Free-Range Parenting vs. Authoritative Parenting: What’s the Difference?

There are many different parenting styles today, including authoritarian, helicopter, permissive, and neglectful. The two most praised parenting styles, however, are known as “free-range” parenting and “authoritative” parenting. So what’s the difference?

Free-Range Parenting

This style of parenting was created in response to “helicopter” parenting. They are basically opposites. While helicopter parents tend to hover around the child, protecting them from all possible harm, free-range parents tend to give the child a lot of space, letting them interact with the world on their own. By doing so, these parents hope to encourage the autonomy, resilience, and self-confidence that children raised by helicopter parents often lack.

With this style, the key is to build up your child’s freedom slowly and train them to be safe. For example, you can walk them to school or have them pay for groceries under your supervision. Then let them try on their own, without your supervision, once they have the hang of it.

Authoritative Parenting

This style of parenting hits the sweet spot between authoritarian and permissive parenting styles. Authoritarian parents prioritize obedience and tend to discipline children without listening to their views, while permissive parents prioritize the child’s short-term happiness and tend to indulge them without holding them to any standard of behavior. Authoritative parents are in the middle. They will support and listen to their children while still holding them to high standards and disciplining them when necessary.

Since authoritative parenting comes from a model that is older than free-range parenting, more research has been conducted. Children of authoritative parents tend to be happier, create better relationships, have better mental health, and do better in school. An example of this style would be to establish clear rules with clear consequences, have two-way conversations with your children, and reward children for good behavior.


These approaches come from two different models and can be implemented at the same time. They are similar in that they discourage micro-management and intrusive parenting without being neglectful. Too much or too little parenting can stunt a child’s mental growth, but the right amount can help them grow beyond expectations and become healthy, high-functioning adults.

Disclaimer: The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only. If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis, contact your medical professional.

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