With all the media attention for Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," about a parenting style that emphasizes piano and violin practice over sleepovers and playdates, it's easy to forget that similar debates were stirred three years ago by a mom who confessed that she let her 9-year-old son ride the subway alone.
Lenore Skenazy, who spun off an article she wrote for the now-defunct New York Sun newspaper into a book, "Free-Range Kids," has now teamed with a Canadian reality show producer in search of parents who want to learn how to loosen up.
Cineflix, the Toronto company behind shows like "Conviction Kitchen" and "Property Virgins," is currently recruiting families for a series in which Skenazy will give first-hand advice on how to be less neurotic.
Better still, of course, if one of the two parents in a family is more stubbornly overprotective than the other.
"Most of us thrived on the freedom our parents gave us," Skenazy explained in an invitation to prospective television show subjects.
"Think of the joy of riding a bike around the neighbourhood. Think of the skills involved in organizing our own baseball games. Think of the responsibility we took on — and rose to — when we babysat at 11, or sold cookies door-to-door without a security detail."
The argument Skenazy put forth in "Free-Range Kids" was supported by statistics that the American crime rate is now lower than when today's parents of young children were growing up in the '70s and '80s.
Today, the incessant arguments in the media about how kids should be raised seem like an even bigger threat to their collective sanity.
"Free-Range Kids" and "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" may not be that far apart in philosophy, explained Skenazy, who has admitted to liking Chua's "base assumption that kids are competent and can do things well."
While the two authors clash over the value of unstructured playtime, Skenazy has suggested the new era of over-sharing personal information — which has compelled some parents to obsessively compare details of how they treat their kids behind closed doors — might be doing more harm than good to the process of child-rearing.
But then, reality television depends on a certain voyeurism, even if Skenazy is aspiring to couch it in advice on how to stop the trend of "over-helicoptering."
"Free-Range Kids" producers is now casting Canadian families, for filming later this year in Toronto, even if its subway grid is nowhere near as complicated as the one in New York.
This article first appeared HERE.