The Pros & Cons of Helicopter vs. Free Range Parenting

There is no question that parenting is a difficult, ever changing process. As your children grow, and as society changes, your parenting style is often expected to change too. Two approaches that fit opposing ends of the parenting spectrum are “helicopter parenting” and “free-range parenting.” Here are the pros and cons of each.

Helicopter Parenting

Mother walking to school with daughter

Image Credit: Jon Ottoson

A “helicopter parent” takes a highly active interest in their child’s safety and well-being. They might walk their kid to school every day, even when the child may be mature enough to walk alone, or they might choose to personally supervise all their child’s activities. Often, helicopter parents take on their offspring’s successes and failures as their own. They will exercise more control over their kids’ decisions, and consistently advocate for safety before independence.


Safety is treated as a top priority. Children with helicopter parents are more likely to gain physical protection and emotional support. According to a University of Texas study, parents who show involvement and support in many areas of their children’s lives produce grown children with a higher life satisfaction. Furthermore, young children are less likely to misbehave when they are under supervision.


The difficult part of helicopter parenting is knowing where the limit is and when it’s actually beneficial for your kid to develop a sense of independence. For example, some situations have arisen where parents have tried to gather personal information about their children once they’ve gone off to college. Others argue that helicopter parenting doesn’t allow children to make and learn from their mistakes, which also prevent them from making their own decisions and understanding how to solve problems.

Free-Range Parenting

Boy playing in the woods

Image Credit: Annie Spratt

Free-range parenting is essentially on the other end of the parenting spectrum. This hands-off approach involves less supervision, giving children quite a bit of freedom. The focus here is for the child to develop independence while minimizing the parent’s anxiety.


Kids are given the opportunity to develop a sense of independence, confidence and self-awareness. They can also make their own decisions and face the consequences of any mistakes they make. They also engage in more exercise—a Ryerson University study has found that children who can go out on their own are 20 percent more physically active than their supervised counterparts.


Like helicopter parenting, the cons of free-range parenting can center on limits. In other words, how young is too young? At what age are children responsible enough to make their own choices, and when do they actually still need parental guidance? Some critics of free-range parenting also suggest a degree of neglect and a lack of interest in a kid’s safety.

Which is Best?

Family on a walk together on railroad tracks

Image Credit: woodleywonderworks

There is no completely “right” or “wrong” way of parenting. Each child is different and might benefit more from one style over another, or even a balanced mix of both. At the end of the day, your parenting techniques have to suit you and your family best.

Feature Image: Steven Van Loy