3 Parenting Lessons Deer Teach Us. Yes, Deer.

A parent coach finds lessons from a common animal.

I walk on a beautiful path almost every morning. These walks help me tune into myself, as I deliberately use my senses: I see clouds shifting overhead; I hear birds chirping their morning chatter; I smell tall grasses; I feel air brushing over my skin. I try to let my thoughts pass like the clouds, so I can get centered and focused for my day … this really works for me as a mindfulness exercise and I'd be thrilled if you steal it from me.

On my walks, I take mental notes from nature. Some of my favorite teachers are the does and their sweet little spotted-backed fawns. I observe them daily and am inspired by their grace and connection to each other. In watching them year after year, I've noticed their shared parenting techniques. Their consistent basic behaviors are true parenting gems and helpful reminders to all of us. Here are a few bits of their collective parenting wisdom I'd like to share with you.


1. When your baby is hungry, feed her. When your baby is tired, sleep her.

You know what we never see? A fawn having a tantrum. Know why? Their basic needs are being met! Now, of course I realize our human brains are different from deer brains, but we all have basic needs. I don't know about you, but when I'm Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT) I am not myself; I'm barely human. When our children are in a state of depletion from a HALT factor, they truly can't function because their developing brains are limited — so it's not on them to suck it up. It's on us to fill their physical and emotional tanks so they learn how to do it for themselves one day. For now, the task is really simple: get everyone's basic needs met.

2. If we hear a strange noise or stranger approaching, stop what you're doing and assess.

This sounds like such a basic thing, but let's get honest about how often we're lost in our phones and miss things that might be important and/or dangerous. 

We miss important things all the time, but the deer mommies don't. They are tuned-in and stop everything if they sense something unfamiliar. I'm not saying live our lives on high-alert. I'm saying stay aware so we can notice, assess, and take action if necessary.

3. Stay close to your little ones; sometimes hover, sometimes pull back.

I'd like to semi-reclaim the term "helicopter parent" here. I actually like the idea of being able to see things from a distance with the mobility, ability, and presence of mind to swoop in when necessary. Doe mommies sometimes hover, especially when they are in assessment mode or when their fawns are nursing or sleeping (i.e., in a vulnerable state). 

In totally cool fashion, though, they also permit their little ones to wander and enjoy some freedom. I don't know how they determine safe distances, or when they insist their fawns come closer, but I gather it's a dance of balance and being tuned-in, moment to moment, within each situation … just like it is for us.

Laine Lipsky is a parent coach, educator, and speaker. She mindfully practices what she preaches with her two spirited children. Find out more about her on her website or FacebookLaine is also the author of the forthcoming book, Uncommon Parenting: Practical Guidance to be the Centered Parent You Want To Be.

Cover photo:  Vlad Sokolovsky / Shutterstock


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.