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How The World's Worst Mom Can Make You a Better Parent

An invitation to meet the World's Worst Mom, Lenore Skenazy, was just too hard to resist. That's not a title many of us would bare so proudly. Though, as a writer who has written her fair share of parenting horror stories, the term "worst" is certainly relative. You see Skenazy is the devil incarnate to over-protective, ever-hovering helicopter moms worldwide. The founder of the Free Range Parenting movement, she rose to mommy blog infamy several years ago after writing a column about why she let's her 9-year-old ride the New York City Subway alone.

"No, I did not give him a cell phone," she wrote. "Didn’t want to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, 'Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.'"

Not surprisingly, people were outraged, calling her behavior child abuse. But Skenazy never wavered and championed her hands-off brand of parenting. So going into this meet and greet, I had a lot of preconceived notions. I envisioned an uber-crunchy type who lobbed free range rants at everyone who didn't prescribe to the theory 100%. I couldn't have been more wrong. She was charming, funny, self-deprecating, and most importantly, an incredibly good listener. And that son of hers who was thrown to the transit wolves so early -- he was a pretty cool, well-adjusted kid too.

I have certainly been guilty of sticking too close while my son played on the jungle gym and intervening too often in his spats with friends.

Now Skenazy is intent on converting all those helicopter moms with a new reality show aptly titled, The World's Worst Mom (premiered last night on Discovery Life Channel at 9/8 Central). Needless to say, the families featured are at the complete other end of the spectrum. The first episode centers on a mom who cuts up her 10-year-old's food, feeds him, and dotes on him as though he's still a toddler. Riding a bike? Out of the question. A sleepover? Forget about it. In swoops Skenazy to save the day ... or at the very least save this kid from a lifetime of mommy issues.

It seems this series comes at the perfect time. The debate about how much freedom we should give our children recently made the national news when a Maryland couple was investigated for neglect after letting their 10 and 6-year-old walk a mile home from the park. It's a scary thought for most moms I've spoken to, but Skenazy has a good point -- coddling your kids too much can hurt more than it helps. They need to learn to be more independent. They need to start figuring things out for themselves. Of course, the question is, when is the right time to drop them in the deep end without a life jacket?

I have certainly been guilty of sticking too close while my son played on the jungle gym and intervening too often in his spats with friends. Though, as I watched these two extremes come together on World's Worst Mom, I appreciated how Skenazy didn't try to bully the over-wrought mother who freaked when she learned her child was on a city bus ALONE. Instead, she tried to calm her fears and show the benefits of letting her son grow into a young man. He was beaming with pride when he took that first bike ride, and so was his mom. In future episodes, Skenazy helps a woman who has taught her kids that friends' parents may seem nice, but they will kill you if they get you alone and another who has told her children if they eat even a piece of candy they will get diabetes. Yes, an intervention is definitely called for.

That said, there is no way I will be sending my six-year-old son off to the 3 train anytime soon. But perhaps we all could be more open-minded when it comes to our children's capabilities. We need to trust that we've taught them well and that they will be okay. "This show isn't about parenting," Skenazy tells Mom.me. "It's about fear and replacing fear with reality. You have to accept, this kid you love isn't a baby anymore."

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