Helicopter, Bulldozer or Free Range, What sort of parent are you?
So many different parenting styles
Since becoming a parent, it feels like almost all my conversations with other adults are about raising children: mine; theirs; everyone else’s. I find it fascinating how many opinions there are on everything, and how many different styles of parenting there seem to be.
Speaking with a childless colleague recently, she expressed genuine surprise that day care centres now provide daily written updates and photographs via apps or emails to parents. It seems logical to me to want to know how my Cheeky Monkey has behaved, slept and eaten while I’m away from him. It means I know what to expect from the rest of the day and can plan accordingly. The things I want to know from day care are the same questions of a sitter, or even my husband on the days he cares for my Monkey.
The beginnings of a Free Range Monkey
As a couple we definitely swing more towards a ‘Free Range’ model of parenting. It’s been said to me previously that if The Husband was any more laid back he would be horizontal, and his approach towards Cheeky Monkey most of the time is along those lines. I am naturally a very laid back person too, it takes quite a bit to ruffle my feathers. I spent a lot of my pregnancy listening to meditation tracks, practicing hypnobirthing techniques, swimming and being generally ‘Zen’. These traits carried me through Cheeky Monkey's birth and on through our parenting journey. Given my relaxed attitude watching my own child I can’t help but notice some parents ‘helicoptering’ around their own.
Is he safe doing that?
More than a handful of times comments have been directed at me that perhaps I shouldn’t be letting Cheeky Monkey do X, or am I really alright with him doing Y. My standard answers are that if I had a problem with it, he wouldn’t be doing it, that if he feels confident enough to give it a shot I’m happy for him to do so under supervision.
As children age and mature they develop different strengths and qualities, so no doubt my approaches will constantly be changing over the years. As my now fifteen month old clambers around the playground solo-style, I tend to do a bit of Googling when a question pops into my head and recently I’ve been curious as to whether my laid back approach will cause harm or good.
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Free range babies
Definition of the term ‘Free Range’ seems to be very loose. Some define it as allowing children to make mistakes and learn from them, go places unsupervised, roaming within eyesight only, but my favourite is from freerangekids.com “Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape".
I believe that my child has the capacity to decide for himself what is an appropriate risk. Sure at fifteen months old that seems to be a relatively easy thing to say, but boy it can be hard standing back and waiting for him to fall down stairs or jam his fingers in doors and drawers! “When we protect children from failure, we prevent them from learning how to master important life skills” says Dr Rachael Sharman and I would have to agree at this point in my parenting journey.
What do you want for your baby?
I want my Cheeky Monkey to grow up knowing how to manage the negative emotions which come with failure, to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and not get things right the first time. I want him to have problem solving skills and the confidence that comes with knowing that those who love you also trust you and your judgement. I can’t help but feel that if I am right next to him every minute of the day, fussing and coddling he won’t be able to do that.
As with everything nowadays, there is a lot of opinion available. I try to keep terms unbiased where I can when I’m researching, but parenting is so subjective that almost everything I find is driven by personal experience. Interestingly there seems to be strong pulls to different types of parenting based on global locations. The USA pulls towards a more Helicopter type parent while in Australia we generally are a bit more casual about things. An emerging trend now are “Bush Kindergartens”, modelled on the Forest Kindergartens of Europe where children between the ages of three and five years old go roaming outdoors rain, hail or shine and learn from the environment, not the classroom. It’s an interesting concept for sure!
Is coddling and fussing really that bad?
Overparenting is more commonly referred to as Helicopter or Bulldozer parenting and has been associated with higher levels of narcissism and ineffective coping skills which in turn led to increased reporting of anxiety and stress levels in adult children. Further to this there is a correlation with lower quality parent-child communication and a greater sense of entitlement amongst these children.
To be totally honest, the idea of letting a six or ten year old Cheeky Monkey go to the shops or local park unsupervised totally freaks me out right now. I don’t know what sort of world we will be living in down the track, or what sort of child he will end up. For now I intend to stick with Common Sense Parenting. I’ll let my baby make mistakes, fall and hurt himself and hope that he learns from his experiences and develops critical thinking and judgment skills. I will always be there for guidance when he needs it but I trust him and his instincts for what he is capable of. Though I might just put the laptop aside and explain why it’s not really okay to keep pashing the dog while standing on the dining table...
 Segrin, C., Woszidlo, A., Givertz, M., Montgomery, N. (2013). Parent and child traits associated with overparenting. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 32(6), pp569-595.  Segrin, C., Woszidlo, A., Givertz, M., Bauer, A., and Taylor, M. (2012). The Association between overparenting, parent-child communication, and entitlement and adaptive traits in adult children. Family Relations, 61(2) pp237-252