Does Constructivism have limits?


Learning sociability: How involved should parents be?

Dante Reid

The role of parents in kids learning sociability is vital, and necessary for optimal cognitive development. With that though, how hands on do parents actually need to be in order to help their kids as much as they can without interfering with this process? The debate between “free-range” parenting and “helicopter parenting” styles is a common topic among parents and both styles have pros and cons. For parents, knowing how you want to raise your kids is important for their development in becoming the best version of themselves. It is common for parents to raise their kids in a similar way to how they were raised by their parents, but they should consider the things they liked and didn’t like from their childhood when forming their own parenting style. From personal experience and reflection, kids should have the freedom to develop on their own with supplemental help from their parents when needed.

Allowing kids to explore the world around them on their own with guidance when needed is important in their development. A “free range” parenting style better allows for kids to explore on their own and develop effective strategies for themselves. The development of these strategies starts with kids forming casual representation, or maps, of the world around them. Alison Gopnik suggested, “children track the casual dependence and causal independence of events and combine this information with previous knowledge to form casual representations of the world” (Bjorklund and Causey, 2018, p. 192). Letting kids experience events on their own and allowing them to create casual maps can be beneficial in developing multiple strategies that relate to those representations. “Helicopter parenting” may prevent kids from developing multiple strategies which could minimize their future development.

Having several strategies at one’s disposal as they’re growing up allows for them to choose how to best react to certain situations.  Robert Siegler developed the adaptive strategy choice model to represent how different strategies can be used to find the most effective strategy.

Siegler suggested

… in cognitive development, children generate a wide variety of strategies to solve problems. Depending on the nature of the task and goals of the child, certain strategies are selected and used frequently, whereas others that are less effective are used less often and eventually decrease in frequency. (Bjorklund and Causey, 2018, p. 269).

Allowing kids to develop their own problem-solving strategies can enhance their sociability as they learn how to interact with others. Having an array of strategies could make finding a solution to a problem easier, especially as one gets older. However, parents can also play a huge role in developing strategies if done properly.

The role of parents in their kids’ cognitive development is crucial because they are the first people kids turn to when they have questions. “Helicopter parenting” may arise from this as parents may become more worried about how their kids develop. This is evident when looking at Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological systems framework. Parents and other family members are a huge part of the mesosystem or, “neighborhood level of interaction that allows for interactions between microsystems” (Kleinknecht, 2020). At the mesosystem level, parents are key influencers on the development of sociability for kids. Kids interact with their parents on a daily basis, and this can lead to a strong mesosystem to develop for kids.

This starts from birth in the form of neonatal imitation, when infants imitate facial expressions of adults. Famous psychologist, Jean Piaget, stated, ”the earliest form of social learning is mutual imitation, in which the baby initiates a behavior that is mimicked by the adult, which in turn activates the baby to continue that behavior” (Bjorklund and Causey, 2018, p. 408). Since it’s natural for kids to imitate their parents, it isn’t surprising that some parents develop a “helicopter parenting” style. Having parents who are strong leaders can be helpful in showing kids good ways to develop by displaying appropriate behaviors. Along with showing kids how to behave, parents also serve the role of correcting their kids when they are wrong.

Young kids are susceptible to creating false memories when asked questions about things that did not happen to them. Ceci et al. (1994) conducted a study with young kids to test how susceptible kids are to making false memories.

From this study, it was concluded:

Although few children admitted to experiencing these false events in the initial interviews, by the conclusion of the study more than 50% of the 3- and 4-year-old children and about 40% of 5- to 6-years-old assented that these events, indeed, happen – and often provided substantial detail about the events. (Bjorklund and Causey, 2018, p. 338).

Parents can help correct and prevent their kids from creating false memories by being involved in their daily activities. They can also correct false memories by asking their kids about things they have experienced. Asking questions about what their kids have experienced would be a great way to correct false memories while not being overly involved.

“Free range” parenting style is the best way to allow your kids to develop on their own while still providing help when it’s needed. It is almost impossible for parents to be there every step of their kid’s growth and development. Kids need to have an opportunity to develop their ability to control their own thoughts and behaviors without their parents trying too much to mold their kid’s development. This would allow kids to develop an idea of self-concept, “the way a person defines himself or herself” (Bjorklund and Causey, 2018, p. 420), that they are comfortable with. As kids develop their own image of self-concept it leads to the development of self-efficacy, which develops over time and experience.

Self-efficacy is important in the development of kids in all aspects as they grow up. Bandura et al. (1996) stated, “Developing feelings of positive self-efficacy has important consequences for children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development” (Bjorklund and Causey, 2018, p. 423). If parents are overly involved with their kids development it can take away from their development of self-concept and self-efficacy because they start do things for other people than themselves. Allowing kids to find things they like to do, and are good at, can help them develop their self-efficacy and further their own idea of self-concept. This can lead to kids developing their own strategies to improve their cognitive performance. Parents can help with their kid’s development of strategies, but over doing it can also have a negative effect. Bjorklund and Causey (2018) stated

However, the performance of rained younger children rarely reaches the levels of the performance of older children who use strategies spontaneously, and young children frequently fail to generalize a trained strategy to new tasks, often resorting to their nonstrategic ways (p. 266).

This demonstrates the importance of allowing kids to go out and develop their own cognitive strategies. Giving kids an opportunity to develop strategies on their own can be beneficial in their development and cognitive performance.

For parents who have adopted the “helicopter parenting” style it’s not too late to still help your kid’s development. Give them opportunities to go do things with their friends, while also taking some time to do things you enjoy. Allow them to mess up and make mistakes, all humans do, but still be there to provide support or correction when they need it. It’s okay if they make mistakes at an early age because they will learn from them eventually, and if they don’t then decide to act accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with not being involved with everything they do, and may even help reduce stress from always being worried about what they are doing.


Bjorklund, D.F., & Causey, K.B. (2018a). Thinking in symbols. In Children’s Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences (6th ed., p. 192). Thousands Oak, CA: Sage Publication.

Bjorklund, D.F., & Causey, K.B. (2018b). Learning to think on their own. In Children’s Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences (6th ed., pp. 266, 269). Thousands Oak, CA: Sage Publication.

Bjorklund, D.F., & Causey, K.B. (2018c). Memory development. In Children’s Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences (6th ed., p. 338). Thousands Oak, CA: Sage Publication.

Bjorklund, D.F., & Causey, K.B. (2018d). Social cognition. In Children’s Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences (6th ed., pp. 408, 420, 423). Thousands Oak, CA: Sage Publication.

Kleinknecht, E. (2020). Cognitive Development [PowerPoint slides], Pacific University, Forest Grove, OR.