Parenting controversies
July 21, 2015

If you're not sure whether you are a "pushover parent," or even knew such a designation existed, The Wall Street Journal's Tanya Rivero is here to help. In the WSJ video below, Rivero interviews Gigi Schweikert, an expert on parenting and child development, and the telltale signs for pushover parenting are pretty much what you'd expect: You don't say "no" enough; you act as though the world is revolving around the child; you do too many things your child should be doing for herself; and you might even blame other adults for your child's misbehavior.

But Schweikert isn't just suggesting you might have a problem; she also has some tips. Most of them seem pretty sensible, and some are quite helpful: Her explanation of "the non-choice choice," for example, and her solution for how to deal with a child halfway through a show he isn't supposed to be watching. Schweikert has a warning, too: Telling teenagers what to do requires more "finesse" than with toddlers, she says, and "that's why if you're the pushover parent now, you want to get better at it before they get older." Watch the interview below, and if it makes you cringe too hard, remember, it's OK to be a pushover parent every once in a while. Peter Weber

March 4, 2015

Danielle Meitiv is the new face of "free-range parenting." Last December, police in Silver Spring, Maryland, picked up Meitiv's two children — Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6 — as they were walking home alone from a park a mile away from the Meitiv house. On Feb. 20, Montgomery County Child Protective Service informed the Meitivs that they had been found responsible for "unsubstantiated" child neglect. The parents went public this week, after consulting a lawyer.

The finding, which Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are appealing, typically meaning that CPS hasn't ruled out neglect but couldn't definitively find "indicated" neglect, Maryland Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Paula Tolson tells The Washington Post. CPS officials, explaining their ruling, cited a law that children 8 and younger can't be left alone (or without a reliable person 13 or older) in a motor vehicle, building, or enclosure. CPS can monitor the Meitivs for at least five years.

The case has gained international attention, and plenty of outrage from parents who agree with the philosophy of letting kids build self-reliance and responsibility by being allowed to experience the world with decreasing amounts of adult supervision. It has also angered parents who don't subscribe to free-range parenting. "We are parenting the same way our parents raised us — and I'm guessing most of the viewers' parents raised them," Danielle Meitiv said in one interview.

Meitiv also makes her case in the KUSA-TV video below, but the station also found one woman who agreed with the CPS decision — a rarity in the debate over the "walk heard round the world." —Peter Weber

April 2, 2014

A controversial new law proposal in England demands up to 10 years of jail time for parents who neglect or emotionally abuse their children. But according to a recent survey by the Netherlands' Maastrich University, the so-called "Cinderella law" may be justified.

The authors of the Maastrich study analyzed 41 previous studies on the correlation between psychosis and the emotional treatment of children. Emotional abuse was defined as "exposure to behavior such as harshness and name-calling from parents," while emotional neglect included "lack of love and responsiveness."

The findings were staggering: Children who were emotionally abused were 12 times more likely to develop schizophrenia than other children. The survey also found that 90 percent of children who had suffered emotional maltreatment early in life went on to develop some form of mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Backers of the proposed law expect it will be included in the Queen's speech to the House of Commons in June. Meghan DeMaria

March 20, 2014

Studies that show unhealthy parents are more likely to have unhealthy children are nothing new, but new research reveals that parenting style effects children's health, too. A study from McGill University in Montreal found that the level of authority parents take with their offspring can also impact their weight.

Researchers used data gathered from 1994 to 2008 by the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, a Canadian survey that measures the BMIs of children ages 11 and under. They identified four key parenting styles: authoritative but responsive, authoritarian and unresponsive, permissive but responsive, and negligent. Children with authoritarian parents were at the greatest risk for obesity: These children were 30 percent more likely to be obese at 2 to 5 years old and 37 percent more likely to be obese at 6 to 11 years old than those with authoritative parents.

"These findings are consistent with what's been found for other dimensions of children's health — that an authoritative parenting style is the best one for children's health," study author Lisa Kakinami told Authoritative parents set boundaries for their children but also give them positive praise and teach them the importance of self-control, which is instrumental in preventing obesity. Meghan DeMaria

March 18, 2014

New Jersey teen and Erika Christensen look-a-like Rachel Canning has ended a lawsuit against her parents alleging abuse and asking for child support. According to court papers, the judge agreed to the 18-year-old's request to have the controversial case dropped, saying the "plaintiff's decision to dismiss the litigation was a knowing and voluntary decision."

Canning made national headlines earlier this month when she alleged that her parents were abusive because they threatened to stop paying her bills unless she broke up with her boyfriend. So, she moved out of her Morris County mansion and sued her parents for a $650 weekly stipend and access to her college fund. A judge denied that request.

The teen moved back in to her home after living with friends for the past few months in what presumably made for an awkward family dinner. Jordan Valinsky

March 5, 2014

Rachel Canning has been making headlines for her controversial "child support" case, and now it appears that her court battle has come to a close. The Morris Catholic High School cheerleader and honor roll student sued her parents after leaving their Lincoln Park, N.J., amid a dispute over a boyfriend and alleged abusive behavior.

On Monday, Morristown Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard denied the teen's emergency suit for $624 a week in child support as well as access to her college fund, stating that he wants to work on bringing "this family back together."

Many commentators have wondered whether Rachel is simply "spoiled," and Judge Bogaard's concerns about setting precedent for lawsuits whenever parents "insist on a rule Junior doesn't like" seems to support those claims. "What will the next step be?" he asked. "Are we going to open the gates to a 12-year-old suing for an Xbox?" There will be a follow-up hearing to decide whether Rachel's parents are obligated to cover her college costs, but with this decidedly negative ruling in hand, Rachel’s chances at opening her college fund seem slim. --Celeste Mora

See More Speed Reads