Posted by: Ticktock | May 15, 2009

Helicopter Vs. Free Range

Count me in on the new wave of old school parenting sweeping through the culture right now. Lenore Skenazy calls it Free Range parenting, which works well enough, but it’s basically bringing back the classic notion that kids need space and independence so that they can grow into free thinking, confident, and autonomous adults.

I realize the idea of Free Range is relative. I just talked to an at-home dad friend who encountered a 10 year old girl who was run over by two different cars when she tried to cross a four lane road. One could say that her mother, who was nowhere in site, should have been at her child’s side protecting her, but one could also say that her mother should have taught her child to cross at crosswalks (which she wasn’t), to look both ways, and to stay out of the street. Free Range parenting does not mean that kids should go out into the world unprotected and unprepared, but it does mean that they should be given the same opportunities for informed independence that kids received two decades ago.

Lenore will be on Nightline tonight to talk about the gadgets and gizmos sold to parents in the name of child safety – things like wipe warmers, crib nets, and kid leashes. Word to new parents, you don’t need all that crap. I had a second kid just so I could raise her without all the rubbish I thought I needed the first time (just kidding).

Don’t worry if you miss it because you can check out this wonderful post about the root of modern parents’ helicopter syndrome – attachment parenting. Best of all, the post was written by a noted attachment parenting author. She takes the middle path and tells parents to go ahead and co-sleep, but don’t raise them in a sanitized overly-managed bubble.

And just to cap off this post, check out the post by a pregnant Kari Byron (of Mythbusters fame). She debunks pregnancy myths. More of that please!



  1. I agree with most everything Katie says in her article, but I think you missed the point. Her article is comparing “Attachment Parenting” (AP) to “Over-Parenting”.

    You conclude that the root of helicopter syndrome is AP, and I disagree. The root of helicopter is “over parenting”.

    I’m hopeful that this is a typo, and not a fundamental misunderstanding.

    Most AP infants/toddlers I know turn into free-range kids. When kids are secure in their emotional bond to their parent(s), they are secure in venturing out into the world — this is the basis of AP.

    • I suppose it’s a fundamental misunderstanding…or a different interpretation, depending on whether you believe in the fundamental principles of attachment parenting.

      I don’t think I missed the point with Katie’s article. I just chose to add my spin on it.

  2. Okay, fair enough.

    I know lots of parents (including myself) who were pretty AP with our babies (I’ve got three, total). This mostly amounted to lots of baby wearing, cosleeping, and meeting their immediate needs. Before eyebrows get raised too quickly, “needs” are very different at six months than they are two years.

    To get grouped in with the group of parents who use kid-leashes, heated baby wipes, and liners for shopping carts definitely ruffles my feathers.

    That the former might lead to the latter is so inconsistent with my experience (direct and indirect), that I question it even in general terms.

    I might propose that a parent who evolves from attachment parenting to “helicoptering” is probably predisposed to helicoptering, and has simply latched on (so to speak) to AP for all of the wrong reasons.

    A connection? Yes. A causality? I’m skeptical. 🙂

  3. I can see your point. Perhaps my statements came across as too broad. I certainly concede that my opinion on the subject is a hasty generalization that may likely be untrue for many AP parents.

  4. What surprises me is that a 10 year-old child did not know how to properly cross a street. How can a parent just forget to teach their kid that basic skill? In fact, I learned it from my parents, my babysitter at daycare, and at school when I was very young.

  5. Amen to the old school. My husband and I are eagerly awaiting the birth of our first child – I’m due on June 3rd, but wouldn’t really mind it coming today, if it wanted. We both agree that kids need space and independence to learn (granted, this is post infant stage). Interestingly, as a mom to be, I’ve encountered way more woo regarding what we plan to do with our infant/child than he has – he just sees the “free range kid” thing not as a “parenting option” but as common sense.

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