From the title, you'd be forgiven for assuming that Parenting Hero is some sort of childcare-based take on the frantic, peripheral-based Guitar Hero video game series. I have no idea what that might look like, but fortunately, we don't have to find out because Parenting Hero is nothing like Guitar Hero.
In fact, it's not a game at all. Instead, it's a companion app for the best-selling parenting manual "How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7."
Created by developer MythicOwl in collaboration with the authors of the book, Joanna Faber and Julie King, it presents you with different parenting scenarios and challenges you to choose the right responses.
Whatever choice you make, the app will give you feedback, explaining why a particular course of action might be helpful or unhelpful in your quest to produce happy and cooperative children. Also, you'll get a chapter reference for the source book, so that you can read about the issue you've just tackled in more detail.
Parenting Hero is from a particular school of parenting that encourages cooperation and encouragement over rules and discipline. In other words, it's a parenting manual for our time, underpinned by jangly hipster laptop ad-style muzak and charming hand-drawn artwork.
Parenting Hero is split into four sections: Handling Emotion, Engaging Cooperation, Resolving Conflicts, and Praise and Appreciation. Each of these parts contains scenarios, totaling 15, all of them illustrated and animated.
Aside from choosing which scenario to play, your only point of interaction is to pick from three responses. For example, when your child falls over you can decide to dismiss it, chastise your child for being careless, or offer support.
Yes, it's always pretty obvious which reaction you're supposed to choose - and your phone vibrates admonishingly when you get it wrong - but this doesn't matter. The most significant effect of the app isn't to teach us how to say the right thing, but to make you reflect on the negative responses you might have given in the past, when you've been tired, frustrated, and stressed, as every parent often is.
If you make your selections honestly, Parenting Hero will explain how your child might have felt about some of the things you've said. As parents, we have to say the lessons felt authentic, and the whole thing simply served as a reminder to be patient, empathetic, and respectful, which is no bad thing.
Conversely, it's very encouraging when Parenting Hero's ideal solution to a problem is one that you've used as well.
Inevitably, there are limits to how useful a set of specific scenarios can be, and the scripted conversations between parent and child are undeniably idealized. If you pick the right response, your child cooperates perfectly without anybody getting angry or having to resort to coercion.
How much the simplifications of Parenting Hero bother you will depend on how far you agree with its lessons. As a parent, I was receptive to the app's conclusions. However, I can envision those with strong feelings about the importance of rigid discipline, or who have children who just aren't as pliable as the examples here, getting irritable.
Speaking of lessons, it's a shame that the references at the end of each scenario are for chapters in a book rather than content that can be found online and navigated to with a tap on a link. Presumably, this approach is intended to drive sales of the book to parents eager to learn more, but it's unintuitive at the point of use.
Parenting Hero is charming and intuitive to use. Yes, it's quite expensive for an app that you can blow through in 30 to 40 minutes. Regardless, its lessons are backed up by serious research.
As parents, we can attest to its wisdom - at least when it comes to maintaining a positive relationship with a child who is already pretty well behaved.
Like any parenting manual, it won't provide any silver bullets, but it can at least give you some examples to reflect on whenever you're trying to resolve a situation without raised voices or tears.