Are You a Helicopter, Drill Sergeant, or Consultant Parent?

Are You a Helicopter, Drill Sergeant, or Consultant Parent?

Jim Fay, my father, and his friend, Foster Cline, described three parenting styles in their book Parenting with Love and Logic, which was published in 1990. They coined the terms helicopters, drill sergeants, and consultants for these three styles. Little did they expect at that time that two of these terms, helicopters and drill sergeants, would be in common use today to describe these all-too-common parenting approaches.

Parents who protect and rescue their kids are a lot like helicopters, which are very noisy and are often used in rescue missions. Helicopter parents make a lot of noise as they rescue their kids from the potential consequences of their actions. The message that helicopter parents send their kids is, “You aren’t able to help yourself, so I need to do things for you.”

Drill sergeant parents also make a lot of noise, but in a different way. They are always barking out orders like the stereotype of a military drill sergeant. A drill sergeant typically tells a child, “I want this done and I want it done NOW!” This approach deprives kids of opportunities to make their own decisions and to learn from their mistakes. The message that drill sergeant parents send their kids is, “You can’t think for yourself. I need to do your thinking for you.”

Consultant parents (we like to call them Love and Logic parents) use a dramatically different approach. Their primary goal is to help their kid learn how to make responsible decisions. They are willing to give suggestions and offer options to their kids, but they let their kids make the decisions—and reap the consequences. The message that consultant parents send their kids is, “It’s your life, not mine. You get to make the decision and I wish you the best.”

There is a crucial difference between how consultant parents handle ownership of a problem versus how helicopter or drill sergeant parents handle ownership. Helicopters and drill sergeants both claim ownership of a child’s problem. Consultant parents let the child retain ownership. Allowing a child to keep ownership of a problem sends the message that, “You are wise enough to make good decisions. I trust you to know how to handle this.” This implied message will build kids up instead of put them down. 

In the Love and Logic approach, “Love” allows kids to grow by learning from their mistakes and “Logic” allows them to experience the consequences of their decisions. This combination gives them the tools and confidence that they will need as adults to make responsible decisions on their own.

Our Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants audio is an excellent resource for learning more about these three parenting styles and the long-term effects that they can have on kids.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants

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