Never mind being a helicopter parent, lawnmower parent or ‘tiger mum’ – if you’re really on trend this year, you’ll be an ‘intensive parent’. And boy, does it pile on the pressure.
‘Intensive parents’, according to new research, prefer a child-centred, time-intensive approach to raising kids. They obsess over their children’s extra-curricular activities; splashing cash on extra violin, drama and karate lessons, even when money is tight.
They want to be involved with their kids at all times and will play with them at home, ask often about their thoughts and feelings, discuss and explain every angle of bad behaviour.
And if a child says they’re “bored”, the intensive parent is more likely to sign them up for a new after-school sports or extra homework class, than suggest they go out and play with their friends.
Sound familiar? We’ve already had helicopter parenting – in which mums, dads and carers hover over their kids, overseeing every aspect of their lives. But intensive parenting takes it to another level. Patrick Ishizuka, a research fellow at Cornell University in the US, said that today’s parents have “exceptionally high standards” when it comes to raising their kids.
“Parents are experiencing significant pressure to spend great amounts of both time and money on children,” USA Today reported. “It’s remarkable just how widespread support is for intensive parenting.”
The study looked at more than 3,600 parents from all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds, and asked them to rate fictitious parent-child scenarios for “good” or “bad” parenting.
Results showed that 75% of parents rated “intensive” parenting styles as “very good” or “excellent” – whereas only 32% of college graduates, and 38% of non-graduates, rated a “natural growth” style of parenting as being beneficial.
This “natural growth” approach is more hands-off. Parents set rules for their children’s safety, but give them the flexibility to play on their own or with friends. Adults are not as involved in activities and are less likely to negotiate.
Ishizuka said there was a danger that some parents were setting themselves up to achieve unrealistic ideals of parenting.
“These high standards are less compatible with some parents’ resources,” he said. “Even though parents with a lower socio-economic status have these ideals, we know that they’re not, on average, engaging in these parenting behaviors as often as college graduates. A lack of time and money could be a factor in shaping their behaviors, given that they have very similar ideals.”
Parents are experiencing significant pressure to spend great amounts of both time and money on children”Patrick Ishizuka, Frank H.T. Rhodes Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cornell Population Center
Which type of parent are you?
Intensive parent: Wants to be involved in every aspect of their child’s life. Focuses all of their time and money – even when it leaves them struggling – on enriching their child’s free time and spending any time that’s left together.
Helicopter parent: Takes responsibility for their child’s successes or failures (including bargaining with teachers, doing homework). Is over-involved in their child’s life in a way that is controlling, protective and perfectionist.
Lawnmower parent: ‘Mows down’ obstacles to their child’s happiness. Will do anything they can to make sure their child doesn’t experience discomfort. Will go out of their way to ‘fix’ problems (such as going home to bring child’s favourite pencil case back to school, even if it makes them late for work).
Tiger parent: Strict or demanding. Determined their child will achieve success, at all costs. May push and pressure their children to study, practice musical instruments or train for sports – using up all their free time to do so. Believes in ‘tough love’.
Free range parent: Raises their child in a ‘hands off’ manner. Encourages them to be independent, to make their own choices and decisions, and to play alone or with friends. Relaxed rules and limited boundaries. Sets safety rules, but doesn’t believe in much supervision.