Helicopter, Lawnmower, or Free Range – What type of Mom are you?

There is no surprise that in society, today, people have come up with terms to describe different types of moms in relation to how protective or unprotective of their children they are. What is surprising is how extreme these terms are and even more surprising is how extreme these moms truly are. Of course, it is essential to protect children, but at what expense do mothers go to? There should be a middle ground and a more balanced approach to protecting children.

The first extreme is a Helicopter Mother. This is a mother that ‘hovers’ over her children continually. She not only makes sure her children are safe at all times, but she does not give them room to breathe let alone let them learn how to function for themselves. She does everything for them. Sally finishes eating her sandwich and mom takes her to the bathroom, helps her wash her hands (because there is no way Sally can do a satisfactory job washing her hands at 5 years old) and finishes it off by wiping Sally’s little mouth. Now Sally is 10 years old and Mom is still helping her get dressed, bathe and doing her homework. How will Sally ever learn to do things on her own?

"MOM! I don't need your help. I'm a big girl now."

Next there is the Lawnmower Mother. Many times the Helicopter Mother turns into a Lawnmower Mother. By definition, a Lawnmower Mother is a mom who attempts to mow down all obstacles on behalf of her child. When her child is young, she tries to control the child’s friendships, choices and activities. As the child grows, she regularly makes stops at her child’s school to correct the child’s teachers in their erroneous ways. When the child goes off to college, mom is there to tell her what classes to take and to make sure things go smoothly. Many times these mothers interfere with their children’s places of work even after they have graduated and moved out on their own. The Lawnmower Mother does not let her children experience things for themselves, nor does she let them handle life’s experiences. One of two things ends up happening; either the child gets to a place where she has had enough and puts her mother in her place (which many times does not end well), or the child becomes extremely socially inept and is in constant need of mommy’s help.

Lastly is a newer mothering style. This is the Free Range Mom. Free Range Mom was a term started when a mother in New York City was ridiculed for allowing her 9 year old son to ride the subway alone. In this case, I have decided not to judge this woman. Honestly I cannot fairly establish an objective opinion on this situation. I am not from New York City. I do not ride the subway daily and I have not experienced raising children in this environment. If I lived in that environment, I may think that my mature son would be capable of doing that too. I also may feel like it was safe and not a problem. However, I live in a smaller area and honestly the thought of my children, even at the oldest age of 11, riding a subway alone seems a little much.

The goal of a Free Range Mom is to raise safe, self-reliant children without fear. Treat children as intelligent young people and train them to be able to handle things themselves. As they show that they are responsible, let them go out on their own and prove it. Now some of the ideas and suggestions are a little much for me, but that is all a matter of opinion. I do however, feel like out of these three mothering types, I am a Free Range Mom. Although I set boundaries and I do not let my 7 year old go ride the public bus alone, I do allow my children (all four of them or combinations of two or more) to walk up to our neighborhood park alone and play. I give them time restrictions and I keep close tabs on them. In fact, the first few times that we allowed them to “go to the park alone,” my husband followed behind them without them knowing. He watched them the whole time waiting to see how they handled everything. They did not talk to strangers. They all stayed together. Most importantly, the children followed our instructions and were timely in checking in. All of this builds trust. It has built trust for us in that our children are responsible and it has built confidence in the kids.

Whether you are a Helicopter, a Lawnmower or a Free Ranger, there is a balance that needs to be found. Figure out what type of mom you are. Once you have figured that out then find a way to better yourself in order to better your children.

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7 Responses to “Helicopter, Lawnmower, or Free Range – What type of Mom are you?”

  • Lance o Lot:

    bumper stickers such as “My kid’s an honour student at Cow Pie High” are not brags about the children; their brags about the wonderful driver of that Minivan or Tahoe and what a wonderful job she did raising the world’s best kids. My contemporaries are raising the worst generation of selfish, unmotivated morons this country has ever seen. Since they are handed everything mommy and daddy can buy them, they never learn the value of money. Heck, most kids today never get a job until they’re in their 20’s.

    I laugh as I drive past all of the elementary schools these days and see the long lines of mommies parked out front to either drop off or pick up their homour roll kiddies so that the poor little tykes don’t have to walk the 500 yards home. Then those same mommies vote for politicians who promise to “do something” about childhood obesity.

  • Jolene:

    Gradually. That’s how I prepare them. And yes, I do prepare them. I choose not to “lean” towards any label. I watch/educate my kids and ensure that they are capable and ABLE to make the correct decisions before I cut them loose. Perhaps 30 years ago “Free Range” would have made more sense to me, but now it just seems dangerous. I want them to live to be responsible adults. From what you have mentioned in your blog, you have several neighbors that are less than neighborly. There is a difference between preparing children for the real world, and throwing them to the lions.

    • Jolene, I find it interesting that you mention that “perhaps 30 years go Free Range would have made more sense,” did you know that crime is actually much lower than it was 30 years ago. And I agree, I don’t just throw our children out to the wolves, we are preparing them as well, however, it would seem like we are giving them more freedom than you choose to do with your children. I suppose we just feel like our children are ready for the opportunities we allow them.

      Just as a side note we only have one troublesome neighbor, the other group moved in and out quite quickly. Most people have a little trash in the neighborhoods, it is just whether they chose to pay attention to it or ignore it. Also our nasty neighbor, sticks to himself most of the time and we have dealt with him.

      • Jolene:

        Not sure where you are getting your stats, but I would suppose it would depend on where you live. You are correct about every parent being different. I like how you say “I suppose we feel like our children are ready for the opportunities we allow them”. Good to know that your kids are ready for the real world at such a young age. I don’t disagree with preparing children for the outside world; however, I do want to educate them before I send them out there with nothing more than a cell phone. We will just have to agree to disagree.

        • You can find the statistics I am referring to on the FBI’s website. Violent crimes (as well as all other crime) continually grew in number in the 1970’s and the peaked in the late 1980’s through 1992. The crime rate has dropped considerably since and continues to decline today.

          I hope you know I am not arguing the point that my way of parenting is the only way, I know that every parent is different and makes the choices they feel are best for their children. There are huge numbers of parents that support “Free Range” parenting and there are a huge number of “Helicopter” parents, it is all a matter of opinion. I think that you and I are much closer in our ways of parenting than you think because I too agree that children need to be educated before sending them out. However, at this time I think my children are more ready to handle that then you apparently think yours are.

          Ultimately it is irrelevant because you will do as you see fit and I will do as I see fit. Differences of opinion creates a world full of diverse people. Life would not be nearly as fun if everyone were to agree on everything.

  • Jolene:

    So apparently you are saying that “Free Range” is the ‘right’ way? Hardly. How many times have you seen where children were taken by sexual predators…and it didn’t matter if they were in pairs? NO WAY would I let my kids walk to the park alone. While I don’t consider myself to be a “helecopter” or “lawnmower” or whatever, I like to think that my kids are safe, even while they are encouraged to think for themselves. There are more than three ways to parent.

    • Actually as I say in the beginning of this blog, all of these titles are a bit extreme, but out of the three I would lean toward “Free Range”. For the record our neighborhood park is less than half a block from my house, actually it is 6 homes away. Our oldest son is in 6th grade and just a little over two years away from High School. We would never send our 7 and 8 year olds alone, however teaching our older two boys to be responsible young men (who carry a cell phone to the park, or a friends house or anywhere they may go unaccompanied for a very short and limited amount of time) is one of the ways we are allowing them to grow up. This is not something we frequently allow, it is just one of the many ways we are preparing our children for the real world. A world outside of mommy and daddy.

      Every parent is different. I am curious, how do you prepare your children for the real world?

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