Does Constructivism have limits?


To Be or Not to Be: Helicopter Parent vs. Free-Range Parent

Karen Ara

Parents often ask, “How much freedom should I give my child” and “How involved should I be?” There has been a debate between which parenting style, “helicopter parenting” and “free-range parenting,” is best for a child. A “helicopter parent” is a parent who is overprotective and takes an excessive interest in their child’s life. A “free-range parent” is a parent who allows their kid to move about without constant supervision. This parenting style gives their kid more freedom and independence compared to the “helicopter parent.” However, which parenting style is the best method to raise a kid? The answer to that is simple. There should be a balance between both styles of parenting. Parents should not constantly smother a child but, they also should not give too much independence. In this paper, we will discuss the pros and cons of both parenting styles and outline what parents can do to give their child the right amount of support.

As mentioned earlier, a “free-range parent” is someone who gives their kids more freedom and independence. With freedom and independence, this helps kids explore and figure things out by themselves. In the fifth chapter of “Children’s Thinking” by David F. Bjorklund and Kayla B. Causey, they mention that Jean Piaget believed that kids are intrinsically active. This means that they do not wait to be stimulated by their surroundings instead, they seek stimulation (pg. 155). Piaget also claimed that when children are faced with a situation or

information that is unfamiliar to them, they become uncomfortable (pg. 157). When children experience this type of discomfort or uncomfortable feeling, it leads them to feel a sense of motivation. This motivation, in turn, will help them move past that feeling by altering their cognitive schemes. Essentially when children are given more freedom and are faced with a situation or information that is unfamiliar to them, they will eventually learn.

In chapter six, the authors discuss the evidence that children possess naive or intuitive notions about how the psychological world works. They use theories to predict, interpret, and explain the world (pg. 201). Children also have a theory of mind, which means that they are able to recognize different categories of mind such as, dreams, beliefs, etc. (pg. 202). Also, they were born with this ability and they have been prepared by natural selection to make sense of the world. Besides this ability, they are also capable of being sensitive to the emotions of others (pg. 215). With these capabilities, they are able to learn well without instruction from parents or educators. Since they can sense other people’s emotional state as well as, recognize different categories of mind, they can eventually learn how to thrive in a social setting.

Although children are very intelligent, they cannot always do everything themselves. In this section, we will go in-depth on why children need our help. First, chapter 6 also discusses children’s ability to take the perspective of another. They are able to understand another person’s intentions. This begins to develop over the first several years of their life. At a young age, they develop shared attention which is a triadic interaction between two social partners and a third object (pg. 203). The book uses an example between an infant, a mother, and a dog. In this scenario, the mother points at the dog and eventually catches the baby’s attention. This essentially creates a social relationship that extends beyond the mother and child. Research also shows that babies are more likely to copy the behavior of a model (pg. 204). They are more likely to copy the behavior of a model when the model’s action is on purpose rather than on accident. With our help, they can imitate how we behave and learn through our actions instead of learning how to behave on their own.

In addition, social learning can impact a child’s development. This type of learning is essentially acquiring information from other individuals, and situations in which one individual behaves similarly to others (pg. 401). Children also learn by observing other adults or educators. In chapter 10, the authors discuss a study conducted by Albert Bandura. He discovered the social learning theory and he states that actions and behaviors can be emulated. To elaborate, this theory is about understanding the goal and purpose of a model and engaging in similar behavior to achieve that goal. Since children are able to emulate our actions, we can show and teach them how to be respectful and considerate.

In order for children to learn, a child’s zone of proximity needs to be established by parents or teachers (pg. 78). In chapter three, Lev Vygotsky claimed that children need our guidance but not all the time. It is important for them to learn what they are capable of, and when they do need help, that is when we should show our support. Although children can sense other people’s emotions, this does not mean they should be on their own for most of the time. Parents and early educators should support their children when needed. This will help them thrive in a social environment.

In essence, children are capable of doing a lot of things and are very intelligent. They need to be challenged and have the freedom to wander or learn. However, too much freedom and independence is not necessarily a good thing. They need our help to learn and grow. Parents and early educators can show children how to be respectful and considerate since they can learn by emulating. As a suggestion, parents should find a balance between both parenting styles. Instead of smothering a child, let them wander but do not be too much of a free-range parent. Although it is good for children to feel discomfort, they also need our help in understanding respectful and considerate behavior. Parents and teachers must support children’s learning and guide them along the way without giving too much help.


Bjorklund, D. F., & Causey, K. B. (2018). In Children’s thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences (Sixth Edition) (pp. 78, 155, 157, 201, 202, 215, 203, 204, 401). SAGE.