Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids zeroes in on what is commonly referred to as helicopter parenting: the tendency of some parents to hover over their kids. (Did you know that helicopter parents are known as curling parents in Sweden? That's one of the interesting pop culture tidbits that you can pick up while watching this documentary.)
The documentary describes the phenomenon in detail and features interviews with parents, a psychiatrist, and other cultural commentators, including Carl Honore, author of Under Pressure: Rescuing our Children from the Culture of Over-Parenting. Notably absent is Lorene Skenazy, whose book Free Range Kids is widely considered to be the unofficial manifesto of the anti-helicopter parenting movement.
The documentary is at its best when it focuses on the lives of kids who are heading off to university or landing their first job. According to a variety of sources who are interviewed on camera, hardcore helicopter parenting types apparently think nothing of calling up their kids university profs (or the president of the university) to argue about grades; or of making contact with their kids' employers, if junior's performance review hasn't been sufficiently glowing.
The documentary is less convincing when it focuses on the lives of the over-privileged (parents who can afford to drop $4000 on birthday bash for a one year old) or the just-plain-clueless (parents who don't seem to be able to think critically about any product or service that promises to give their kid an advantage over the next family's kid). Very few parents bought into the helicopter parenting phenomenon to this degree, even when the trend was at its peak. Becoming a parent isn't correlated with a sudden increase in wealth or an immediate loss of your critical thinking abilities, after all.
There's also the issue of timeliness. This documentary would have been more timely a few years back, when parents were more inclined to want to micromanage their kids' lives. Since that time, there has been a growing backlash against helicopter parenting. The recession has accelerated this trend by giving parents something else to worry about (finding the money to pay the bills) and reducing the income available to fund that faux-perfect family lifestyle.
Since environmental concerns heightened and the recession hit, parents have been simplifying their lives (including managing the avalanche of parenting advice information that can leave them feeling helicopter-parented by the parenting experts), simplifying their kids lives (allowing lots of time for unstructured outdoor play: an old-fashioned idea that never quite went out of style), and enjoying time as a family (relaxed time for fun, not time that is driven by an agenda). And I can tell you one thing. No one is eager to hop back on board that helicopter anytime soon.
The documentary is worth watching, if only as a reminder of where we've been and how far we've come in rejecting the consumerist parenting style that views parents as manufacturers and kids as products to be paraded before the neighbors and the relatives. They are individuals in their own right: not branch plants belonging to Mom or Dad Inc.
Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids airs at the following times:
Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 9 pm on CBC-TV
Friday, February 5, 2010 at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC News Network.