Helicopter vs Free-Range Parenting: What Is the Difference?
Helicopter vs Free-Range Parenting: What Is the Difference?

Helicopter vs Free-Range Parenting: What Is the Difference?

Seven years ago, we wrote a short but popular post on the demands of being a parent. Specifically, we dove into the conflict that continues to linger over which parenting style is the best to have with your children: helicopter parenting or free-range parenting.

Naturally, everyone has a different opinion on this topic. Some parents want to be involved in every little detail of their child’s life, while others are equally devoted to their child but are a little less reliant on rules or structure. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done, and it is also the most rewarding — so to sit here and suggest that one approach is better than the other for you and your unique situation is not up to me.

But it is very important to know the difference between the two styles and that it is possible to strike a healthy balance.

Helicopter vs. Free-Range Parenting

Parents with a helicopter parenting mindset hover over their kids, paying extremely close attention to their experiences and problems. This is a hyper-involved parenting style predicated on having a certain degree of control.

According to GoodTherapy, common examples of helicopter parenting include:

  • Directing play or exerting control over a child’s activities or hobbies
  • Doing a child’s work for them
  • Attempting to control your child’s friendships

Conversely, free-range parenting means you are willing to give your children as much independence as possible. It does not mean that you would rather be uninvolved — rather, it is about providing freedom. Free-range parenting advocates argue that their children are better prepared for the adult world.

Examples of free-range parenting might include:

  • Letting your young child stay home alone
  • Allowing your children to try new things
  • Having a reasonable acceptance of personal risks

Is it possible to strike a balance?

All parents are different, so what works best for one family might not work for another. With that said, I can tell you that my wife, Karma, and I have found that neither extreme works for us. We believe the key to parenting success is being consistent, and if you feel the same way, perhaps consider these five tips:


Get on the same page

You and your spouse (or other parent) need to agree on how you will parent your children. Period. This requires communication. The parents who do not communicate inevitably have the most problems, especially when they live in separate houses (divorced or never married). Your children are smart and will play mom and dad against each other to get what they want if you are not talking about how to parent them. In our house, Karma and I talk amongst ourselves before responding to a child’s request, and this keeps us on the same page.

Be Clear about Expectations (Rules) and Consequences

Clearly define your expectations and consequences with your children. After all, they cannot magically know what they should and should not be doing. Tell your child the rules rather than just expecting them to behave and get frustrated because they are not meeting your expectations. I have found that written core expectations and consequences help with consistency for both the parent and the child. Furthermore, administering consequences is easier to do when the expectations and consequences are clear.

Practice Authoritative Parenting

The authoritative parent sets high standards, is nurturing and responsive, and shows respect for children as independent, rational beings. Studies consistently show that the children of authoritative parents do better than those of parents who demand blind obedience and are relatively unloving or loving but permissive. Remember that each child is different, and you probably will need to approach each one differently with your parenting.

Give Progressive Independence

As parents in a fast-paced, touch screen, drive-through society obsessed with the result at the expense of the process, it is easy to do everything for children. It is faster. It is easier. It is more efficient. However, the journey to adulthood is the most important journey your child will ever take. Prepare them by giving progressively more independence (responsibility), acknowledging good decisions, and rewarding those good decisions with more independence. Through this process, we teach our children how to think critically, make predictions, test out ideas, and work with others. We also help them understand the value of persistence. When your children make mistakes, you can be there to provide guidance and support.

Do Not Worry About Being Liked

As your children grow older and become increasingly independent, they will want you involved less. This is true no matter what you do, so how you handle this change is important. Resist the desire to be liked or to be the “cool” parent, as it will negatively influence how you parent. Focus on building your relationship with your child by practicing consistent parenting. As a result, you will be a great friend and a trusted resource for your child when they are an adult.

Call Nelson Law Group today!!

As a parent, an essential duty is to show your children what a healthy relationship looks like after divorce – especially during the summer. If you are a dad, your role with your daughter is what she will base relationships on going forward. Boys will see how you treat their mother.

Give our knowledgeable staff here at Nelson Law Group, PC, a call if you have any further questions regarding this or any other issue. Our staff is always available. Give us a call today! For more information about Brett A. Nelson, click here.

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Source: Nelson Law Group