Helicopter, Free-Range and Other Parenting Styles

By Danny Huerta, MSW, LCSW, LSSW
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New styles of parenting seem to be appearing every day. Yet claiming one style makes me laugh because kids are not one size fits all. They need time, conversation, teaching, guidance, patience and prayer. Parenting is not about perfection but instead about becoming a student of your child.

New styles of parenting seem to be appearing every day. Yet claiming one style makes me laugh because kids are not one size fits all. They need time, conversation, teaching, guidance, patience and prayer. Parenting is not about perfection but instead about becoming a student of your child.

Most people are doing the best they can. As parents, though, we want guarantees that our kids will come out right—just like cakes from the oven. We can easily cling to quick fix styles of parenting, but these styles leave much to be desired when employed alone. However, each offers at least one takeaway for how you can continue to grow as a parent.

Parenting Styles

Dolphin Parents prioritize play, exploration, relationships and downtime. They’re intentional with their family’s time. Here is the takeaway:

  • Bless yourself and your children with fun. Give time to play and explore and don’t forget about time for rest.

Elephant Parents emphasize the attachment of parents and children. They value closeness and connection, which are both essential; however, boundaries need to be taught along the way. Here are the takeaways:

  • Children benefit from learning how to navigate uncomfortable emotions as they venture away from closeness and connection.
  • Children should learn how to handle being alone, sad, mad, disappointed and frustrated as they grow in their relationships with God and others.

Free-range Parents value independence and want kids to figure things out for themselves. They focus on allowing their children to problem solve and adapt without much guidance or supervision. This can be very dangerous. Kids are not developmentally ready to reason through many decisions on their own. Remember you are the parent for a reason. Be aware of what is appropriate for your child’s stage of life. Here are the takeaways:

  • Show respect by allowing children to work out some difficulties as is appropriate for their age. Direct and guide more in the early stages, then become a coach as they approach adulthood.
  • It’s essential for kids to learn their limits and the limits of others. The goal is not just to create an independent child, but a child who learns how to love, respect, serve, communicate and live with others.

Helicopter Parents desire to control every aspect of their child’s life. These parents value safety above all else. Unfortunately, research is confirming that kids with helicopter parents become more anxious and depressed than kids who have not been raised this way. Here is the takeaway:

  • Adaptability is a valuable life skill. Children benefit from feeling safe while also being free to make mistakes, fail, confront adversity and be disappointed.

Lawnmower or Snow-plow Parents like to clear the way for their kids. They want to eliminate obstacles, challenges and problems so their children will easily find success and thus happiness. Here is the takeaway:

  • Remember we all learn in adversity. A better approach would be to help children learn gratitude. We can be thankful even in difficult moments. I have heard that eagles fly into the storm to rise above it. What if plowing ahead prevents your kids from flying higher?

Tiger Parents demand excellence and have high expectations. These can be high-strung parents who cause burn out fast. Work is play for these parents, as they use a more of an authoritarian/strict style of parenting and demand excellence. Here is the takeaway:

  • Doing our very best is important, but so are joy and love. Consider how God loves us. Love does not place value on people for what they do but rather just for being who they are. Tiger parents need a balance between demanding excellence and showing love.

Growing as a Parent With A Purpose Filled Style

The difficulty with parenting is that we need bits and pieces of each style, which is why I love the ideas provided through the seven traits of effective parenting. A 7-trait parent should be loving, respectful, intentional, grateful, adaptable, set good boundaries and limits and show grace and forgiveness. This isn’t always easy. And that is why we have prepared the article series, 7 Traits of Effective Parenting, to help along the way.

Parenting has predictable moments like eating breakfast and running late. It also has unpredictable moments like kids throwing up, getting upset, or hitting another child. This is why choosing a formula and applying it to all situations is problematic. Parenting depends on the child’s needs, wants, mood, personality and maturity. This means we, as parents, have to wrestle through our vast universe of emotions, questions, what ifs, comparisons and self-doubts. Ultimately, we should ask God to lead us in the right direction.

Each child needs unique guidance. Deuteronomy 6:4-8 tells us to teach our children diligently and consistently. God’s word also tells us we will face adversity, yet we can be strengthened through Him. Remember, each day you get to learn, adjust and grow in your parenting style. God gives us thousands of hours and hundreds of days, so there are plenty of learning moments that can transform you and your kids. It really is a great adventure, so enjoy and pursue victories, not perfection!

Copyright © 2019 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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About the Author

Danny Huerta Media Profile
Danny Huerta, MSW, LCSW, LSSW

As vice president of the Parenting and Youth department, Danny oversees Focus’ initiatives that equip parents to disciple and mentor the next generation, so that they can thrive in Christ.

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