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why helicopter parents spy on kids

Why Helicopter Parents Choose to Hover

My hubby and I have lived under the constant scrutiny of a nation that does not understand our parenting style. Not only don’t they understand, but many of them don’t even care to try. Just like the extra effort needed to stay involved in their children’s lives, it isn’t easy, but so worth it.

free range parents vs helicopter parent

We don’t bash other parenting styles, so please don’t bash ours

Please don’t misunderstand and think that we intend to bash those parenting styles that don’t mimic our own, we don’t. The truth is that we feel everyone has a right to decide what works best for their family. Children prosper when they are part of a tight knit family that recognizes their importance to the family unit and humanity. Regardless of your parenting style choices, the most important thing to remember is that we are all doing what we feel is best.

Yes, helicopter parenting can be exhausting

As helicopter parents, we take great pride in attending to our daughter’s every need. The amount of involvement hasn’t lessened as she’s grown, it’s just changed. Gone are the days where we pick out her clothing, carry her to and from school, and schedule her play dates. Now it’s driving her back and forth to the mall, helping her complete homework assignments and explaining appropriate behavior when hanging out with friends.

Staying involved in all aspects of your children’s lives is exhausting, heart wrenching, difficult and (feel free to insert your own adjective). Let me also suggest loving, caring and rewarding. As parents, we want the best for our children. As helicopter parents, we know the best for our children is our guidance, protective nature and willingness to share our life experiences. We don’t just tell them what is expected, we show them, we make sure it is done and we discuss how they handled the situation.

This differs from the lenient or “free range” style, which promotes parent’s freedom from worry as children navigate life. Just as we seem overprotective and lingering to these parents, helicopter parents often feel others are neglectful, dangerous and risky. In most instances the tasks are the same; however the way we allow these tasks to be accomplished is very different.


Helicopter parents are often described as over-parenting their children by paying extremely close attention; harming them in the process. Excuse me but aren’t we supposed to know what goes on in our children’s lives? If hovering over our children is so wrong, then why do many children feel the need to attract attention from parents with our style? We believe it’s because they aren’t getting it at home. Not because they aren’t loved, they are, but their parents feel that children will succeed in raising themselves and trust their limited words are enough guidance.

Differences between free range parenting and helicopter parenting

Free range parents believe that the trials and tribulations of daily life build character in their sons and daughters and asking them to deal with whatever comes, is simply part of the learning process. In contrast, we believe we have valuable knowledge to impart on our children. Why should they suffer through the issues that are bound to come without being taught what to do?

Why helicopter parenting doesn’t harm our children

We disagree that helicopter parenting harms our children. Our teenage daughter is a happy, healthy, kind person that enjoys a wonderful relationship with her parents and extended family. At a time when most children her age aren’t even speaking to their parents, we have retained a close loving bond. She has been catered to in all aspects of her life and knows without a shadow of a doubt, her entire family supports her. Admittedly, this support is unsolicited on her part and offered whether she asked for it or not. We truly believe that she has been able to better handle situations because we had ingrained them in her from the start.


She never had to be afraid to come to us to discuss controversial topics or when she was having an issue with friends. She did not have to learn what to do by asking her peers; clearly not the best choice with teenagers. Things are not always smooth, particularly as she grows and we head into more serious topics such as driving and sex, however she knows that she can rely on us to be there. As she matures, she approaches less and less; we view this as success on our part. She obviously has the tools necessary to circumvent precarious situations.

We have always behaved respectfully toward our daughter and other children (yes we hover over them too) and allowed her to maintain dignity; a truth that most naysayers forget when they are condemning our parenting style. We have not restricted her right to be a kid or hampered her free will in anyway, just added an extra layer of protection as she bounded through life. She does not fear taking chances, speaking with adults, or standing up for her beliefs. She understands the risks involved in some activities and remembers to remain vigilant.

In short, she was not left to raise herself while we stood on the sidelines and hoped for the best. We made a conscious choice to involve ourselves in her world, ignoring the criticism and teasing of parents that don’t understand our choices, and we wouldn’t change a thing. Kids grow up all too soon, let’s step back, enjoy every second with them, and not be so fast to push them into this great big world alone.

C. Lee Reed

C. Lee Reed hopes to change the world's perception of helicopter parenting by proving that no harms comes to children whose parents hover. You can stay highly involved in your children’s lives and still maintain a happy, healthy, loving connection.
Follow C. Lee on:
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  • This caught my eye because as a parent coach who uses parenting styles assessments, I often see articles like this one. Many of the readers mentioned “I think of myself as in between the two” and I just wanted to share that you most likely align with an authoritative parenting style as opposed to authoritarian or permissive. In fact the writer appears to as well to a large degree. Helicopter, Free Range, Tiger, etc. are terms that unfortunately emerged in recent years without any research to back them up. However, there is a lot showing being too controlling and overbearing stifles most kids. I encourage anyone who is interested in parenting styles to look into the three I mentioned. There’s about 50 years of findings that kids of parents who practice the authoritative style have the most positive outcomes across the board.

  • We are highly involved with our boys-we attend everything together for them unless work keeps us. The only issues we have are jealousys from my step boys Mom trying to make us look bad to the boys while I agree our parenting is the best, supportive way for them to grow and trust

  • I am in the middle too. I call my parenting style attachment parenting. I nursed on demand, let the kids sleep with me when they wanted, never let them cry it out….as they get older, I am still very involved in their lives, but I have learned to trust their judgment as well.

  • I tend to be a mix of both. I am proactive when it comes to talking to my kids about things. I will investigate in a heart beat. I tend to always find out what my kids do. I keep tabs of their friends ect. I plan on encouraging my kids to stay close to me for college.

  • After hearing your approach on helicopter parenting I probably identify more with this style of parenting than any. Free range, I just don’t understand entirely, but I get parts of it. I think you’ve approached this topic in the right way without bashing the other side at all. I now have a new found respect for helicopter parenting….I’m probably one of them and don’t even realize it.

  • I am what is considered a helicopter parent and my ex is a free range. That could be one reason I am divorced. lol My kids have told me that they like to be told what they are doing wrong and they don’t like that their dad don’t tell them. Mom wins. Thanks for sharing.

  • I guess, the way of parenting differs based on each person’s mentality. I would say kids definitely need to learn on their own & with some mistake they might end up having some worthy life lessons to move on.

  • I do not agree with the chart when it comes to free range parenting, what you’re describing sounds more like neglectful parenting. Any free range parents I know started out as attachment parenting parents, who definitely didn’t let their babies cry it out. Also, I don’t think the free range parents think middle school is too young for a sex talk, that seems way more like a helicopter parent’s view. I don’t hover over my children, nor am I neglectful. I think it’s important for my children to learn for themselves. My mother was a helicopter and it felt smothering. I married way too young to get away from her. My kids know they can come to me and ask anything, and I help them, but I am so proud when they forge their own path and make decisions for themselves. Children learn so much better by experiencing the world than having their parents do everything for them.

  • If I had to label myself, I guess I would be considered a Helicopter Parent by many. While I like to give my kids a little bit of space and the opportunity to learn from mistakes and risks, I also keep a close distance out of love and caring. Parenting is a job I take very seriously.

  • I am somewhere in the middle of the two styles. My husband definitely helicopters and I think there are times you should watch them extra closely – just have to pick and choose.

  • Yep I admit it I am a helicopter mom and I have been teased about it too. As my kids are getting older I try to give a bit more space but it is a scary world and at times I think they need me to be a helicopter mom for now.

  • You sound like good parents, but not true helicopter parents. That label is for parents who never let their children experience disappointment, will take extreme measures to make sure their children always get what they want. The kids end up feeling incapable because the adults always decide for them.
    It’s an extreme. Good parenting is a balance of holding on and letting go. Helicopter parenting results in a twenty-something who feels entitled, incompetent, and unable to bounce back from disappointment.

    • Yes, agreed. We mostly identify with helicopters and loved the moniker but we are definitely not the extreme versions that have been shown in the media. No stalking our daughter through the windows! It is really all about the proper balance of teaching what’s right and then trusting they’ve heard you. Thanks so much for the comment!

    • Saidah, do you feel most overprotective of the younger kids or of the females? I would imagine that it’s easier to “let go” with the older children.

  • I think I’m in the middle. I’m both to a point I guess, but I’m not as bad as most. haha. I watch my kids, I get involved, but I don’t interfere. If that makes sense.

  • I think that my parents struck the right balance of keeping tabs on me and being involved, while allowing me to develop as an individual. People definitely have strong opinions on this both ways!

    • I was definitely raised free range. Of course, we didn’t call it that. Not only did I run everywhere with my parents blessing but usually I had my little sister with me. I can just not imagine doing that with my kid. It’s interesting to me that I’m so different and I do attribute it to hearing so much “tragedy” in the media. I don’t think our parents had to have 24/7 news in their face. Times have changed.

  • I think I’m somewhere in the middle. As babies and toddlers, I attend to every need. As they grow older, I do like to let them explore and assert independence as often as possible, but I’ll always guide them.

    • That sounds like me – I fall somewhere in the middle. I am over protective, but also like them to be able to be independent.

  • I agree with Robin… I would say that I am a responsible parent but I let them explore the world around them. Everything is age appropriate without going overboard.
    I let my 8 and 10 year old go to the playground down the street or ride their bikes behind our house but they are older and responsible. We taught them to be safe and smart.

  • There is a difference between being a helicopter parent, who micromanages every second of their child’s life and allows for no independence and self-confidence building, and simple being engaged. There is also a difference between being a Free Range parent and being flaky and neglectful. Free range parents are usually petty engaged in their lives in my experience, and helicopter parents can be flaky and neglectful of their kids’ genuine needs.

    I nursed my daughter and walk her home from school every day, asking her how her day was. I also let her walk to the playground down the block from our house by herself, do her homework by herself and give her the room I think she needs to make mistakes and learn from them. I think most parents strive for that middle ground, wanting to be around to guide and nurture our kids while giving room for their independence and self-reliance to flourish. What label would you give us?

    If you actually were a helicopter parent— I don’t think you are— it wouldn’t be something to be proud of. I really don’t understand the need to right such a self-righteous post about being your average engaged parent– no more, no less. I also don’t get why you feel the need to be so completely judgmental (despite your token disclaimer up top) about free range parenting, which I don’t think you really understand either.

  • I watch my kids very closely, but I don’t think I am a helicopter parent. Maybe a little over protective, though?

    • I think it’s natural to want to be protective. Encouraging them to ask questions and giving them access to information was always helpful so they could make informed decisions in school when we weren’t there to help them.

About Author

C. Lee Reed

C. Lee Reed hopes to change the world's perception of helicopter parenting by proving that no harms comes to children whose parents hover. You can stay highly involved in your children’s lives and still maintain a happy, healthy, loving connection.
Follow C. Lee on:
Facebook | Twitter | Google + | Pinterest