Mommie Dearest: From Helicopters To Lawnmowers, With Free-Range In Between, What Kind Of Parent Will You Be?

Parenting can be overwhelming. Not the actual act of being a parent — although that certainly has its challenges — but the whole world of parenting philosophies. It seems like every other week we’re bombarded with a new way to parent, each one promising even more chances of insuring your offspring’s success. For a new parent in particular, it can be incredibly overwhelming. What are these different types of parenting? Do they actually make your kid into the next future Ivy League, football playing, guitar prodigy? (Spoiler alert: No, probably not). In the interest of helping future and new parents wade through the bullshit that can come along with trying to figure it all out, today we’re taking a look at various styles of parenting…

1. Helicopter Parenting: You know that parent on the playground that follows her preschooler around with a tissue and a snack? The one whose child doesn’t even need to call out “Mom!” before she’s there with whatever Junior needs? The one who ties every unlaced shoe, zips every coat, cuts off every crust, hangs around at every playdate, badgers the teacher over any grade lower than an A, and generally hovers like a, well, like a helicopter. Yeah, that one. These parents may think they’re protecting their children, but in actuality, they’re more likely doing them a disservice. Children with helicopter parents rarely get the chance to make mistakes for themselves, don’t learn how to flex their independence, and then eventually have a really hard time figuring out how the real world works. Apparently they’re also ruining college students now. See also: Tiger Moms.

2. Lawnmower Parenting: This popped up in my feed the other day, and I thought it was a joke, but sadly, Lawnmower parents are real. These folks make Helicopter parents look like total slackers. Instead of solving problems for their kids as they come, Lawnmower parents rush up ahead, clearing the way for their kids in hopes of giving them the smoothest path in life possible. No bumps, no unexpected holes, no weeds tripping them up (or, you know, as we call them “life lessons”). In addition to having children who are extremely ill prepared for pretty much anything life might throw at them, there’s the chance their spawn will end up rebelling. With no real data to back me up, I can safely say that the chances of your kid turning into a helpless asshole are much higher with lawnmower parenting.

3. Free Range Parenting: While it’s been in practice for a while, free range kids was officially coined by Lenore Skenazy, a mom who dared allow her then nine-year-old son to ride the NYC subway by himself, and caught hell for it from “concerned” folks. Free range parenting is a backlash to the overprotective, over-scheduled, overbearing, and over-parenting styles like the two above. These parents allow their children independence and freedom to do things like stay home alone, walk to school, and prepare meals by themselves. These parents say that their children learn self-sufficiency, and are confident and happy kids. That all sounds well and good, but does this style of parenting jive with society today? Free Range Parenting might work for well-off, white families in the suburbs, but ask any mother of color who allowed her children to free-range what consequences they faced (hint: it usually involves jail time or the Department of Children & Family Services at your door).

4. Attachment Parenting: Also known as hippie-granola parenting (or, as I came to call it back when my son was a wee one, Lazy Parenting). The principles of attachment parenting have been around for a while, but occasionally get a boost each time a new celeb mom does something “wacky” like wear their child in a sling or breastfeeds in public. This parenting philosophy says that to foster a secure bond between caregiver and child, it can be beneficial to do things like co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, babywearing, and more. It can also veer into the more intense with things like “kiss-feeding” (the bird-like way Alicia Silverstone fed her baby) or using elimination communication (aka no diapers). Many criticize Attachment Parenting for being too bourgeois, too child-focused, exhausting, and time consuming.

5. Yoga Parenting: Yoga parenting draws from the ancient practice of yoga and gently suggests that parents remain flexible as they figure it all out. Okay. Yoga parenting isn’t real, but it should be. Should I copyright it now? Here’s the thing. When all is said and done, all of these parenting styles have bits and pieces that may be useful to you and your family. Pay attention to your kids, but don’t insert yourself into every facet and decision in their lives. Allow them the space to stretch their wings, but provide a safe place in case they fall. The golden rule of parenting I learned early and espouse often: Be flexible (Yoga Parenting™). What works for you, may not work for everyone … and may not even work for you in the future.