Are You a Helicopter or a Free Ranger?

An article in Newsweek brings up an interesting topic. Are today’s kids over coddled compared to past generations?

The debate was fueled when a New York Sun columnist, Lenore Skenazy, wrote about how she let her fourth-grader ride the subway alone. She was bombarded with hate messages calling her a bad mom and practically accusing her of child abuse.

But, on the hand she did get some support from other moms for bucking the “helicopter parent” trend. In case you haven’t heard of that term, a helicopter parent is someone who constantly hovers over his or her child’s every move. Skenazy decided to start a blog, called Free Range Kids to promote the idea that modern kids deserve the same independence that our generation did.

I don’t consider myself a helicopter mom. Now, I don’t know if I feel comfortable letting my child ride the subway alone. But, then again, riding the subway is a little foreign to me since there’s no subway in my city to ride.

I do, however, let my 5-year-old play outside by himself. We live in a subdivision, at the bottom of a private drive. We know our neighbors, and just as long as he tells me where he’s going, he’s free to go outside and play by himself.

At a party, I’m usually the mom that lets her kids play unsupervised with the other kids while I kick back and socialize with the adults. They know where I am if they need me. (By the beer cooler!) But, just as long if they’re in the perimeter of the house, fence, or within earshot. They’re good. And I’m good.

Growing up, I remember playing outside with friends from sunrise to sunset, practically never seeing my mom until dinner time. I had free range of the neighborhood, and those times ended up as some of my greatest childhood memories.

So I consider myself more of a free ranger, than a helicopter. But, every child is different, and some kids need more supervision than others. Plus, the age of the child plays a factor, too. What’s your opinion?

Thanks to my friend, Adam, for sending me the link to the Newsweek article!

6 thoughts on “Are You a Helicopter or a Free Ranger?

  1. I’m definitely a free-ranger. I just posted a comment yesterday on another blog about the best day of my life – when I realized that my almost 4 year old was big enough for the “drop off” birthday party. Unless of course my friends (and a cooler of beer, or better yet a big bottle of red wine) are present. But please don’t make me watch a bunch of kids jumping up and down on those bouncy things for an hour and a half!

  2. I would say I’m a free ranger. Actually I don’t think I so much am, but all my friends with kids would say I am, so I guess I’ll side with them!

  3. My mom was a major helicopter, so I try to be more free with Aidan. However, I don’t want to overcompensate for that and give him too much freedom too soon. He is only five, after all.

    With that said, I probably wouldn’t let a 4th grader ride the subway alone, but 6th grade for sure. But then again, you can’t judge it based only on age. Different kids mature at different rates. Based it on the individual kid, the needs of the family, and the area in which you all live.

  4. I am also a free-ranger. It amazes me the people that question the fact that my 15 1/2 year old rides his bike to his job after school because I don’t get home until he needs to be there. Don’t they realize that in 5 months he can drive a car anywhere he wants? My 11 year old gets up after we leave in the am and rides the bus to school. He knows he cannot miss it and so he hasn’t for 3 years! I think kids need freedom and need to learn to make decisions without mom on their heels (or hovering overhead). I tell people that I am raising my children to leave home!

  5. just4ofus says:

    I let my almost 6 and almost 4 year old play outside by themselves. They just have to stay in the backyard b/c we don’t have a fence and live on our neighborhoods main drag..
    I too have the memories of playing in the woods that spread over quite a distance for hours w/o parental supervision. Great memories.
    I am also the kick back parent who lets their kids go off and play when at others houses.
    I think, most of the time, my kids can be trusted to make good decisions.

  6. Free ranger when the stakes are low, helicopter when they’re high. Example: at a friend’s house (one who has kids), free ranger. At the zoo or other high-traffic public places, more of a helicopter.

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