“Parents investigated for neglect after letting kids walk home alone.” A recent, local event quickly created a national debate about two purported extremes of parenting: “free range parenting” and “helicopter parenting.” Since Fairhaven School has been designed to foster independence in its young people since we opened in 1998, we have followed this debate with interest.
On the one hand, we see the growing tendencies of parents to control, monitor, and dictate the experiences and education of their children. Between school, after-school activities, and summer programs, many parents see their primary role as ensuring that the lives of their children are filled with the right activities. Crucially, these parents often try to shield their children from failure or risk of any kind. Notwithstanding the commonplace shepherding through elementary and high school, we now hear stories of parents inserting themselves into even the college lives of their offspring! Although the examples and patterns of so-called helicopter parenting continue to proliferate, evidence of actual, successful, independent people resulting from this cultural shift is lacking. Indeed, the opposite seems to be occurring.