There are some new parenting styles evolving (like lawnmower, snowplow, bulldozer, jellyfish, and tiger parenting, etc) but I would like to focus on two that have very distinct characteristics, have been around for a long time, yet still greatly impact our generations today.
Helicopter parents are exactly what the word says - being a helicopter parent tends to emphasize the idea of hovering over or micromanaging every aspect of a child’s life whether with school work, or extracurricular activities, to protect them from pain and disappointment, helping them to succeed.
Some of the major drawbacks of helicopter parenting is lack of confidence and independence, problem solving life skills, and having the ability to speak up for themselves. The upside to helicopter parenting is that children who are raised this way tend to be on time, have their homework done and are prepared for other activities they are involved in.
This type of parenting continues as children graduate from high school and go to post-secondary school. The observation of parental involvement in a child’s life after high school was quite prominent. For example, parents would call their children to wake them up for their classes so they would not be late. The child growing up was not late only because the parent made sure they were not. The same applies as they went off to post-secondary school.
Now the free range parent is very different from the helicopter parent who tends to allow the child to make mistakes, explore, try new things without much guidance. Children learn to problem solve through trial and error. Free range parents raise their children to ensure they have the skills needed to be responsible adults.
Free Range parenting encourages unstructured play time rather than a scheduled game with rules, children were to amuse themselves without technology, and increased independence was earned.
Helicopter or free range parenting should not be considers as being negative, but there needs to be a balance of taking the characteristics and stepping back to allow the child to grow, experience consequences of actions, to experience failure - but knowing that the parent is there to encourage and help the child to move forward even amidst the challenges they may be facing. At the same time, children need to be able to follow rules within a structured environment, incorporate technology or other ways of learning to expand their knowledge base and know the limits of independence.
As I look back on my life I definitely was not a child of a helicopter parent nor was I a child of a free range parent, although as I think about it I certainly did have free rein - there were struggles, and difficulties to overcome. Sometimes it is not only parents but other significant people who come into your life and help you become the person you are today.
And this is where we come in - how do we as counsellors help young people today who are influenced by either the helicopter or free range parent be on a path of achieving what they want to be doing following high school? Here are a few ways that I ensure students feel that I am listening to them: