Mums and dads are taking their three-year-old children abseiling down dizzyingly-high sheer rock faces and attempting to climb of the deadliest mountains in the world as part of a new trend in “extreme parenting”.

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While extreme parenting’s advocates argue that overprotection has contributed to a spike in behavior problems like ADHD, a theory supported by research, not everyone agrees with letting a four-year-old abseil off a cliff.



One of Australia’s most fearless adventurers, James Castrission crossed the Tasman by kayak and Antarctica by foot before embarking on they challenge of fatherhood.

He and wife Mia have two children, Jack, 4, and Charlotte, 8 months, and they are immersing them in as much adventure as they can.

"At four months we took [Jack] on his first overnight bush walk in the Blue Mountains so he was on a baby carrier on my front and a big pack and Mia was carrying some of our food and clothing for the night."

James and Mia camping with four-month-old Jack

He believes it is character building to teach children how to take calculated risks and recognize true danger.

"People that don't know these kind of environments would think "man that is crazy what he is doing with his kid," James said.

He has been criticized for endangering his son's life, but says 'smothering' kids leads to far worse outcomes.

James and Jack, three, enjoy canyoning together

"A huge body of research has come out showing a direct correlation with spending time in nature, pushing a kids boundaries and a whole lot of great developmental benefits.

"Kids who aren’t getting in nature unfortunately they have got high rates of obesity, whole lot of behavioral problems, ADHD."

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"Although a lot of parents want to protect their children, by smothering them in these highly controlled low risk environments we are actually doing more damage than good for them"

Desiree Silva is Head Paediatrician of Perth’s Joondalup Hospital and absolutely supports the view that overprotection contributes to behavior problems.

James and Jack abseiling in the Blue Mountains

"What concerns me is that there are so many young kids now who are under the age of six for example who are on anti-depressants and on anti ADHD medications… maybe if they did something more outside and connected with nature they would probably have less of these issues of anxiety and depression."

"I think taking sensible risk is very reasonable thing to do. You don’t have to be climbing mountains and abseiling, you can just get outside into your backyard"

But on the very extreme end of this scale are parents like Patrick Sweeney.

He attempted to summit Mont Blanc with his then 9 and 11 year-old kids before being forced to turn back during an avalanche in the 'Corridor of Death."

Video of Sweeney and his children on Mont Blanc attracted fierce criticism

The family's exploits have been widely criticized for the expedition which weeks later claimed 10 lives.

At almost five kilometres high, Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Western Europe and the most-climbed, Between June and September, 400 climbers a day attempt to reach its summit.

But it is for some a death trap.

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The moment an avalanche almost knocked Shannon PJ, off the 15,000ft mountain was captured on camera and made world headlines. Sweeney was attached to his two children by a rope and anchored himself with an ice axe to stop them being swept away.

Patrick's three children PJ, Declan and Shannon were born in Boston but the family relocated to Southern France in 2013 — an adventurer's paradise where, he says, it is normal for kids to enjoy adventure sports.

PJ and Shannon attempted to summit Mont Blanc, then aged 9 and 11.

"We got up to an area that is called Couloir De Mort or "the corridor of death".

"The reason they call it that is when things get lose there is rock fall and snow fall and a lot of stuff can come barreling down on you."

"It was you know it was heart stopping to hear them yell when they got hit by the snow. At the same time I knew exactly what it was and where we were and I was never fearful for their life."

"But hearing Shannon scream certainly stopped me in my tracks."

He says most parents pave an unrealistic path for children, neglecting to introduce them to risk and adversity.

"I call them bulldozer parents, parents are trying to pave the smoothest path possible for their kids, they are trying to make everything perfect."

"Kids definitely need to be pushed but they shouldn’t be pushed too far and more importantly they shouldn’t be pushed for the wrong reasons."

He says in France it is not only accepted but expected.

"This idea of adventure education that I have for my children is normal here. Every kid is skiing, playing ice hockey, is rock climbing, is paragliding"

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