'Intensive' parenting is here for 2019 and it's taking helicopter parenting to the next level

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'Intensive' parenting is here for 2019 and it's taking helicopter parenting to the next level

Most moms and dads favor "intensive" parenting, regardless of their financial situation, a study found. But that ideal might be out of reach.

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Sonja Haller, USA TODAY Published 2:42 p.m. ET Jan. 17, 2019
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Helicopter parents, lawnmower parents and tiger parents are so last year. Now, there's a new kind of parenting approach to analyze, emulate or criticize — depending on who you are.

Parents today overwhelmingly want to be "intensive" parents, according to a Cornell University study .

They shell out serious money so their children to do sports, music and other extracurricular activities. Maybe several at once.

Moms and dads want to be involved with their kids at all times.

And they do it whether or not they realistically have the time or money to do so.

Whether parents are wealthy or financially struggling, married or singe, male or female, 75 percent of them favor the intensive parenting style, said researcher Patrick Ishizuka, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.

"This points to exceptionally high standards for how parents should raise their kids. It suggests that parents are experiencing significant pressure to spend great amounts of both time and money on children,” Ishizuka said in a news release . "It’s remarkable just how widespread support is for intensive parenting, in terms of social class and gender."

It's like next-level helicopter parenting

Make warm memories. Your children will probably not remember anything that you say to them, but they will recall the family rituals - like bedtimes and game night - that you do together.

The study surveyed more than 3,600 parents who were nationally, economically and demographically representative.

Participants were presented with hypothetical scenarios in which parents interacted with children aged 8 to 10. In the stories, parents took either an intensive parenting approach or a natural growth approach . Participants then ranked the fictional parent’s behavior from excellent to poor.

Intensive parenting defined

In these scenarios, parents in the survey arranged their child’s participation in extracurricular activities, played with them at home and asked them to share their feelings and thoughts. When the child misbehaved, parents wanted explanations and a chance to talk it out.

The parenting style sounds like helicopter parenting on steroids, in which parents are defined as hovering, setting their child's schedule and mitigating risk and failure.

More: What type of parent are you? Lawnmower? Helicopter? Attachment? Tiger? Free-range?

Natural growth defined

Parents taking this approach favor setting rules for their children's safety, but allow flexibility to play independently or with friends. Parents are far less involved in their children’s activities. They don't negotiate in the way that intensive parents do and prefer to give clear directives on what's expected in terms of household rules.

Reduce the pace. Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes before you begin to speak. Your own easy relaxed speech will be far more effective than any advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly. For some children, it is also helpful to introduce a more relaxed pace of life for awhile.

In a nut shell: A child complains of boredom. An intensive parent signs the child up for an extracurricular activity. The natural growth parent tells the child to go outside and play.

A lot of money, a lot of time

The study doesn't shed any new light on the fact that parents want to spend more time in their children's lives. They've been doing that since the 1960s, Ishizuka points out.

Where the study breaks new ground is finding that intensive parenting has become the ideal model whether parents have the time or money to make it a reality.

Ishizuka said:

"These high standards are less compatible with some parents’ resources. 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.”

So where could that leave parents with few resources and great expectations?

Feeling like they're failing their children.

Now that's intense.

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