Monday, June 01, 2009

Free Range Parenting? Yes, Please.

I came across this article today. And it made me happy. It made me unclench a little. It says that the era of "Helicopter Parenting" may be over. Well, thank the baby Jesus. Finally. The intense pressure to be perfect parents and to raise perfect children who get into the perfect college and get the perfect job is apparently too much for many people (like myself). I think about my parents' parenting style and I remember how I started doing my own laundry in 7th grade (mostly because they kept shrinking my giant T-shirts that were supposed to be giant, dammit. You had to be able to see through one arm hole and out the other so that you could layer it with another colored T-shirt and roll up the sleeves!) I think about how they helped me with my homework but never DID my projects for me. They didn't keep track of what assignments I had or when they were due. They were always interested in my life and what I was learning and school and were thrilled if I ever asked for academic assistance, but they were definitely not helicopters. I decorated my own room. I chose my own clothes. I assembled my own after school snacks. I stole my mom's baking dishes and made mud pies in the back yard. I hid in the closet and applied makeup starting in 5th grade.

I took piano lessons starting when I was about 7 or 8. I took gymnastics starting about the same time period. I was in Girl Scouts. I played instruments in school bands and joined choir in high school....and that's about it. I was not involved in ten curricular activities by the age of 5. I spent most of my days after school playing in the neighborhood with a giant pack of kids. I don't remember being shuttled from one activity to the next, stressed out and eating in the car as I was jostled from one place to another. I wasn't overscheduled. In fact, I was annoyed on the one day a week I had an activity and couldn't play with the other kids. I played unattended in the neighborhood and explored the creek with other kids and rode my bike up to the grocery store with my friend. I played at my friends' houses. We had a family dinner around the dinner table every night. I had a wonderful, happy childhood.

I did not have helicopter parents. I had caring, loving, interested parents who also had their own lives and who trusted me to do the stuff I had to do, without them being in the middle of everything.

I want that for my kids. But, I know that I have the personality type that tends toward "The Copter." I want to know every detail. I want to provide every opportunity. I want to jump into the pool and help out with the swim lessons. I want to run into the gym and watch as Becca walks on the balance beam at gymnastics. I have my 3-year old in gymnastics and swim lessons, for Pete's sake. I worry that every little thing I do wrong is going to screw my kids up for life. I am prone to feeling guilty. I'm ready to just chill.

I'd like to be more Free-Range. I'd love to lose the worry--the incessant worry--and the guilt. I want to relax and let them find their own way by themselves, knowing they can always find me if they need me. (I'll be right over here. Watching Friends reruns.)


Anonymous said...

Amen, sister. Thank you for this post. :) Jenny in MD

David said...

If you're interested in discovering your parenting style based on the latest research, please check out the Parenting Style Application by Signal Patterns on

The underlying model developed by our team of psychologists reveals an underlying complexity far richer than just 'strict' or 'relaxed' classifications.

And what's particularly interesting is that you can take the test for a spouse and see where potential conflicts might lie and get advice on how to deal w/them. You can also compare results to your friends'.

The Quinn Report said...

I don't want to be "THAT" parent either, but fear I'm headed in that direction at a high rate of speed!!

Angie said...

My problem, I think, is finding the balance. I don't want to let them get "behind," but at the same time, I want them to just be kids. I think I don't have too many helicopter tendencies, but I feel guilty for not being more that way.

I remember telling other teachers that my parents didn't make sure that I did my homework. They were shocked. I guess if my lack of homework had become a problem, my parents might have worried about it. And, my mom was an elementary teacher, too!

Meg said...

And you left out that you shoplifted hot chocolate and set pillbugs on hooligan.

And we both know my mom defined the term copter, and look how I turned out (I'm being totally serious), so I really believe that's so detrimental to kids development.

I'm forwarding this post to my mom for you. After I get my kid signed up for her third gymnastics class this week (again, sorry to say, being totally serious)because she better be doing round offs by next fall dang it.

Andrea_Ben said...

OMG - I am so free range it may be damaging! I don't even try to encourage Reid to crawl (very often anyway). Maybe we can consolidate and find a happy medium :-)

Natalie said...

Ditto here. Nearly the same family exact family life. Loved it.

The one regret that I have is that we were not involved in sports. I took a few dance classes and summer rec classes. But, I know I wasn't as well-rounded as many kids our age. Anyway, Liv is in swimming and ballet. I think two things will be our max. Aside from mommy and me cooking classes and random things like that that pop up.

Personally, and you could confirm this w/my husband, I am too relaxed/lazy in my parenting style. I am free-range plus some!

Susan said...

I raised myself. I turned out fine :)