CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 37. . . .May 25, 2012
Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids. (Doc Zone).
Toronto, ON: CBC Learning (www.cbclearning.ca), 2010.
42 min., DVD, $56.25 (Single site license price).
Product ID ZZY-09-16.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Frank Loreto.
I often warn students in Parenting classes that the biggest rift between them and their best friend or siblings in adulthood will be the way each raises their children. Parenting skills or at least those practiced by other parents provide much raw material for comment and judgement. This has been a reality for generations.
In Hyper Parents and Coddled Kids, parenting enters a level of performance that can ask the question, "Have these parents lost their minds?" This is a damning look at what seems to be the new normal in parental expectation. There is much in this film to cause concern.
All parents want the best for their children. However, as the film points out, this generation is the "most overindulged and micro-managed children in history." A $4000 "princess party' complete with a Cinderella is seen as mid-range spending for a first birthday party which includes 40 guests. When a Grade 2 student is seen as gifted and likes to draw, his father finds an art tutor. The child states that he "just wants to draw." The damage being done by "helicopter parents," where the parents swoop in to save the child from anything unpleasant, or "curling parents," who must sweep away anything that would distract their child from following a clear path, will not be seen for many years to come. The perfect child is a reflection of the perfect parent—or so many parents seem to believe.
Parents are unable to let the children be independent, and, thanks to the cell phone, parents now have the, "longest umbilical cord in history." Surveillance companies do booming business marketing a fear that children may be in danger, despite the fact that "child abductions are lower than ever." One parent is quite interested in the idea of implanting a monitoring device in her child. Thankfully, ethics and cost have made this technology unavailable. However, it is possible.
Children are not encouraged to engage in rough-house play, and, as a result, they lose out on the social skills learned by this behaviour. Instead, organized sports, monitored by adults, are encouraged. While these are good for exercise, children are not allowed to figure out things for themselves.
Parents fall for anything that could stimulate their child's development. One parent admits she feels like a fool for buying all the Baby Einstein products. Another mother uses a product which promises to encourage brain development in the womb. Parents feel pressure to enroll their children in swimming, dancing, gymnastics, music, and this is all for a one-year-old. Children are not encouraged to amuse themselves or learn to stimulate themselves.
Junior kindergarten at a private school that offers yoga, fine arts and fitness could cost $1200 per month. The three year waiting list at one such school pressures parents to sign up almost before their child is born. The child must undergo a 4 to 5 hour assessment first. If they cannot attend such schools, the children are enrolled in French Immersion, gymnastics, piano and ballet. Parents watch other parents and feel they must keep up. They feel shame if their child drops any activity, plus there the fear that "others may say something."
This desire for their children to excel has been a boon for the tutoring industry. One third of Canadian parents pay for formal tutoring. One million students have tutors even though their marks are in the A and B range. Since student success equals parent success, teachers who do not deliver the desired marks become targets. A child brings home a 98%, and the response is, "What happened to the other 2%?" As a result, children will cheat or lie rather than accept failure. Parents call universities when marks do not suit their expectations and threaten legal action if satisfaction is not gotten. University psychologists report that anxiety, not broken hearts, is the main issue with students who come to see them. Children who have never failed at anything cannot deal with difficulties, and parents are far too eager to "solve" everything. Those children who have been told all their lives that they can do anything suddenly find out that they cannot.
Parents have been known to go with their children on job interviews and to the workplace to set up their child's workspace. Some even try to negotiate salary. These "millenials"—the coddled generation – are unable to get to work on time, do not understand that they cannot text all day, or that they cannot be plugged into an electronic device while at work. At 27, making $90,000, one millenial interviewed admitted she told a senior co-worker that the only difference between them was their age. She did not last at the job. She started up her own business which failed. While $87,000 in debt, she admits she still needs to spend money on manicures.
If Hyper Parents and Coddled Kids was a comedy, it would be hilarious. Sadly, this is all too real and is a condemnation of much of what many parents see as positive parenting. The question is asked, "How will these children raise their own children?" Time alone will tell, but, according to the film, clearly there is a ticking time bomb buried in society.
Hyper Parents and Coddled Kids is a must for Parenting class, but also for Sociology and Psychology. Teachers should be made to watch this as well; many are guilty of the same parenting styles. Students may see themselves in some of the cases presented in the film. Schools could show the film to parents on a workshop on parenting.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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