Extreme Helicopter Rides with Free Range Tigers

Parenting, Helicopter Parenting, Free Range Parenting, Slow Parenting, Attachment Parenting... Hot damn. That is one hell of a lot of parenting methodologies to choose from - and it's a handful soley comprised of the techniques I'm familiar with! I'd be willing to bet there are eleventeen more that are as ubiquitous, though perhaps not so much parenting methods as they are styles. And with unfortunate nomenclature, to boot (such as Neurotic Parenting, Oblivious Parenting, Overwhelmed Parenting, Lethargic Parenting, and such...) I have yet to locate those on Wikipedia, but I'm hearing that the online dictionary editors are a bit backed up these days, what with the new Jersey Shore lingo popping up every week. (Can I get a fist pump?)

An apology in advance: This post is a bit... boring, I'll admit. But it covers a topic that's received press recently and that I find interesting. So... OK, I think we're done there. You've received fair warning. (Aren't I great at marketing myself?)

Here are abridged definitions of these parenting methods, in no particular order...
 e x t r e m e   p a r e n t i n g
"You know you're an extreme parent when you convince yourself that what your child achieves or fails to achieve is solely the result of what you've done or failed to do," says Ayelet Waldman, author of parenting memoir "Bad Mother" and critic of fellow author Amy Chua's extreme parenting style written about in "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." Chua's recently published book is an observation, of sorts, of the differences between Eastern ("extreme") and Western (more lax, as per Chua) parenting styles.
I'm in full doubt we'll go the extreme (AKA "Tiger") route with our parenting. When I spend five minutes every morning discussing with AJ the benefits of going #1 in the toilet versus in Pull-Ups and we opt, ultimately, for tossing his stuffed friends across the room at eachother, I'm not too sure we're on the path to five-hour violin practice. Could be wrong...
h e l i c o p t e r   p a r e n t i n g
Helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. (Wikipedia)
If Lila's 3-year-old self is any hint as to what's to come in her late teen years, she'll be flying her own helicopter to a liberal attire school to study Sand Castle Architecture, with a possible minor in Fairy Wrangling.
f r e e   r a n g e   p a r e n t i n g
Free-range parenting is the backlash to helicopter parenting. Free-range parents believe that children learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes, spend time alone, and have fewer social commitments. Its most famous "member" is Lenore Skenazy (and author of "Free Range Kids"), who made headlines when she sent her 9-year-old son off alone on the New York subway.
The four seconds it took me to snap this out-of-focus picture while worrying the monkeys would get swept away by a killer wave perhaps proves that I am a Free Range Chicken.
s l o w   p a r e n t i n g
Slow parenting is a parenting style in which few activities are organized for children. Instead, they are allowed to explore the world at their own pace. It is a response to concerted cultivation and the widespread trend for parents to schedule activities and classes after school; to solve problems on behalf of the children, and to buy services from commercial suppliers rather than letting nature take its course. The philosophy, part of the Slow Movement, makes recommendations in play, toys, access to nature, watching television, and scheduled activities. The opposing view is that such children are disadvantaged because their parents do not provide as many learning opportunities. (Wikipedia)
I do dig time away from schedules...
 a t t a c h m e n t   p a r e n t i n g
Here's a parenting philosophy based on the concept of allowing the child to 'separate' from the parent at its own pace. The term was coined by Dr Sears to cover what is, in effect, an age-old way of gently raising children. 
"Sometimes I like time to my own self. So I can think, and read, and dream." ~ Lila, 1/24/11
I know parents who wholeheartedly subscribe to one of the specific parenting methods listed above. They swear by it and will list all of the benefits and growth outcomes with zero hesitation and 110% exuberance. I'm hearing the benefits of little ones practicing either piano or violin (forget drums) for hours and hours before bed until s/he finally gets the piece right. I've been in conversations with women who stress how integral to one's being it is to have the freedom to roam at a young age - to explore on your own, without an annoying planned activity schedule or someone shouting "Be careful!" every minute or so... There are parents I know who welcome their children into their beds every single night, letting their sons and daughters choose when they will eventually feel like sleeping on their own... I've heard of parents rushing to drop off their kids' homework that was left forgotten by their cereal bowl - and also, those who refuse to do so.

I've got a ways to go before I have to encounter some of these scenarios, such as that of  "Practice makes perfect" and "The dog ate my homework." And I know that the age of free range children taking long, solitary walks along the frothy shoreline cannot be only three years. (Can it?) But regardless, though they're only preschoolers now, I do think about not just how I've spent the past three years parenting my monkeys, but how I imagine I will guide them in the years to come... It's exciting just as much as it is confusing and frightening.

If my initial dive into the waters of parenting can give me any clue as to what parenting technique I will adhere to, I choose to go the granola route and coin Organic Parenting (unless that's already been taken). We're letting things happen as they come... Like many other families I know, we're figuring out what's best for our family and for Lila and AJ (both individually, and as a team) one day at a time. That said, I'm actually inspired by little snippets of each of the aforementioned methods, so maybe I prefer something more along the lines of Buffet Parenting. Because I do agree that practice makes perfect and that being strict definitely has its place, but I also believe that children need freedom to grow into their own cool, individual selves. I think studying and grades are important, just as much as unscheduled weekends and last-minute trips to the beach. I will never, ever refuse my kids a hug or a snuggle, and recently I've let the snuggles of one particular little boy last from his 1am pitter-patter into our bedroom all the way through sunrise. But I agree with Lila, too. Alone time is great for dreaming...

While I am not, myself, a firm believer in all facets of Eastern "extreme" parenting like Chua, neither am I convinced there are only benefits to being a free range parent, like Ms. Skenazy. But it doesn't matter what I believe. Or at least it shouldn't matter to anyone but my own family. At the risk of sounding like Granola Organic Buffet Parent, why not embrace the myriad tactics that may work for our own families, and let everyone else do the same for theirs? I've seen so much criticism out there of others' styles of parenting, it's simply poor form. Maybe, as parents, we all need a little alone time to practice making sand castles and to perfect our skills of beating up the beat...

And on that Jersey Shore note, here are just a few more pics from a recent sandy day:

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard ~ Sloan Wilson


Hey Jen, finally made it over here.

Funny, my hubby asked if w'all, at some point over the weekend, discussed the Extreme Parenting chick, and I said parenting styles didn't really come up.

And then I read your post tonight!

Did you read "Bad Mother?" I've read almost all of Ayelet's work (loved "Love and other impossible pursuits") and don't have a problem with her infamous comment of loving her hubby more than her kids (even tho I don't know if I feel the same way as she does....) I expected NOT to like "Bad Mother," for some reason.

But, it was great. The "Rocket Ship" chapter had me bawling like a big baby.

Anyway, we def dine at the Organic Buffet. AP with our family bed and extended breastfeeding and slinging and no CIO. Free Range and Slow more than Helicopter tho.

And mostly, "Non Judgmental Parenting."

Parenting is so different from what I had imagined, in my smug, single state. Now, I just have a major serving of compassion for parents, even my own, and even me.

One beef about this post? No picture of you and your beautiful face and presence!
SwedishJenn said…
Why do I insist on reading your posts like the very second I see them? And that's always right before I have to leave to take the little guy to preschool. And of course, even if, like today, I'm running late, I can't simply read one paragraph and save the rest for later. I get hooked and I must carry on. And I have so much to say...so I will be a good girl and tear myself away from the comments section and be back later. arghhh....
JennyCB said…
@Nadya - I'm so happy you came over to visit! ;o) Yes, I did read "Bad Mother" a couple years ago and LOVED IT. I haven't read any of her others, but I did just see "The Other Woman" last week (based on "Love and Other...") and thought it was really smart. I'd love to read that and "Red Hook Road". I also had no problem with her famous quote. There was such vitriol out there about it - nuts... I dig the non-judgemental parenting movement - sign me up!
(No pix of me because there are no people taking my pic! Well, Lila DOES snap a few of me here and there on her princess camera. I've yet to see her develop any, though...)
@Jenn - I'd love to hear your thoughts, hot tamale!!!!! xo
Anne Church said…
Ohh loved reading this! Always, my thoughts on parenting are the same as on life :) You have to do what you think is right. Parenting is a day to day adventure (in every way possible )realizing that you will never again have as much fun or such awesome responsibility. When your babies are ready with strong roots and ready wings you can be sure your parenting path was right if Dr. Seuss still comforts you; "Don't cry because it's over, Smile because it happenned " xoxo
SwedishJenn said…
A few days later but here I am :-). I don't think I could say anything more beautiful and insightful than your Mom.

When I first started reading this post, I became a tad freaked out. Shit, how do I not know all these terms, all these experts, all these techniques? I've heard them thrown around on blogs and in parenting circles but not as much as I likely would have if I lived in North America for my formative parenting years.

I love your newly coined term Jen as unbeknownst to me, I've been picking and choosing from the parenting buffet myself, with a side of iPhone Parenting thrown in for good measure (in those moments where you need a few moments peace and wash away any guilt by convincing yourself that they're all uhmmm educational games?). Yes, I am hiding behind my apron as I confess to that one!

Here in Sweden, i might be considered a bit of a helicopter parent when you take a look at the culture. Imagine leaving your little 3-year olds in the park for 20+ minutes while you head 2 doors down to fix some lunch? Or your newborn baby in the car for 10 mins while you drop your preschooler off at daycare? Or you leave your kids to watch a movie in an open, unsupervised area of the grocery store for 30+ mins while you shop? I can't imagine any of these scenarios for me and my child, though I see them everyday.

My firm belief is there's no one right way and no one size fits all approach. And to add to that, I've learned to zip my lip and refrain from judging other Mommies. We need each other. We need each other's love and support. We need each other's compassion. It's so easy to get caught up in the latest parenting craze but how can we enjoy these fleeting moments when we're constantly second guessing every decision we make? xo
Heidi said…
what about bitchy mom?
screaming mama?
is that bad? LOL

ha. i am kidding. loved this post. no manual. and you rock at being mom.
love you.

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