting class, they will have a better attitude about chores and homework afterward. 

It's important to note that no parenting style is inherently good or bad, and parents may exhibit various traits from different styles. The key lies in finding a healthy balance between protection and independence, allowing children to grow, learn, and develop their own strengths and coping mechanisms while providing a loving and supportive environment.


Finally: What did the porcupine say to the cactus? 

Is that you, mom?


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