I took a quiz last week about parenting styles. There were four different types of “moms” described: 1) the “tiger” mom, one who strives for success and high achievement in her child, 2) the “attachment” mom, who encourages inter-dependence between the parent and child, 3) the “helicopter” mom, who regularly “hovers” over her child, and 4) the “free range” mom, who encourages self-confidence through independence.
First, let me start off by saying that none of these parenting styles, in my opinion, is “wrong” or “bad.” I believe most parents strive to do their best for their child, and that the most effective parenting style comes about organically. If you as a parent do not feel comfortable with a certain parenting style, it is never going to work for you.
I have friends who fall into each of these categories. And, I admire traits in each of their parenting styles. I am, however, most comfortable around my mom friends who have the same style as I do. That’s probably only natural.
I am a “free range” mom.
I’ve known this for a while, although others have referred to it as “natural consequences” parenting, or even “laissez-faire” parenting. One dear friend even told me I was the most “lax” parent she knew.
I’m still not quite sure how to take that one.
This is not a style that set out to wear, it just kind of developed over the last six years of being a mom. It’s a little ironic, because in many areas of my life, I have a Type A personality. But, when it comes to being a mom, I let go of a lot of control. I allow my kids to have a long leash. From a pedagogical perspective, I recognize I’m not raising kids. I’m raising adults. For me, the goal of childhood is to raise well-mannered, God-fearing, respectful, responsible, and functioning contributors to society.
That means that I need to allow them to do things on their own. A lot of things. I need to trust them. I need to trust myself that I’ve equipped them with the tools to be successful. They need to try. They need to fail. Then, they need to gain the confidence to try again, or, to learn to not do something again, as the case may be.
Some examples of this are that I encourage my kids to do things for themselves. They want a sandwich? They make it. They want to play at a friend’s house? They go knock on their door. They wake up before us on a Saturday morning? They entertain themselves. They want to run around outside in bare feet and play in the mud puddles? Have at it. They break a toy because they were playing with it too rough? It goes in the garbage. They want to climb up the slide (despite numerous cautions that it is dangerous to do that), and they slip and get a bloody nose? I have a tissue.
Sure, this parenting style may have led to a few more scrapes, bruises, and trips to the ER than other kids, but I’m ok with that.
I’m ok with it because I’ve also regularly been told that my kids are very independent and self-confident. I am proud of that.
I think the natural criticism of this parenting style is that it is negligent or, worse, dangerous.
I see that, but I’m not a Pollyanna. I know we live in a world where kids get kidnapped, strangers carry knives, and cars drive too fast.
I have a dear friend who I would also classify as a “free range” mom, and her style, quite frankly, scares me. I would even go so far as to say that I am a little nervous whenever she watches my kids without me. But, I will also say that her kids are even more self-confident and independent than my own, and I admire her for that. She is raising good adults.
Because I am not naïve to the world in which we live, so I take on traits of a “helicopter” mom or an “attachment” mom when it is appropriate. For the first two weeks Brae started kindergarten, I secretly followed his school bus in my car, and tip-toed behind him to his classroom, to make sure he got there ok. Every night, I stay up after my kids have gone to sleep to make sure they put themselves to bed ok, and haven’t fallen asleep on the floor (which has happened). When they walk over to a neighbor’s house, I text the neighbor before they arrive to let me know they made it safely.
This is just responsible parenting.
And, regardless of your parenting style, if your child feels safe, loved, and is entrusted to a responsible adult, I’m pretty confident they will turn out just fine.