“But mum, you don’t need a book on how to parent!”
This is what my teenager said in fits of laughter as I brought home ‘Parenting for Dummies’ and ‘Supernanny’ from the library.
I didn’t think I needed a book on parenting either, I was only doing some research, but it was nice to have that endorsed. And she should know; she’s seventeen, been stuck with me all these years home educating and if I haven’t ruined her by now then hopefully I’m not going to.
The strange thing is she’s fascinated by the Supernanny programmes. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/supernanny She can’t believe the families on there. She finds the kids’ behaviour totally confusing, but it’s the parents that really puzzle her.
Frankly the programmes make me curl up and want to give up hope. Not necessarily because of the content, or the fact that they are making a serious issue into entertainment. It’s not even the bizarre recommendations of Jo Frost; she can’t help it she’s doing her best with the material she’s got and she’s on a mission. Whether that mission is to ‘help desperate parents deal with their badly behaved children’ as it says on the website or to make watchable television remains to be seen. I’m very aware of what careful editing can do.
But despite the fact that some parents might be learning from it, I think there’s a massive flaw in the whole concept of a Supernanny. And that flaw is the idea that ‘discipline’, as she keeps on talking about, is something parents can add on to a relationship like it was an app you could get on your phone or something. Whereas true discipline is so intrinsically interwoven with relationships, you can’t have a relationship without it.
For discipline is to do with respect, self respect as much as respecting others, self discipline as much as disciplining others. It is to do with the way we are and the way we behave as parents, not an app we may occasionally use.
Our children’s behaviour is almost a direct response to the way we behave as we parent them. Admittedly their characters have an impact. And so do ours! The biggest impact we have of all is in the way we treat them. We don’t have to treat them as gods. We just have to treat them responsibly. It’s simple really; we have to treat them as we would wish to be treated and as we would wish them to treat others. Consistently. What you put in you get back.
Of course there must always be love. Love engenders respect and vice-versa.
But even my seventeen year old can see the respect missing from some of the parenting she witnesses on the programme. She’s very critical.
“They’re clueless. It’s like they’ve never been taught how to parent,” she said.
“No one is taught how to parent,” I said. “So how do you know if you’re getting it right?”
“Because of the reaction of your children,” she said. “Some parents don’t even speak to their kids with respect so why should their kids respect them?”
Absolutely right! Perhaps she worked that out because we tried to make respect of paramount importance in this household. Even though she does laugh at my choice of books sometimes!