George and Lydia Hadley, the parents in Ray Bradbury's short story "The Veldt," have abdicated their role as parents to their two children, Peter and Wendy. They are able to do this because their HappyLife Home does all the work of parenting in their stead and could accurately be said to parent George and Lydia as much as it parents Peter and Wendy.
This house ... clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.
The parents have nearly forgotten how to do things as simple as frying eggs and mending clothes. When it comes to their children, they are helpless. All the children's basic needs are met by the HappyLife Home, and their need for emotional and imaginative stimulation is met by their special nursery, which enables them to conjure vividly realistic fantasy worlds in which they spend most of their free time. The children consequently have no reliance on their parents and treat them with contempt. George and Lydia are a bit frightened of them.
They’re unbearable—let’s admit it. They come and go when they like; they treat us as if we were the children in the family.
When George and Lydia realize that their children have created a hyper-realistic African veldt in their nursery, complete with large predators who savagely devour their prey, they are alarmed that their children's imaginations have become so morbid. When they suggest to the children that the nursery should be shut down for a while, the children throw a raging tantrum and refuse to cooperate.
George and Lydia are very concerned about the landscape the children have created and what it signifies about their state of mind. They are even more concerned to discover that they, the parents, have no control over their children. They are so used to allowing the HappyLife Home to make all the decisions for them that they genuinely don't know where to turn. Because they can no longer trust that the HappyLife Home makes good decisions, and because they are dismayed to realize just how much control they have relinquished to the house, they turn to an outside authority to tell them what they should do: Dr. David MacClean.
Dr. MacClean advises the Hadley parents to shut down the entire house and put Peter and Wendy in daily psychiatric therapy sessions. George and Lydia are relieved to receive such firm directions and agree to take action immediately. They turn off the nursery and every other computerized part of the house, as ordered, and inform their screaming children that they are all going to go on a vacation to get away from the house for a while. The children are furious and weeping, and Lydia—so unused to parenting them in any way—is unable to handle their outburst. She begs George to switch the nursery back on, just one more time, to buy them a few moments of peace while they pack the suitcases. Although she and George are very disturbed by Peter and Wendy's behavior, they are also so weakened by their long reliance on the HappyLife Home that, at the crucial moment, they allow the house to stand in for them as parents once more. They might have had the power to switch off the nursery themselves, even without consulting Dr. MacClean, but they do not trust themselves as parents; they needed Dr. MacClean's authoritative manner to give them the confidence to turn the house off. Without Dr. MacClean there with them to stiffen their resolve, George and Lydia give in to their children again, and Peter and Wendy take the opportunity to lure their parents into the nursery, where they are eaten by the lions of the veldt.