Extreme parenting – it’s about nurturing your child at any cost. Honey Rae Phillips developed a long and conspicuous birthmark shortly after birth and her parents were devastated. They decided to duplicate the birthmark with tattoos.
Her mother, Tanya Phillips said that “She’s struggled to breathe when she was first born and was rushed to the special care unit. When I went to see her she was just lying in a little incubator and that’s when I saw it. It broke my heart. I just sobbed and sobbed knowing my baby was going to permanently marked for the rest of her life.
Mrs Phillips began covering her child’s body to avoid shame and embarrassment for their then, 12 month old baby. The parents then made the extreme decision to get matching, tattoos to illustrate that she’ll always have parents who love her.
Is it extreme parenting? Misguided parenting or great parenting?
The parenting community judge and jury are still out on this one. Some argue that the mother’s concern over a birthmark rather than a terribly sick baby was misguided and that their attitude to the birthmark is extreme and potentially damaging to the child. Others are arguing that the parents have done a truly amazing thing with their matching birthmark tattoos – wearing their support and love for their baby like a badge of honour.
Damaging verses Loving – beyond a birthmark tattoo
In December last year, America’s parenting communities were divided over the decision of “helicopter parents” to accompany their daughter, Fallon to college. Mom and dad opted to pick up and move to the campus so they could continue to parent their 19 year old daughter. Real Estate moguls Coldwell Banker report a surge in interest in campus rentals from Helicopter Parents.
In Australia the current government is considering withholding Centrelink payments from young adults under 22 years of age – instead giving the money to parents to treat as an “allowance”. The trend towards parental control into adulthood is on the rise.
Lawn Mower Parents – When Helicopter Parenting goes to Extremes
The newly coined term “Lawn Mower Parents” refers to loving mums and dads who spend their time pre-empting and removing obstacles in their child’s path. School transition specialist Jenny Atkinson says “during primary school years, lawnmower parents may take on a more aggressive style, “pushing their child’s agenda ahead of other children or trying to have consequences for their child’s actions reduced or dismissed.”
Parental micro-management may even be the latest symptom in the growing spectrum of anxiety disorders. Anxious parents pre-empt problems for their children based on their own experiences and fears – which results in children growing up to be… anxious.
What do the experts say about child development?
Child development experts recommend allowing kids to do more for themselves. To see potential upsides in bumps in the road, rather than taking a negative view, to encourage resilience in children, not just nurturing.
With the growing trend in extreme nurturing, a whole new industry is emerging focused on educational toys and aids to encourage independence and resilience. These toys are designed to help children (and their parents) understand the value of a tough challenge.
“It’s important to let kids do both easy and hard activities – stuff they will achieve in and stuff that will challenge them. Nine out of ten times kids choose harder activity because they like to be challenged and proud of themselves when they master something.” Says Karen Gilfillan, Child Development Leader at Flying Fox Studios.
“If they’re not offered the harder option they’ll settle for easy – and miss out on the feeling of being proud of what they’ve achieved. Kids are losing skills. We love concepts that are multi-aged, open ended, require planning, problem solving, “trying hard”, team work, creativity and imagination. Especially activities where siblings can interact and be challenged together to draw out leadership skills and modelling behaviours.”
The important question nobody is asking
In all of the discussions across various social networks, very few people are asking the question “who are we to judge”. Whether it’s about breast vs bottle, circumcision vs whole, dolls vs trucks – all the big parent questions always fan the flames of debate. Passionate, often uncompromising debate. It gives rise to mummy bullies and unfortunately, “lawn mower parent” style anxieties.
Opening debate and discussion about parenting choices can assist concerned or confused mums and dads to form a more balanced and informed opinion. Unfortunately, debate online rarely remains logical and balanced – especially when it comes to articles like the Phillips Family and their birthmark tattoos. Extreme parenting, lax parenting, positive parenting, old school parenting – it’s all about the individuals wishes – who are we to judge.