“Helicopter parents” is the term used to describe hovering, hyper-success focused moms and dads, but the parents featured on the Discovery Life channel program, World’s Worst Mom, are more like prison wardens. Over-protective to the point of paranoia, they incarcerate their kids in a world ruled by fear.
Surf excerpts from the show and you’ll encounter a jaw-dropping parade of wigged-out women, from the mom who won’t let her 16-year old daughter ride the school bus to the mother unhinged by the thought of allowing her five kids play in their expansive New Jersey yard to the skittish matriarch reduced to a nervous wreck while her 11-year old son takes the family dog for a walk. These women are clearly in need of an intervention.
Enter Lenore Skenazy, author of “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)”, a book that has helped ignite the backlash against safety-obsessed parents who believe, as Skenanzy’s website puts it, “that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.”
Skenazy and her camera crews document the parental handwringing, pick up a few soundbites from the bemused children, and then she offers practical tips for pardoning the kids from their cellblocks. In one case, a pre-teen boy not only gets his first chance to pedal a bike by himself (in a parking lot), but he also rides a city bus completely alone, for two horror-filled blocks!
The excerpts on the Discovery website end before we get to see all of Skenazy’s solutions, and the videos sometimes have a suspiciously staged quality to them. The doom-filled soundtrack and Frontline-style narration are a bit much, and I’m also not sure why the show picks only on mothers (dads sometimes appear in the episodes as enablers-in-waiting). But it’s obvious these moms are over the top. In one case, a terrified mother accompanies her 10-year old daughter into all public bathrooms.
Not just the bathroom, but the actual stall.