It’s a beautiful day in the middle of September, school’s in swing, the leaves are still green, and I’m home alone for a whole week!? Yep, you read that right, my parents trusted me enough, when I was sixteen, to go to Europe for an entire week and leave me with the run of the house. It’s something that happens on a fairly regular basis in my family yet seems to be quite a rarity for many of my friends' families. Perhaps it’s because their parents are too paranoid to trust them, or maybe it’s due to a fear that their children aren’t self-sufficient enough. Regardless of the reason, numerous studies show that it turns out parents like mine are actually far more common than one might think.
One of the most common parent stereotypes is the helicopter parent. The helicopter parent hovers over their kid 24/7 and tries to control almost all aspects of their child’s life. Despite the assumption that helicopter parents are rampant, a BYU study on helicopter parenting determined just “20 percent of mothers and 12 percent of fathers are ‘controlling helicopter’ parents.” A “controlling helicopter” parent is one who is involved in their child’s life to an unhealthy degree. In contrast, “77 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers” were classified as “warm helicopter” parents. These “warm helicopter” parents are involved in their child’s life but they make sure to give their child a degree of independence and positive support. In short, it turns out that parents like mine, who use a mix of positive reinforcement and independence, are more often than not the norm.
In western culture, mainstream parenting strategies often emphasize attachment and development of the self. In contrast, many cultures in Asia and Africa feature strikingly different styles of parenting. Take the Nso people of Cameroon, for instance: “Mothers tend to have very different beliefs about the value and importance of an exclusive mother-infant bond. In fact, they often discourage maternal exclusivity, believing that to provide optimal care, many caregivers are best.” This radically different strategy is said to encourage children to develop excellent social skills, which is something that is prized in Nso culture. Japan is another example of more hands-off parenting; many kids are “allowed to ride the subway as young as age seven.” The independence and social skills that are fostered in both of these cultures at a young age are alien to the dependence on others that is ubiquitous to western parenting styles, but a fusion of the two strategies holds merit.
A Healthline article on parenting affirms that a fusion of these various parenting styles works best: “A focus on an intimate relationship, firm but loving rules, and discipline that takes into account the child as an individual, has been linked to more positive effects for families.” When I asked my mom about her parenting goals she said that “my goal is to raise independent, introspective, and emphatic children.” The way she does this is by “not standing in the way of self discovery and actively listening and providing guidance.” Her stated goals and strategies are a great example of fusing numerous parenting strategies from various cultures such as combining Japanese parenting strategies like allowing us to roam the city on our own from a young age with western ones like prioritizing open conversations and showing how they can work in harmony.
When all’s said and done, parenting strategies are incredibly subjective. Still, the winning combination of a degree of authority paired with a degree of independence results in a more socially adept and responsible child. When my parents left me with the run of the house, I had to cook my own meals and clean up any messes I made, something that I was less inclined to do when they were home. As a result, I gained a sense of increased responsibility, which in the long run helps me thrive in unpredictable situations as well as encouraging me to help others.