Helicopter Parent vs Free Range Parent

Helicopter Parents vs. Free-Range Parents: Which Type are You?

What’s the best way raise your kids? It’s a question most parents struggle with on a daily basis.

We all want our children to grow up to be healthy, happy adults, and we don’t want them to blame us for messing up their lives.

You’ll often hear about two styles of parenting, which represent the extremes of child-rearing: helicopter parents and free-range parents. What kind of parent are you?

Helicopter parents are often described as moms and dads who are protective and very involved in the lives of their children. These parents care a lot about their kids. They show this by keeping them safe, sometimes encouraging them to be competitive, and keeping their lives running on an organized schedule.

Helicopter parenting gets its name because such parents tend to hover around their kids at all times. A helicopter parent may constantly coddle their kids and heap tons of praise on them. Or, they could be strict and put intense pressure to succeed on kids, like the so-called Tiger moms are known to do.

Free-range parents take a much different approach. They typically believe in giving children a lot of independence, have fewer rules, and let kids decide how they want to spend free time rather than sending them to organized activities. Free range parents also care a lot about their kids and hope they become creative, confident adults who are unafraid to take risks.

When it comes to education, free-range parents are often proponents of unschooling, which involves allowing kids to explore and learn on their own through unsupervised activities. Free-range parenting gets its name because moms and dads let kids loose, like free-range chickens.

Still not sure if you fall into one of these two camps? Here are some hypothetical examples of both parenting styles in different situations.

On the Playground

The neighborhood park is a perfect place to observe both styles of parenting in action.

The Helicopter Parent

If you’re the kind of parent who watches your kid like a hawk on the playground, and wishes it was socially acceptable to cover them in bubble wrap, you might be a helicopter parent.

These moms and dads are constantly yelling “Be careful!” and tell kids not to do things like climb up the slide or play in the dirt.

The Free-range Parent

If you’re the kind of parent who doesn’t care that your kid is standing on top of the monkey bars holding a giant pointy stick, you might be a free-range parent.

In some cases, you may not even see these kinds of parents at the park at all. They let their kids ride their bikes to the playground with nothing more than instructions to be back by dinnertime.

After School

Education continues after school is done for the day, and the way in which you handle homework and free time is a telltale sign of your parenting technique.

The Helicopter Parent

If you insist on making sure homework gets completed at a certain time, and you fill your children’s schedules with piano lessons, karate class, after school sports, and other extracurricular activities, you might be a helicopter parent.

You may even be a little too involved in homework help and end up doing it for your kids. Good grades are important to you because you want your child to succeed. Sometimes helicopter parents are also trying to protect kids from failure and rejection.

The Free-range Parent

If you’re the kind of parent who speaks up at PTA meetings to ask for longer recess time, and you think kids today have way too much homework, you might be a free-range parent.

Free-range parents believe children are natural learners, and typically place less importance on grades. It’s likely that failure is quite acceptable in this type of home. They want kids to explore their own interests instead of being told what to do, which seems fine unless their interests consist solely of playing video games.

Technology Use

Kids today have incredible access to technology. Our children seem to know just as much or more than we do. The way your kids use technology is another indicator of your beliefs on parenting.

The Helicopter Parent

If you bought your kid a special cell phone to use for emergency purposes, and have a child-safe filter installed on your home computer, you might be a helicopter parent.

Helicopter parents may view the internet as a scary place full of inappropriate things for children. They are just as worried about creepy people online as they are about “stranger danger” in the real world.

Helicopter parenting can also lead to using technology for keeping an even closer eye on kids, monitoring their lives digitally. There’s even a name for this … drone parenting.

The Free-range Parent

If you hand the kids your iPhone so they can have conversations with Siri about whatever they want, you might be a free-range parent. These parents bought their kid his first smartphone just so he could play Pokémon GO the day it came out!

A lot of free-range parents may actually want to avoid letting their children have too much screen time, which could be a bit contradictory to the idea of giving kids freedom to do what they want. Yet, free-range parenting views technology as an opportunity for kids to independently learn and explore outside the classroom.

In the Home

We’ve written about dangers in the home and ideas for baby proofing extensively on this website. Your level of concern surrounding household hazards says something about your parenting style, too.

The Helicopter Parent

If you’re raising a toddler, and you’ve installed baby gates in front of every set of stairs, and you have a detailed chore chart for older kids, you might be a helicopter parent.

Household safety is certainly important, but some parents may take things to the extreme. Helicopter parents want their homes to be havens of safety where they don’t have to worry about what might happen.

The Free-Range Parent

If your kitchen has become a laboratory for messy experimental recipes, and tools from your garage are constantly going missing, you might be a free-range parent.

In some cases, free-range parents have fewer household rules and allow children to have more input than normal. The kids could be allowed to grab a snack whenever they feel the need, and some kids may even decide their own bedtime.

What Kids Really Need from Their Parents

Of course, parenting isn’t a black and white subject. Child development experts point to pros and cons of both helicopter parenting and free-range parenting.

Children of helicopter parents may have close family relationships, but they may also develop anxiety later in life and can become so overly dependent that they’re unable make decisions without consulting their parents for advice.

Free-range kids have their downfalls as well. Some say children raised in this fashion may end up lacking competitive drive and ambition. High school administrator and parenting coach, Daniel Patterson, wrote a piece for The Huffington Post suggesting free-range kids are moving back home because they can’t handle all the rules and requirements of the real world.

The examples in this article are meant to represent the extremes. Most moms and dads fall somewhere in the middle, and that’s a good thing. As stated on the website Parenting Healthy Babies, what kids need most is balance.

“What is pertinent to understand is that there should be a balance in rearing ideology. Yes, agreed that adult monitoring is necessary, but so is giving a certain amount of freedom and liberty … The safest would be to follow a path wherein kids are allowed to face certain challenges, whose repercussions are absolutely safe and will not cause any harm.”

How Child-Guard® Helps Parents of All Types

No matter what style of parenting you follow, purchasing products with the Child-Guard® child-resistant slider is a good move.

This closure for flexible packaging is designed to add an extra layer of safety and can be used to prevent young children from accessing products like laundry packets, household cleaners, pharmaceuticals, lawn and garden chemicals, and more.

No parent can watch their young children every minute of the day, and even the most laid back parents need to keep safety in mind.

So whether you want to create a safer home environment or you want to give your kids the freedom to explore, Child-Guard® provides peace of mind to all parents and caregivers.

What would you guard with our child-resistant closure? Use the hashtag #guardit to tell us on Facebook and Twitter.

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