A Little More Wisdom

A Little More Wisdom

Helicopter parents hover too much and free-range parents don’t seem to hover enough. It’s hard to strike a balance between the two, but finding a happy medium can protect your child while still making sure she has street smarts. 

Exploring Parenting Styles: Free-Range or Helicopter

Written by
Cathy Hale
on August 21st, 2017


When the term “helicopter parenting” went mainstream in the early 2000s, it made a lot of sense. That was around the time millennials–the largest generation today–entered adulthood. As they went off to college, started jobs or started families, they realized they couldn’t quite cut the cord.

Think about a helicopter and it’s ability to hover or swoop in to the rescue. A helicopter mom does the same thing by being overprotective, overbearing and preventing their child from experiencing failure. Helicopter parents aren’t trying to stunt their child’s ability to be self-sufficient, they’re usually doing the best they can.

In fact, helicopter parents are typically well educated and have social and financial resources to share with their children. They aren’t “bad parents,” they’re just so worried and fearful about their children’s future that their good intensions can backfire.

On the flip side is free-range parenting. The methodology behind this parenting style is to avoid hovering like a helicopter parent by letting children experience life as it happens. That translates to less anxiety, less stifling behaviors and less coddling.

It doesn’t mean children have to learn about danger by being put in perilous situations, but that a sense of risk is natural and okay.  They can still have organization, social coaching, and mom can swoop in on rescue missions as needed, but these children face challenges and experience failures head-on. 

In a world fraught with dangers, children need to have situation awareness (AKA street smarts), even at a young age. Fire is hot. Knives are sharp. Dialing 911 in an emergency could save a life. It’s the common knowledge they need to stay safe and the foundation they need to become wise adults.  If a helicopter mom protects her child from all danger, how will that child be self-sufficient? If a free-range mom lets her child acquire street smarts with less supervision, is that also dangerous?

If you’re raising young children, the question becomes how do you support and parent without over doing it? How do you loosen up without being naive? If you follow your child around in the yard when they play outside, is that hovering? If you let them fall down, is the subsequent scraped knee actually a blessing in the form of a lesson learned?

What are your thoughts about these two parenting styles? As a parent, have you switched from helicopter to free-range or vice versa?  Share your thoughts with other moms on the Little Remedies® Facebook page!