• A new report in New York Magazine investigates a company that sends “family architects” into homes to help parents with their misbehaving children.
• The company, Cognitive Builders, sets up Nest Cams throughout the house to monitor interactions 24/7.
• The program cost one family $US80,000 ($AU101,394).
A company that deploys “family architects” into people’s homes is bringing helicopter parenting to a whole new level.
The “architects” observe family dynamics around-the-clock using security cameras — specifically, Nest Cams — which allow them to watch and listen to every interaction that occurs in the home between parents and children. When someone needs to be corrected, or something goes wrong, they can intervene with texts to parents or speak directly through the cameras. The footage is gathered to compile reports each day about what they have seen and what rules should be implemented moving forward.
It’s like “merg[ing] life-coaching with ‘Supernanny’ with a slightly powered-up Amazon Echo,” writes reporter Kim Brooks — and it’s not cheap.
One family said they paid about $US125 ($AU158) an hour over four months, adding up to a total of $US80,000. Elizabeth, a mother of four children who Brooks spoke with, said she spent about $US70,000 ($AU88,720) over a five-week period. Others reported their bill sailed “well into the six-figures.”
Elizabeth told Brooks: “They charge you by the hour, and they charge you different rates … I mean, for that much money I could have hired five nannies. I told our consultant: this is a billionaire game, not a millionaire game. You have to be in a certain echelon to do this.”
Research on affluence suggests children coming up in wealthy households have “comparable levels of delinquency” to lower-income households, but more instances of cheating and stealing from their parents and peers. To be sure, your net worth alone won’t guarantee obedient and well-mannered children, according to research, but having the means to hire professional help may. That appears to be the aim of Cognitive Builders, anyway.
Though the company’s program may sound like a form of therapy, the “family architects” aren’t licensed psychologists. Rather, they’re recent college graduates whose sole job is “watching you parent, suggesting changes, and making sure you do what they say,” Brooks explains. Many of the clients also work with other specialists, like psychiatrists or social workers, outside of the home.
While asserting behavioural control over children, rather than psychological control, is a sign of successful parenting, taking it too far could morph into a “helicopter” or “lawnmower” approach. In other words, removing a child’s freedom of choice, or steering them away from risk before they meet it, could be detrimental to their mental health down the road.
Cognitive Builders will send their employees in to help with any number of issues, Brooks found, from technology addiction to bad behaviour to sibling rivalry. They also have “family food architects” that use a similar 24/7 surveillance approach to help you stay on track with your diet.
Ilana Kukoff, the founder of Cognitive Builders, told Brooks the company does not advertise publicly and relies only on word-of-mouth referrals, adding that they have grown 125% year-over-year since launching in 2006. This unique approach isn’t meant for everyone. In fact, it’s purportedly designed to meet the needs of wealthy families.
“Parents, especially those who believe the act of raising a child is a process that can be studied and optimised, will rarely shy away from seeking outside help, and Cognition Builders is the highest-end of outside help,” Brooks wrote. “It is the private jet or bottle service of parenting guidance — the kind that can’t be found on any blog or in any book.”
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