Encouraging physical fitness is great, but running layup drills with a 2-year-old is extreme.

What Is Extreme Parenting?

by Christina Schnell

At one time or another, every mom has had a momentary fantasy about locking her tantruming toddler in the backyard in January. Or you sometimes wish you could let the kids eat an entire box of Pop-Tarts for dinner because you're sick of cooking and even more sick of arguing over meals. "Extreme parenting" takes normal components of parental duties, like fulfilling your child's needs and instilling a sense of discipline, and extends them to an extreme level, often by using equally extreme methods. Extreme parenting is not the result of a few frustrated outbursts or giving in at the end of a hard night; rather it's a carefully chosen course of parenting that prizes specific virtues and advocates achieving them using extreme methods if necessary.

1. Helicopter Parenting

All parents want to be able to help their child when she needs it. However, taking this approach to the extreme is known as "helicopter parenting" -- that is, hovering near your child ready to assist or protect before she experiences any struggle or frustration. This means helping your child perform tasks that she's able to do and should have mastered long ago, like helping your preschooler get dressed in the same way you dress your 18-month-old. Another example would be never leaving your children with a babysitter or at a friend's house for a playdate because you're worried about what might happen or unable to trust anyone. In the short run, the child never learns to do anything for herself, including being independent. In the long run, parents who immediately fix every frustration are sending the message to the child that she's actually incapable of doing anything herself. Similarly, overprotectiveness instills an unhealthy fear of everyone and everything.

2. Tiger Parenting

All parents want their children to excel, be self-disciplined and be able to follow instructions, but taken to extreme levels, "tiger parenting" can backfire. The term "tiger parenting" was first coined by Amy Chua in her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." The approach is one of strict authoritarianism that does not tolerate disagreement or anything less than excellence -- ever. Tiger parenting means expecting children to practice academics and activities tirelessly, without complaint, until they excel, regardless of whether they or their parents chose the activity. In other words, if your 3-year-old can't recognize her letters, then several three-hour drill sessions -- or however long it takes -- can correct the issue. The result might be a very literate preschooler, but it can also mean a child who feels stressed and constantly haunted by unrealistically high expectations.

3. Extreme Attachment

All loving parents strive to create a strong, affectionate bond with their child, one which encourages the child to grow into an emotionally healthy, independent and secure person. That part isn't anything new, and the practice of attachment parenting occurs on many levels, but the extreme end of the attachment spectrum emphasizes near-constant contact between the child and parent, even if it conflicts with the parent's need for personal space or routine. In addition to cosleeping with your little one, the extreme attachment approach to parenting requires you to promptly respond to your child's cries and never allow her "cry it out." It also means, whenever possible, letting your child decide when she's ready to separate from you, even if it's only for a few hours. Another component is often long-term breastfeeding, well beyond the child's first or second birthday.

4. Laissez-Faire

Giving children as young as toddlers the freedom to make choices and focus on their interests can encourage independence, self-awareness and passionate exploration. When taken to the extreme, however, this "laissez-faire" approach to parenting, which literally means "to let people do as they please" can create an unhealthy, dissatisfied child who is never held accountable for any misbehavior. The extreme version of this permissive parenting style is letting a 2 1/2-year-old stay up until 11 p.m., or giving a 3-year-old the freedom to choose whatever she wants for dinner, including cookies and cake. In the most extreme version of this permissive parenting style, things like basic manners and personal hygiene are neglected during the toddler and preschool years.

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