Insights from the hood
(Parenthood, that is) / 7
Helicopter parenting vs free-range parenting. Do you follow the trends?
By Mona Andrei
I think it’s safe to say that if you can read this, you’ve lived long enough to notice that trends are like waves: they come… they go… they come back again. Also like waves, some trends are so subtle that they slip away before we even have a chance to really notice them. And then there are the other trends; the ones that come crashing in with such velocity that they affect entire populations. This is true whether we’re talking about shoes, diets, or parenting styles.
To be honest, the different approaches to raising kids are not something I’ve ever thought about as “trendy”. Case in point: as a kid, I can remember my mother talking about Dr. Spock with her other mom friends. At the time, I thought they were referring to a Star Trek character. They weren’t. Turns out they were talking about the pediatrician who popularized the idea of free-range parenting, another slightly confusing term. (Call me a country girl, but when I hear free-range anything, I just can’t help but visual chickens leisurely coming in and out of a chicken coop on a hot, summer day.)
… as a kid, I can remember my mother talking about Dr. Spock with her other mom friends. At the time, I thought they were referring to a Star Trek character.
When my own kids were younger there was another parenting term flying about: helicopter parenting. As these labels imply, free-range and helicopter parenting are seen as opposites. And just like the wave of trends, the controversies may seem recent but they’re not. Dr. Spock (not Mr. Spock) introduced the idea of free-range parenting in 1946, while the term helicopter parenting was coined in 1990 by Foster Cline and Jim Fay.
Personally, I’m not a fan of labels. Why? Because they open the door to comparing, judgement, and criticism. When I was a kid, playing outside was something my parents encouraged. They didn’t worry when they sent us out to play. Why? Because they knew my brother and I would come slamming through the back door when we got hungry (about every ten minutes).
Alas, it’s a different world today. While weirdos with bad intentions have always existed, the population has grown and saying that the number of freaks out there has also increased is only good math.
‘Personally, I’m not a fan of labels. Why? Because they open the door to comparing, judgement, and criticism.’
Another changing phenomenon is the kids themselves. How many times have you heard (or said), “kids are smarter today”?
Why is that? Why are kids of the same age, separated by time periods only, viewed so differently?
Is it because technology has somehow opened up our children’s minds and curiosity or is it simply because we’re more likely to pay attention to what they’re up to these days? Where once upon a long time ago adults were credited with coming up with expressions such as “children should be seen and not heard”, today we’re more likely to ask our three-year-old to help us set-up our tablets and smart phones. Does this make us helicopter parents or free-range parents? On the one hand, we always know where they are; in the house, playing on their devices. The other way of looking at it is that we’re basically allowing our devices to raise our kids.
As you can see, I don’t have all the answers. So I did what any other curious writer would do: I turned to social media for thoughts on the oldest question of all, what’s the best recipe for success when it comes to raising children?
‘Another changing phenomenon is the kids themselves. How many times have you heard (or said), ‘kids are smarter today’?’
Here are some of the answers…
“I consider myself a helicopter mama… simply because I can’t get them back once they’re gone. I’d also like to add that my kids are okay with that, including my teenage daughter who comments on how her friends’ parents aren’t around as much or don’t pay as much attention to them and how it leads them into trouble. Even her friends have commented on how lucky she is to have a mom that “cares” and is over-protective. Kids like their freedom but they also like to be cocooned.”
. . . . .
“I parent in phases. 0 to 5: Keep them alive! 5 to 13: Teach them, learn from them, play with them, watch them! 14 to 18: Never take your eyes off them, this is the most critical phase and the hardest. (Not because we can’t, but because by now we’re exhausted!) 19+: Release them. Now you can go into rest. In rest mode close your eyes, close your mouth, close your ears, and open your wallet. (Oh, and in all phases, make sure you have lots of extra new tooth brushes around.)”
. . . . .
“I raised a son with special needs. I don’t think I helicoptered too much until he was in middle school when I had to be an advocate and mother tiger. Once he got to high school, I told him that he would figure things out. This was only after I taught him to advocate for himself. He went on to college and even got his own apartment! He is my hero. I am probably more of a free-ranger. I believe we give kids roots and wings. Oh and I taught him how to get his own cereal when we was 3!”
C. (Spain, formerly US)
. . . . .
Labels aside, there are as many types of parenting and cross-parenting styles as there are parents. It depends, not only on our individual lifestyles, morals, and values, but also on our kids’ needs. With my own kids (I have four) I’ve noticed that they all have their distinct personalities and I believe I’ve learned to cater my parenting style to each one; especially as I got older and became more aware of their unique and natural ways of expressing themselves, and reactions to their environments and situations.
What about you? Are you a helicopter parent or more of a free-range parent?
. . . . .
From Mona Andrei’s forthcoming book, SUPERWOMAN: Confessions of a Single Mom, a funny, messy, reflective look at single motherhood.
Mona Andrei is a digital copywriter, writer, and social media strategist with over 20 years of experience, both on the advertising agency and corporate sides of the communication spectrum. When she’s not working on client projects, she likes to write irreverent posts for her personal blog, Moxie-Dude, where she writes about life updates gone wrong. Or right. She’s undecided. You can connect with Mona on Twitter or email her at Mona@MonaAndrei.com