What Becomes of a Helicoptered Kid?

Helicopter parents get a lot of blame and I don’t want to add to it. I want to end it.

For the most part, parents helicopter because society DEMANDS it. There are schools that won’t let kids walk home on their own, and cops who chide parents who let their kids play outside. There are companies peddling devices to GPS our kids, or read their texts, or watch their keystrokes, warning us of the horrible things that will happen if we don’t. Then the media blasts us with horror stories.

So the Free-Range movement is not anti-helicopter parent. It is anti a culture that tells us our kids are in constant danger, forcing us to hover.

That being said, here’s a glimpse of how at least one young man interpreted his parents’ overwhelming fear for his everyday safety:

Dear  tdthzrtfzy
Free Range Kids: The approach of this site is wonderful, but one view I don’t see to much of is the viewpoint of the children.

I am 22 years old. I grew up with controlling parents. Anxiety was always around when they were raising me and my 6 siblings. If you don’t mind, I would like to express my view of this topic.

One of the innermost desires of a child is to express individuality, to make his or her mark on this world. Children naturally want to make their parents proud, to show them how capable and experienced they are. A warm and healthy parent responds to this crucial need….

So let’s approach the topic of the Controlling and Anxiety-Ridden Parent, and the view of a child such as myself enduring such parenting. I will give you a real example of my own life. Crossing the street was a big, fat deal to my parents. What age, which street, and so forth. I grew up in a non-crime ridden suburb in New Jersey. Our particular block had an average of just a hundred cars a day, and a speed limit of 25 MPH.

My  parents would not allow for me to cross that street till about the age of 9. Seeing this as adult, maybe someone can explain it. As a kid, it destroyed me.
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All my friends were running up and down the street, proving how capable they are, and how incapable I was. If my own parents did not trust me with this little thing, how much more so for other things in my life? The pain was very great to say the least.
 .
This happened in all other areas of my childhood. It not only proved in my mind I was incapable of facing life,  it even made me doubt my sanity.

A lot has changed since then, including my very rebellious teenage years. I have since become someone very aware of the individual needs of all human beings. But kudos to all parents who trust their kids, at least somewhat.  — Ben
Kids sense when we believe in them — and when we don’t. The easiest way to show them we do is to try stepping back, even once, even with someone’s help. Have you and another parent sit in the kitchen while you send your kids off to get ice cream. Have your child come home after school one day and do their homework before you get back. Have your child do something for YOU — make dinner, run an errand, return a library book — and notice how you feel when they do.
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You will be elated, relieved, proud and maybe even giddy as you realize how capable your child is. Your child will be, too.
If you’d like to make this “letting go, just once” a school-wide project, click above on the FRK Project tab. Or read this piece of mine in the Huffington Post.
 .
Good luck to both generations on this crucial journey…that our culture keeps telling us not to take. – L.

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Mom, I can cross the street myself.

When can I cross the street myself, mom? 

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36 Responses to What Becomes of a Helicoptered Kid?

  1. Josh October 17, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    This is going to be a hard one for me when my kids get older. We live in a city with a lot of very reckless drivers, about 40 people are killed annually here in a population of less than 1 million. It’s not that I don’t trust my children it’s that I don’t trust the drivers in this city to bother stopping at stop signs.

  2. Mary October 17, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    Yeaaaayyyyy! My big theme, in parenting, has always been to develop capable children. Then they will seek to be, and will enjoy being, capable adults. Families sometimes develop this around a narrow theme, and even that works.

  3. Rachael October 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Wow. For a 22 year old he sounds way more mature than most 32 year olds.

  4. MS October 17, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    Josh, that sounds like a safety risk you are aware of. I don’t think safety and free range parenting are mutually exclusive. I’m sure there are many more ways you don’t, uh, helicopter. ( awkward sentence there!) As long as you don’t hover over them in other areas, I’m sure they’ll be fine.
    I live on a major rural highway, with no sidewalks. The speed limit is 55, but routinely goes 45-65 ( slow drivers cause just as many accidents as the speeders). We get a lot of traffic trying to avoid the turnpike, including semis. Lots of semis…anyway, this year my 14 year old daughter is required to pick up the bus 1/4 mile away, in an unlit, empty parking lot. At 6:45 am. I refuse to let her walk. That goes against every free range parent ideal I have. But I definitely see a risk ( not without reason) of walking along a dark highway and standing in an empty , dark parking lot alone. If we lived in town, if she had friends to walk with, if it was broad daylight, she’d be walking every day. Unfortunately, to me, the risk outweighs the benefits.

  5. Vicki Bradley October 17, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    Josh and MS, the difference between you two and helicopter parents is that you have weighed the risks and benefits of allowing your children to deal with walking along/crossing streets in your neighbourhood, therefore it is completely valid for you to come to a conclusion that it is not safe and make a decision based on the facts. On the contrary, helicopter parents would automatically say no to engaging in that activity, as well as many other activities that allow a child to become more independent, as a knee-jerk reaction, and not because they’ve looked at all the facts, then weighed the pros and cons of letting their child engage in whatever activity it is.

  6. Avin October 17, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    “It not only proved in my mind I was incapable of facing life, it even made me doubt my sanity.”

    This hit home for me sooo hard! I’ll be 30 in December and I feel like my parents instilled in me the idea that I couldn’t get through life with out hand-holding. They never encouraged me to go off to college, only local ones where I would continue living with them. Perhaps this is why I rebelled and stupidly got married to a toxic guy at 18. Only now that i was able to finish college living on my own, as a single mom and found my way into a healthy, stable marriage, do I finally feel that I have “permission” to make life choices myself. I’m not sure if that makes any sense to other people, but I always felt like I couldn’t be trusted to make my own choices, so when I did, they were often bad, rebellion fueled ones.

  7. Maggie in VA October 17, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

    I was aware of the phenomenon of helicopter parents before I had kids, but I really didn’t understand how much of the trend is driven by the increasing restrictions placed on children and the increasing demands on parental time till my kids attended public school. The school seems to assume that I’m interested in every moment of my kids’ day at school and they send home lots of materials to ensure that the school day doesn’t end just because they’ve, uh, left school. I know some schools in this area don’t allow kids to bike to school. Agree, with Josh that I will have to be more conservative about allowing my kids freedom to roam as I live on a street with no sidewalks and copious SUVs. Still, I plan to let my kids walk to school in second grade now that the town has put a 3-way stop at a troublesome intersection that used to have a crossing guard, which was cut. If that raises a few eyebrows among the neighbors, I won’t be surprised. When I put on a form that my kids were now allowed to walk home from the bus stop, which is around the corner from our home, the school called to verify that I meant to check that box.

  8. Joel October 17, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    You want to know what happens to kids that have helicopter parents. In my case my mom was over protective and dad enforced her wishes. At 10 the farthest I was allowed to go was across the street to park, meal attendance was mandatory and until I left for basic training my curfew was 8:30 pm , 365 days a year. Now add to this dad was a WW2 Marine, open your mouth and it would get nailed shut. So what is the result, learning to make good choices, over thinking and over cautiousness, the solitude causes other problems. That’s just some of it.

  9. Backroads October 17, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    We live on a fairly busy street. I’m actually hoping to get my three-year-old busy-street-savvy. We are outside as we speak.

  10. Mrs. H. October 17, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    Josh, we have exactly the same issue, living in Brooklyn. I have emphasized to my daughter that it’s not that I don’t trust HER, it’s totally that I don’t trust the drivers, who almost never defer to pedestrians when they are supposed to. She’s eight and is now allowed out alone on limited errands and to go to the library for an hour and is soon to start walking home from the school bus alone (yay, school, for allowing it! For years I anticipated a fight!), and honestly I would sooner have her ask some skeevy-looking guy at the corner to hold her hand and walk her across than trust someone trying to make a left-turn not to run her over in his or her hurry to get who knows where. I can’t make her a shut-in to protect her, but living in a very safe place at the very safest time in human history, traffic is almost the only thing I EVER worry about when it comes to her protection.

  11. Donald Christensen October 17, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    I Love It!

    We need more people to come forward. For decades we’ve been focusing so intently on kidnapping, pedophiles, and traffic, that people acted as if that these are the only dangers that existed! They aren’t. There are other dangers that are thousands of times more likely to happen as pointed out in this letter.

    “It not only proved in my mind I was incapable of facing life, it even made me doubt my sanity.”

    “…my parents instilled in me the idea that I couldn’t get through life with out hand-holding.”

    “I finally feel that I have “permission” to make life choices myself.”

  12. Anna October 17, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

    “This is going to be a hard one for me when my kids get older. We live in a city with a lot of very reckless drivers, about 40 people are killed annually here in a population of less than 1 million.”

    I hear you, absolutely! We now live in the Denver area, where almost no drivers come to a full stop before turning on red or at a stop sign. Pedestrians are such a rarity here that only a tiny percentage of drivers even think to check before swinging right through their turn. I’m already teaching my 4-year-old son: “Never assume the driver will stop – don’t step off the sidewalk before making eye contact.”

    But even so, it’s hard to know how to handle such an anti-pedestrian culture. Even spots in my town that should be supremely kid-friendly, like the public library, aren’t – the parking lot is set up such that there’s no path from the sidewalk of the street to the doors of the library that doesn’t involve crossing a parking lot traffic-lane set up such that drivers swing through it at 20 or 30 mph. My son has unusually good sense for his age, but the traffic is so bad, I just can’t see how he could possibly predict it, even with careful training.

    Those of you on the east coast – just thank your lucky stars you don’t live in the west, where city planners care only for motorists, at the expense of everybody else!

  13. John S Green October 17, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

    It begins at birth—at least when the baby begins to crawl—from the perspective of the parents allowing the child to explore. But I will say that a parent can get into the mindset before the crawling stage respecting the babies curiosity—which at that stage is mainly the eyes observing life. Many parents don’t observe what the baby is so intent on and move the baby along to the convience of the parent. I witnessed, at a park on our bay, a baby staring with awe at a man in a kayak with total concentration. The mother, oblivious to her child’s intense focus, turns the carrige around and walks away. The egalitarian parent would notice the babies eyes rivited on the kayak and use it as a conversational learning point—or better yet—remain silent until the baby itself was finished with its fascination.

  14. Anna October 17, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    “It begins at birth—at least when the baby begins to crawl—from the perspective of the parents allowing the child to explore.”

    Yes, very true. A lot of parents today don’t let kids crawl or even walk on their own much any more. We have a neighbor with a 3-year-old I thought had a crippling condition until a few weeks ago, when she started at the same preschool my son attends: until then, I’d never seen her outside of a stroller or backpack. I assumed she couldn’t walk; turns out, her parents were just too impatient to ever let her go anywhere on her own steam.

  15. bmommyx2 October 17, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

    It’s nice to see the perspective of the child & it would be interesting to hear more after stories. I have to admit even though I am most definitely not a helicopter parent & I was a freerange child of the 70s I also think it’s important to know the individual child. My kids are not like I was at their age. My boys 5 & 10 are very distracted & don’t pay a lot of attention. They don’t typically cross the street on their own, but it’s not something I have restricted. We live within a small group of home with lots of kids & culdesacs so they don’t really need to cross the street on their own (the little ones with no traffic don’t count). There is a park near by, but I haven’t felt comfortable letting them go on their own & they haven’t expressed the desire. They do roam the neighborhood & go freely from home to home with the other neighborhood kids or play in the street in front of our house. If they are gone an extra long time I send out text to the other parents to send them home. When we go out & my kids want something I do encourage them to ask for themselves. My boys tend to be reserved & it’s not always easy to get them to do that. I love the school project & will share with our school

  16. bmommyx2 October 17, 2016 at 8:59 pm #

    I have always told my boys the reason they need to hold my hand crossing the street or a parking lot is because they are small & the drivers can’t see them & some don’t always pay attention to where they are going. Some towns are definitely more pedestrian friendly than others & even some areas of town. I would love to let my kids walk to school. I’ve even tried to walk with them to the bus, but we are not morning people & they are dawdlers, we were late to school each time & the afternoons can be too hot. I definitely agree with the comments about weighing the risk & helicopter or freerange sometime more supervision is required it’s the thinking about it & weighing the risk part that separates the two.

  17. HW October 17, 2016 at 10:06 pm #

    THE KIDS WILL BE FINE.

    Helicoptered, free-range, or in between. They’ll be fine.

  18. Art October 18, 2016 at 6:44 am #

    @HW,

    The problem is that they are not “fine”. If you work with kids, there’s a undercurrent of fear and low self esteem. They cannot think for themselves, they are beyond stressed out, they have no survival or problem solving skills and that’s the just the tip of the iceberg. They are afraid to take risks.

  19. BMS October 18, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    We live on a VERY busy street. We have seen at least 5 accidents from our living room windows in the years we have lived here, and a whole lot of near misses. So we taught our kids to safely cross this street starting in Kindergarten. When they were little, we made them walk down the block to the corner, hit the walk light, and cross there. As they got older, we taught them where to look when crossing the street right in front of our house, to notice when the light was red up the street, etc. My friends all thought I was nuts, but my opinion was that either they could be trapped on an island, or learn to swim.

    Fast forward a bunch of years, and now my oldest is learning to drive. I am deliberately finding tricky intersections to guide him through (this is Massachusetts – we have cornered the market on stupid intersections). Sure, I could keep him away from those, but he’s never going to learn how to negotiate a rotary, or a 5- way poorly marked intersection without just doing it. Backing out onto our busy street without running over the shrubbery or getting t-boned is a challenge. But I made him start doing it about 1 week into his driving adventure, because if he can’t get out of the driveway, he’s stuck. If we want our kids to be safe, we need to expose them to opportunities to practice being safe.

  20. Jessica October 18, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    You must raise your children exactly as I see fit. If you deviate, you are dooming them to be forever damaged.

    –from the Helicopter community AND the free-range community

  21. Stacey Gordon October 18, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    ” It’s not that I don’t trust my children it’s that I don’t trust the drivers in this city to bother stopping at stop signs.”

    which is why you teach them to look both ways, and not “trust” that just because there is a stop sign, or a red light etc… that it means the cars will stop. You have to WATCH the car, and make sure it does. Having the right of way is all well and good, but it does not actually force a vehicle to stop. We all must be vigilant. If they never learn how to cross a street as kids, what kind of mentality do you think they will into their driving years?

  22. bob magee October 18, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    @Jessica

    Free range philosophy means parents decide – not the state or the community.

    Not allow your child to leave your yard until they are 16 – YOUR call

    Sending your child out on public transportation at 10 – YOUR call

    Free range means parents have the FREEdom to determine the RANGE of their child’s capabilities

  23. Lele October 18, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    I’m 35 and I thank God I escaped the helicopter parenting era. I work with a few people in their early 20’s, and it’s amazing comparing myself at that age to them. Some call to check in (literally) with mom on a break. One told me she doesn’t drive because her mom’s rule before she can get her drivers license is to take 2 driving classes (she’s 20). I also notice lack of social skills – the awkward exchanges and conversations, not being able to read and understand the facial cues of others (which causes a lot of problems at work with customers and fellow employees), ect. Which is stuff you learn as a kid during play.

    Although I was not helicoptered as a child, when I was pregnant, my mom suddenly went nuts and started to hover. My dad did too when my daughter was born. A bit normal I’m sure, but I found it intolerable and insulting. I felt like they thought I was suddenly stupid. Anyways, I put a end to that real fast. And even though it was very short lived, and I know it was out of love and a first time grandparents craze, it did cause damage between my parents and I. I can only imagine how these people that are raised full time like this feel.

  24. James Pollock October 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    “Free range philosophy means parents decide – not the state or the community.”

    Not quite. It means the kids decide, within the limits set by parents (and others), and parents (and others) respect their choices.

  25. James Pollock October 18, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    “I’m 35 and I thank God I escaped the helicopter parenting era.”

    There were helicopter parents before you were born, and there will still be helicopter parents after you leave this Earth.

  26. Tammyohio October 18, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

    We moved from a cul de sac community to a small town in Ohio with the goal of living within walking distance of our kids’ (3) first job. It has given our children a sense of independence and now their friends come over to “walk to town”. Our goal has been to raise independent young adults and allow them to make mistakes while they’re under our roof. As they prove themselves, they have more responsibilities (dishes, laundry, cooking, lawn, garbage) and more freedom (walk to town with older sibling, stay home alone while we’re at local restaurant, give them $200 instead of paying for ski club, allowing them to decide how to use that money). It’s so rewarding to see them learn, grow and accomplish on their own, knowing we’re here if they need us. It’s great to know there’s a whole community of parents trying to do the same! Thank you!

  27. Lele October 19, 2016 at 5:28 am #

    @James Pollack – apparently I should have been overly specific. By commenting “I’m 35 and I thank God I escaped the helicopter parenting era.” was in reference too how the style of helicopter parenting dominated and became a way of life, more so than in any other time, in my late childhood (I’m sorry I don’t have exact dates to when the craze became common, the early 90’s perhaps) and am grateful and feel lucky to have escaped being raised like that just by a few years. I am well aware there have always been and always will be “helicopter parents”. But there was a time when it was not so prevalent.

    And, James really? – “Free range philosophy means parents decide – not the state or the community.”

    “Not quite. It means the kids decide, within the limits set by parents (and others), and parents (and others) respect their choices”

    Can anyone have a thought without the “helicopter comment corrector” jumping in to nit pick because he can’t read between the lines or get the gist of someone’s comment? Geez. Enough already.

  28. Lele October 19, 2016 at 5:48 am #

    @again James Pollock, before you comment to correct me on the spelling of your last name in my comment, that was my auto correct changing it to Pollack. I realize it is Pollock. No need to go on yet another pointless correction, in attempts to feel however giving pointless corrections make you feel.

  29. James Pollock October 19, 2016 at 6:05 am #

    “By commenting “I’m 35 and I thank God I escaped the helicopter parenting era.” was in reference too how the style of helicopter parenting dominated and became a way of life, more so than in any other time”

    Oh.

    In that case, you’re still wrong.
    You’re noticing something does not mean that it is new.

    “there was a time when it was not so prevalent.”
    What time was that? Because I am older than you, and helicopter parenting style was common back then, too. (Yes, you get all the people *here* remembering their own “free-range” childhoods so favorably… but that’s because the people who didn’t grow up that way aren’t here.)

    “And, James really?”
    Yes, really.

    “James Pollock, before you comment to correct me on the spelling of your last name in my comment, that was my auto correct changing it to Pollack. I realize it is Pollock. No need to go on yet another pointless correction, in attempts to feel however giving pointless corrections make you feel.”

    I see you’ve already gotten bored whining about things I say, and you’ve decided to start pre-complaining about things I didn’t.
    You’re like Trump, already complaing about losing the election.

  30. bob magee October 19, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    of course there were always helicopter parents – it is just that the term was not in vogue until late ’80’s/early ’90’s. The 1st mention appears to be in 1969 (Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers), but obviously the style existed before the term.

    I am probably amongst the oldest regular readers of this blog (born in mid 1950’s) and can assure you that helicopter parenting existed during those years.

    The difference? Not the norm. So much so that those kids who had hovering parents stood out (and, frankly, would be made fun of by the rest of us. Kids can be pretty crappy in their behavior).

  31. Sarah Trachtenberg October 19, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    I have a bigger question about helicoptered kids turning into adults: What will the world be like when helicoptered kids become adults? How will they navigate the world? Will they turn out all right in spite of everything? If a generation of people haven’t been taught basic life skills, and have been wrapped in bubble wrap for their entire childhoods, will society just crumble in a weird way?
    BTW, I’m only 37, but I find this “hyper-parenting” trend very disturbing. When I was a kid, I never saw this kind of thing, ever, and that wasn’t that long ago. What a difference a single generation makes. If I had known parents like this as a kid, people would have said, “They certainly keep Junior on a very short leash!”
    I really did live in a “bad” neighborhood growing up (high crime by US standards, not by war-torn Somalia standards) and I really was allowed to play outside by myself. Nothing bad happened. Strangers even asked me for directions and such. That was OK back then. These are a few observations I could make, but there are many more!

  32. Lele October 19, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    @Bob Magee – ” I am probably amongst the oldest regular readers of this blog (born in mid 1950’s) and can assure you that helicopter parenting existed during those years.

    The difference? Not the norm. So much so that those kids who had hovering parents stood out (and, frankly, would be made fun of by the rest of us. Kids can be pretty crappy in their behavior).”

    Exactly, it was NOT the norm. Thank you! In my first post I said that I barely escaped the “helicopter parenting era” ( I got a comment because someone didn’t understand what I meant ) so I further explained that by “the helicopter parenting era” I meant it just wasn’t so prevalent, of course it’s always been around, the craze just hadn’t gone full norm until the early 90’s . But hey, I was still wrong according to that person. But generally so is everyone on here according to him. Thanks again.

  33. James Pollock October 19, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    “The difference? Not the norm. So much so that those kids who had hovering parents stood out”

    So… basically the same as now, and every period in between.

  34. James Pollock October 19, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    ” In my first post I said that I barely escaped the ‘helicopter parenting era’”

    OK, fine, the fact that you weren’t “helicopter parented” was because of the precise second you were born, and not because your parents just didn’t have any helicopter tendencies.
    Apparently, you have poor opinions of your parents, since you believe that had you been born just a few minutes later, they would have caved in to peer pressure and raised you helicopter-style.

  35. Lele October 19, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

    “OK, fine, the fact that you weren’t “helicopter parented” was because of the precise second you were born, and not because your parents just didn’t have any helicopter tendencies.
    Apparently, you have poor opinions of your parents, since you believe that had you been born just a few minutes later, they would have caved in to peer pressure and raised you helicopter-style.”

    Mr. Pollock, do you want me to say your right? FINE. Your right about everything.You feel better?

    So there’s no use in me breaking it down for you anymore, or pointing out anything that has ever been researched about why or how parents fall into this parenting trap. Or point out the endless topics on this site about the topic. Or bring up any of my experiences, because I’m out in the world and very observant. Because regardless of anything, you are just going to argue and attack and belittle until…well I imagine u can go on forever until you have the last word or are told you are right.

  36. James Pollock October 20, 2016 at 2:56 am #

    “Because regardless of anything, you are just going to argue and attack and belittle until…well I imagine u can go on forever until you have the last word or are told you are right.”

    Whereas you felt a need to keep going even after that. Why is that?