Lenore Skenazy’s Awesome New Show Brings Helicopter Parents Back Down To Earth
Lenore Skenazy was once labeled the “world’s worst mom” for letting her nine-year-old ride the subway in New York City by himself. She’s built a career giving parents advice on how to relax and embrace what she calls a “free-range” parenting style, which basically equates to, back-off a little and let your child take some risks and learn from them.The Discovery Channel’s given her a reality show, where she goes into people’s homes and attempts to help nervous parents relax. It’s aptly titled, “World’s Worst Mom,” and it premiered last night.
The first episode featured a blended family; the wife has a 10-year-old son and her husband has a six-year-old daughter. The 10-year-old is totally suffocated by a mother who is afraid of everything. He says, “I just want to do things by myself.” His mother uses a case of bronchitis he had when he was six to prove that he is a fragile little boy that cannot handle the world on his own.
At the onset of the show, the boy gives Lenore a laundry list of things he can’t do, like ride a bike, play rough sports, skate, or use knives. His six-year-old sister sits next to him saying that she’s allowed to do all of these things. The parents clearly have split the household; mom raises her child, dad raises his. A scene of the 10-year-old running alongside his sister while she rides her bike is pretty heartbreaking.
As you can imagine, the bulk of the show features Skenazy forcing parents out of their comfort zone by introducing “danger” to their children. In one scene she teaches the boy how to use a sharp knife. In another he finally gets a chance to ride a bike. His mom keeps getting in his way and not letting him attempt to balance on his own. It makes me want to put my toddler on a bike today, just so I can assure myself that I’m okay with watching him fall.
Honestly I really liked Lenore after I watched this show. I always thought that her approach to childrearing seemed sensible, but I am an admittedly nervous mother of small children. Watching her deal with families, I realize how important it is to let go: to let your child fall, to let them get hurt. I’m not anywhere near as nervous and controlling as this mother – but everything is habit-forming, right? Maybe it’s not too hard to get to a place where you don’t trust anything.
I think the show is great. It’s not as over-the-top as some of the other shows, so therefore not as entertaining, but I think it’s a good tool for parents. It’s eye-opening to see children feeling suffocated by their parents. It’s good to see the parent you don’t want to be.
“World’s Worst Mom” airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays on Discovery Life Channel. Lenore Skenazy will live tweet during the broadcast at @FreeRangeKids.