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Parenting Styles- the Extreme Differences Between the “Helicopter Mom” and the “Free Range Parent”

Updated on April 4, 2012

"Helicopter", "Free Range", or "In-Between"- I Just Love Being a Parent!

Enjoying the time spent with my daughter.
Enjoying the time spent with my daughter. | Source

Parenting Styles- the Extreme Differences Between the “Helicopter Mom” and the “Free Range Parent”

“Helicopter Parents” pay extremely close attention to all aspects to their childrens’ lives-whether or not the children need the extreme guidance. They “hover overhead, never out of reach”. These parents try to resolve their childs’ problems and they to prevent them from harm and dangerous situations.

“Free Range Parents” demand very little to nothing of their children. Children experience no consequences for their actions (positive or negative). There is low to no responsiveness or communication between parents and children, and even parents and teachers. The parent usually detaches themselves and wants the child to learn through experience, but with no positive guidance. This can borderline on neglect, as well as other types of child abuse.

So, the question is…how do I raise my child to be a successful, contributing member of society without following them around 24/7, worrying about them when they are out of sight, and let them learn to their fullest potential????

Truth is, we are parents, would do anything for our children, but some of us take it to the extreme, and others should worry a little more about what they let their child do, and what the long term consequences could be for their lackadaisical attitude. I have numerous examples of situations where if I didn’t step in, my child would have gotten hurt by another child. Call me a “helicopter mom” or what ever you want. I want my child to learn the difference between right and wrong, but I can’t stand by and watch something go down without stepping in. But, I also don’t want her to depend on me for the rest of my life and not be able to make her own decisions.No matter how many times you hear it, the truth is, "ignore it and it will go away" doesn't always work!

In a world of elementary school age children carrying cell phones, i-pods, and other expensive technological devices that they did not purchase for themselves with their hard-earned money, and physical education, music, and art classes in schools being cut, our youth are losing out on ever having to think logically for themselves and developing all parts of the brain.

To help your child learn the difference between right and wrong, how to make the world a better place, how to make decisions, how to be independent, how to behave in public, and how to treats others, a parent has to be involved. I’m not saying to interject into every situation, but let your child know what is acceptable, and not. They also need to know that there are consequences for their actions.

One thing my parents always did was meet the parents of my friends, before I was ever able to go over to their house. They wanted to know where they lived, what their phone number was, and would meet them face-to-face, which taught me that they cared about my well-being; they wouldn’t just send me somewhere so they could have some quiet time (although they definitely deserved it)!

My parents gave my brother and I an allowance, but we did have to earn it. We would do specific chores; including but not limited to (depending on our ages), making our beds, doing laundry, cleaning our rooms, doing dishes, washing and detailing cars, mowing the grass, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and washing the windows. If I really wanted some special toy, I would buy it with the money I saved. If I didn’t have enough money, I didn’t get it…..

One of the best things my parents ever did was cut up my first credit card. When I was eighteen, I decided that I would get a credit card to cover the Christmas presents I wanted to buy, but didn’t have enough money; I was all excited to have my piece of plastic of unlimited funds. I signed up for a credit card and had a credit line of $600. Well, I spent that $600 plus a few hundred, and decided that I would pay the $15 a month and continue to spend. My parents sat me down, explained how long it would take me to get myself out of debt, if I continued on this pattern, and then agreed to pay it off immediately, but I would have to work and pay them back. I worked hard at my job, paid them back, and it reiterated the concept that “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it!”

Let your child play…….In the day and age of teaching your child to read as soon as they enter the world, pushing them into pre-school when they are two years and six months, and then having organized lessons for everything, take time out of each day to let kids be kids and just let them play! Take them to the playground, or better yet, give them a cardboard box, and some markers, and let them use them imagination! Kids need time each day to just be kids, and play, don’t tell them “this is block play….we are going to sort, stack, build, and then rattle off the standard they should master. I’m not saying this isn’t important, I’m just saying to let kids be kids; they will have plenty of time to be studious (thirteen years-counting Kindergarten). There are times for structured play and times to let the children just be kids and play; there has to a balance!

Children do need to be ready for Kindergarten, and they should master skills before they enter “school” and what better way to learn than from the childs’ first teacher…..the parent!

When I taught pre-school at a non-profit organization, I constantly heard parents say, “ I can’t wait until my child rolls over……..crawls…..walks…..talks……” Then all of the sudden, the child would be ready to enter kindergarten, and the same parents would say, “What happened to my little baby? They grew up in the blink of an eye!” I wanted to say, “ Be careful what you wish for!” Enjoy your children while they are young, appreciate all those milestones, and savor each moment- you never know when it might be your last!

Teach your child the difference between right and wrong, and what matters most at a young age; the rewards are plentiful!

Whether you consider yourself a “helicopter” “free-range” or no stereotypical “parent” at all, one thing is true, your child needs positive role models. If you aren’t able or willing to do it…who will step in and do it for you?

What Kind of "Parent" Are You?

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    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I think I'm somewhere in the middle between both least I hope so. I agree so much that kids need time to just enjoy being kids. Voted up!

    • Natashalh profile image


      6 years ago from Hawaii

      I see helicopter parents a lot when I'm at work. It's kind of sad to see a kid who's old enough to do something alone being forced to do it in a hand holding way. I'm not a parent, so I don't know how difficult a balancing act it is, but I have studied education/educational psychology and know it's important to let young children be independent (within reason).


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