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Are You a Helicopter Mom or a Free-range Parent?

Posted by The Warrior Mom

Do you fall into the “helicopter” mom or “free-range” parent category? While I consider myself more of free-range parent, the current debate between the two camps over issues of safety, creativity and independence are worth talking about.

I’ll give you a real example from my life. Today I noticed my 26 month-old daughter disrobing and removing her own diaper. I had to stop her just short of wiping and changing herself.

My first thought was: If she’s willing to clean and diaper herself, what the heck is she still doing in these things anyway?

My second thought was: Is she ahead of the “curve” in terms of self-sufficiency? Is this normal?

Honestly, I don’t keep tabs on what is “age-appropriate” as far as dexterity, gross and fine motor skills, speech development or much else goes. I just assume they’ll catch up to wherever they’re supposed to be whenever they’re ready. This seems to work for us; our kids have the freedom to evolve naturally without Mama drilling, practicing or pressuring. (I digress, let me make this clear: when it comes to studying and other responsibilities, that’s a whole other topic and not what I’m addressing here.)

Fostering independence and encouraging self-reliance no doubt helps children’s self-esteem tremendously, which is essentially the foundation for an emotionally healthy attitude toward self and others. For example, I notice when all my kids turn the “magical” two, everything has to be done by their own hands or at the very least, their way. If I try to intervene and do for them — out of my lack of patience to wait another 37 minutes for a single sock to be pulled on properly — they get frustrated and belligerent. When I allow them to do for themselves, they inflate with pride and self-confidence and Mama’s additional praise almost seems redundant.

Reflecting upon the type of parent I am, perhaps my “laissez-faire style” is inadvertently helping them develop into independent creatures and thus preparing them for the world-at-large. Instead of being a “helicopter parent,” I tend to be more hands-off, guiding and coaching from the sidelines. I’m frugal in offering praise and dote only when something is outright stupendous. My affection has no limits and oftentimes I smother them with hugs and kisses yet, ask me for help putting on a shoe, belt, or to fetch a cup from the cupboard — things they can figure out to do solo – and I adamantly refuse to assist.

Thus, out of necessity, each one must hone skills geared for achieving tasks that are just beyond their physical grasp and maturity level. And, with so many of them running around, I notice increased levels of mutual cooperation and exchanges of favors when Mama stays out of it. My older daughter helped put her brother to sleep the other night once they had realized I was unavailable and busy with the littlest one. These are small miracles that surely would never happen if I were to butt into every interaction.

My question:  Is it possible to foster too much independence and self-reliance? Is there such a thing?

If a child receives adequate love, physical and emotional support from their caretakers, are there any hazards to not (overly) coddling or pampering a child beyond infancy?

Is it cold-hearted on my part, wise parenting or just plain laziness?

Whatever you label it, I firmly believe my kids are stronger and better off for being taught to be independent!


About The Warrior Mom

Darah Zeledon aka The Warrior Mom is a wife, mom of 5, writer, fitness buff and thinker. Her unique voice reveals an experiential and academic knowledge of the social sciences—particularly psychology and sociology. Her empowering messages are born from an appreciation and passion for life and a nonstop quest for truth, reflecting a wisdom and resiliency earned by an array of challenging life experiences. Despite it all, Darah’s personal favorites are the quirky anecdotes exposing the chaotic tug-of-war between motherhood and personal passions. She’s currently working on her memoir—a tragic, yet inspiring story of the last five years of her life entitled: A Lucky Girl. You can read more of her musings at:

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