Free-Range Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting [PROS & CONS]

Free-range parenting is when parents let their child make most decisions, even if they may result in harm. Helicopter parenting is when parents are overly involved and attempt to control every aspect of their children’s lives. Free-range parenting is preferred because it at least helps to develop children’s creativity and encourages personal development.

Free-range parenting and helicopter parenting are different, yet each toxic parenting styles. While these parenting styles are vastly different, they both have the ability to affect children’s development in a negative light.

Both free-range parenting and helicopter parenting can have significant impacts on a child’s development. Let’s explore the impact of these parenting styles to consider their potential negative implications and determine which parenting style is the lesser of two evils.

Animated image portraying helicopter parenting

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Free-Range Parenting Explained

Free-range parenting is the parenting style where parents encourage their children to make their own choices with the hope that their distanced approach will help develop their child’s creativity and encourage personal growth.

Free-range parents often allow their children to make poor decisions in hopes that they will learn from their mistakes, often failing to consider the potential for harm or what is appropriate for their child’s age.

Helicopter Parenting Explained

Helicopter parents are notorious for being control freaks who seek to regulate every aspect of their children’s lives. Lack of control causes deep discomfort to helicopter parents, because they know best about every part of their child’s life. Helicopter parents focus on ensuring their children are safe and try their best to minimize any (even minor) negative experiences for them.

Negative Implications of Free-Range Parenting

Free-range parenting can blur the lines between what is right and wrong, put children in danger, cause harm to a child’s sense of innocence, and result in parents having stubborn children. Let’s explore these four negative effects of free-range parenting to see how harmful they can be for children’s development.

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Free-Range Parenting Blurs What Is Right and What Is Wrong

Parents are responsible for teaching their children what is right and wrong. Although children have a sixth sense about when something might be naughty, they are not knowledgeable about what might be physically or mentally harmful to them.

Free-Range Parenting Can Cause Danger to Children

Free-range parents believe their children should learn through trial and error. However, this approach fails to consider that some things can traumatize children for life.

For example, a free-range parent may allow their child to finish five chocolate bars in one sitting, knowing that their child will feel sick afterward, with the hope that the child will now know that they should not overeat. However, this may actually result in the child getting extremely sick and/or developing a strong dislike for chocolates because of their negative association with them.

Free-Range Parenting Can Create Stubborn Children

Free-range parenting allows children to develop a sense of independence, which can be great for their self-esteem because they become confident in their decision-making skills. However, because these children are far-removed from their parents, they tend not to consider their parents as authority figures.

As they grow up, these children tend to become stubborn and have trouble submitting to any authority because they believe their way is always the best.

Free-Range Parenting Fails to Protect Children’s Innocence

Free-range parenting often exposes children to the harsh realities of the world. While it is crucial for children to be aware of what goes on around them, to some extent, there are certain things they should be sheltered from until they have the capacity to process them.

In this regard, free-range parenting can psychologically damage children as they are often exposed to harmful content that may invoke emotions and thoughts that they are too young to understand.

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Negative Implications of Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter parenting can hamper children’s adaptability skills, result in anxiety and/or depression, create secrecy in the parent-child relationship, and result in the child(ren) being stubborn and indecisive. Let’s explore these four negative effects of helicopter parenting to see how harmful they can be to children’s development.

Helicopter Parenting Creates Indecisive Children

Helicopter parents leave very little room for children to make their own decisions. Decision-making from a young age is an important developmental tool for children. If children are not allowed to make decisions from a young age, they often become indecisive adults.

Helicopter Parenting Hampers Children’s Adaptability Skills

Adaptability is a crucial life skill. Exposing children to various environments from a young age ensures they are comfortable with change. Children should be able to fail, make mistakes, be disappointed, and experience loss. These experiences, albeit uncomfortable, are crucial for preparing children for the real world; where things will not always go their way.

Helicopter parents tend to shelter their children, which causes them to struggle when things happen beyond their control. In this regard, helicopter parenting fails to prepare children for the real world, where they are likely to face adversity that they will be required to handle to survive.

Helicopter Parenting Can Create Anxious Children

Helicopter parenting tends to stem from overly anxious parents who have become paranoid about their child’s wellbeing.

Their sense of anxiety easily rubs off on their children, who learn from an early age that there are many things to fear in everyday life.

Children who grow up with helicopter parents often grow up to be skeptical individuals with severe trust issues because they were raised to believe that people are out to get them. Their trust issues often haunt them in adult relationships, where they struggle to trust their partners.

Furthermore, they may struggle in their careers when it comes to teamwork and collaboration. They often struggle in teams because they have grown up relying on themselves and their parents, causing them to struggle to give control to others.

Additionally, they may be hesitant to collaborate with other individuals or companies out of fear that the other party’s actions may endanger their livelihood.

Helicopter Parenting Can Create Selfish Children

Helicopter parents tend to raise their children to believe they (the children) are their (the parent’s) number one priority. Naturally, then, one must put oneself first in the grand scheme of things. However, there comes a time when one must put others first.

Children raised by helicopter parents may find it difficult to form social relations that require reciprocity, as they were raised with the mindset that they need to fend for themselves because they cannot rely on anyone besides their parents.

Helicopter Parenting Can Cause Depression in Children

Helicopter parents often try to isolate their children out of the belief that they are protecting their children.

However, social engagement is crucial for children, especially in their formative years. Helicopter parents may refuse to allow their children to attend social events out of fear that their child may get hurt, be bullied, or fall in with the wrong crowd. However, this can create extreme loneliness for children, resulting in depression.

Furthermore, helicopter parenting may cause depression for children because they do not believe in themselves and their ability to make decisions. They may experience depression because they have low self-esteem because they believe their parents did not trust them enough to allow them to make their own decisions.

Helicopter Parenting Causes Secrecy Between Parent and Child

Children of helicopter parents soon learn that their parents are stricter than other children’s parents. This can often cause children to resent their parents for not giving them the freedom other children have.

As social beings, we are wired to desire a sense of belonging. When helicopter parents keep their children away from others, their children may find ways to disobey their parents to become part of their peer-group.

This may lead to dangerous situations of children sneaking out of the house to see their friends or joining social media platforms to engage with others without their parent’s knowledge.

Keeping secrets from a young age can create secretive, deceptive children who become acquainted with breaking the rules if it means doing what they want and feel they deserve to do.

In this regard, helicopter parenting can potentially create adults who disregard authority because they believe they know better, given their childhood experience of disobeying their parents to have fun.

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Free-range parenting negatively affects children because it deprives them of the guidance they need from their parents to ensure they make wise decisions and understand the basics of life. Conversely, helicopter parenting negatively affects children because it deprives them of the opportunity to grow in their self-confidence and become adaptable individuals.

While both parenting styles are harmful, free-range parenting is considered the lesser of two evils because it encourages children to be independent and develop strong coping skills.

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