parenting

Extreme parenting: Who are we to judge?

July 29, 2014 at 2:27 PM ET

Shira Adler uses aromatherapy to calm son Yonah in an episode of the new Bravo reality series, "Extreme Guide to Parenting."
Steve Jennings/Bravo
Shira Adler uses aromatherapy to calm son Yonah in an episode of the new Bravo reality series, "Extreme Guide to Parenting."

Sometimes, I can’t help myself: I judge other dads and moms. Especially those whose parenting approaches are a little unorthodox.

Case in point: The parents featured on the upcoming docu-series, "Extreme Guide to Parenting" (premieres on Bravo, Aug. 7).

I admit that as I previewed the first two episodes of this series, I wondered time and again why these seemingly ordinary, perfectly lovely people seemed to be so … well, extreme … when it came to their kids.

During the premiere, you might find yourself trying to suppress your judgmental side, too, as you watch two dads in Southern California who practice “all baby, all the time” parenting. Will they manage to loosen the bonds long enough for their preschool-age daughter to enjoy a one-night sleepover with grandma?

Then there’s the mom in New York who adheres to “eco-kosher, shamanistic, natural and for highest and best good” parenting — with aromatherapy. Will she put her challenging son on behavior medication or stick to her method and allow him to be who he is?

Another episode is dedicated to the mom and dad in Florida whose parenting peccadillos include a variation of the “conscious attachment” method. They embrace co-sleeping, baby wearing, elimination communication, placenta ingestion and an aversion to the chicken pox vaccine. Will they send their daughter to a “chicken pox party” to expose her to the virus?

Whew.

Weird, right?

The whole time I was watching (and judging) these parents, I wondered what my pal David Vienna would think about it all. Vienna is a Southern California father of twin boys whose Tumblr blog the Daddy Complex went viral a year ago with a method that is the antithesis to extreme parenting — the CTFD (Calm the F--- Down) method.

While his book on the subject is due out next year, I didn’t want to wait that long, so I called him and explained the concept behind "Extreme Guide to Parenting" — as well as my concern about how quick I am to judge these … interesting … approaches to child-rearing.

“Extreme parenting? The phrase alone just sounds like a bad idea,” Vienna said. “Extreme parenting is kind of the opposite of CTFD, because extreme parenting seems to play not just to typical fears, but to irrational fears. I’m not a parenting expert, but it seems that a lot of parenting is just based on common sense.”

That said, “We’re talking about a TV show.You’re not going to watch a show that’s just called ‘Rational Parenting,’” Vienna says.

Fair enough.

"Extreme Guide to Parenting" does a good job of contrasting the parenting protagonists with concerned friends and family members who have other ideas about what is best for the show’s kids. The aunt who tries to convince the Florida mom that the chicken pox vaccine is safe and effective seemed to speak for me. And the grandma of the little girl with two daddies also represented my idea of good sense as she tried to convince her son and son-in-law to let her babysit for just one night.

Sheesh. Help me out here, Mr. CTFD.

“Sometimes, you kind of have to judge,” Vienna said. “Sometimes, people are just doing it wrong.”

Yet, even as I passed judgment on these TV parents, I wondered: Why am I being so judgmental? I suspect that parents (myself included) judge others in order to distract ourselves from our own insecurities.

I also wondered if other parents watched my wife and I parent our kids, would we be found wanting? Would we handle things differently from the extreme parents? Absolutely.

Better? I honestly don’t know.

Besides, who am I to judge? I also have a parenting “thing” that others might consider a bit … extreme.

We live in Florida, where shoes are optional most of the year. Our neighbors think nothing of letting their kids run around barefoot or in open-toed sandals in the back yard. I get it. I do.

My kids? Not going to happen. Why not? Because here in Florida, not a square inch of yard is immune to fire ants.

My kids aren’t allergic — they’ve survived numerous bites over the years. But I figure, why risk the wrath of a swarm of fire ants on bare kid skin, when all it takes is an ounce of prevention in the form of socks of shoes?

So, yes. I am a proud practitioner of the Socks and Shoes in Florida Parenting Method. Judge me if you will. I can take it.

Carter Gaddis lives with his wife and two sons near Tampa, Florida, and writes about fatherhood at DadScribe.com. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram

TOP