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Intuition: The sweet spot between helicopter and free-range parenting
No Caption - photo by Mandy Morgan
A new type of parenting being introduced as "Intuitive Parenting" advocates for parents becoming more engaged in their kids' lives, but with the children having a hand in their development at their learning level.

Could this be the answer for those seeking something between the two intense styles of helicopter parenting and free-range parenting?

In his new book "The Intuitive Parent: Why the Best Thing for Your Child is You," Dr. Stephen Camarata, a child development specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University, shares his comprehensive idea of how parents can learn to relax and neither micromanage their children's lives nor leave children unsupervised and on their own.

"It seems like today parents are worried about parenting, it's like they are trying to make kids totally accelerated," Camarata told Deseret News National. However, when parents are too focused on quickly moving children through stages of development and social status, they miss and take away "precious moments for children," Camarata said.

In today's world, where memorization and the use of DVDs and technology seem to be trends in accelerating learning, parents need to be focusing on helping their child develop language, social, problem-solving and reasoning skills, Camarata said.

"Probably the most important thing is that (parents) have faith in their own ability to parent, without the use of software or baby genius DVDs," Camarata said. "The idea is that you interact with your child parents need to put their fears in a lockbox and interact with children. It will bring the fun back into parenting."

'Chill' end of the spectrum

More laid-back approaches to parenting have their downsides, and are especially frowned upon by other parents intent on providing every extracurricular activity and experience for their children and teens.

"Being laid-back is more difficult than it sounds. For one, it's hard to talk about your children with other parents without sounding either judgmental or negligent," wrote Elissa Strauss for The Week.

"When I explain that my son is fine, maybe even better off, without an elaborate and/or expensive birthday party, a ceramics course, or after-school learning enrichment class, I am also saying, in short, that I think their child would probably be fine without them too," she wrote.

Lenore Skenazy, the self-dubbed "World's Worst Mom," has taken the world of parenting by force with her strong views of free-range parenting.

Skenazy's personal blog Free-Range Kids is a resource for parents on "how to raise safe, self-reliant children (without going nuts with worry)," defining that parenting approach perceived by many as somewhat negligent.

"Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape," reads the tagline of the blog, a motto for the parents fighting the confines of more restrictive parenting styles.

There are good sides to free-range parenting, says Camarata, as children are given the freedom to go out and explore the world themselves. However, "leaving children unsupervised in today's world is a frightening thought," he said.

Guiding, not micromanaging

On the other end of the spectrum there is the helicopter parenting style, which is for "parents who are over focused on their children," said Carolyn Daitch, director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, according to "They typically take too much responsibility for their children's experiences and, specifically, their successes or failures."

Parents who tend to use this style micromanage every aspect of their children's lives, often leading children to become more passive and unable to cope with challenges on their own, Camarata said.

"(Children) need to explore, they need to be able to try and fail, to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes you should be attached to your child and engaged with them regularly, but the difference is that the child gets to lead sometimes," Camarata said, in regards to how intuitive parenting differs from these more extreme styles.

"It's not helicopter parenting in that you're taking care of everything, you are responding to them as you naturally would, doing what they need to correctly develop," he said.

There is a balance between the two extremes of parenting, and that is when natural instincts kick in, Camarata said. This is intuitive parenting, and it isn't a one-size fits all approach, but a way for parents to better tune into their children's needs while interacting with them at their learning level.
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