Supernanny!

“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!

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6 thoughts on “Supernanny!

  1. Hi Big mamma frog – I get exactly where you’re coming from. You’re braver than me though – I daren’t even look at ‘how clean is your house’ as I’m not sure how favourably we’d compare!

  2. I have to confess that I watched many a Supernanny episode, particularly when my children were younger. I think I did it to reassure myself that however bad my day with young children had been, at least it hadn’t been THAT bad lol!

    I know alot of people who criticise the series, particularly the whole ‘time-out’, ‘naughty chair’ etc and I can understand why, but there is alot on the programme about listening to your children, respecting them (particularly not bullying them or swearing at them!) and being consistent. Coming from an age (or perhaps a family) when the discipline generally entailed threats and smacking, any step towards a less violent family life has got to be good. But, yeah, it’s tv, so what can we expect. (Ditto ‘How Clean is Your House’ – another one I watch so I can feel as if ‘at least we’re not THAT bad’!).

  3. Spot on, as always Ross! I used to watch Supernanny, which always left me gobsmacked; haven’t watched it for ages but sounds like nothing’s changed.
    I don’t think of myself as an amazing parent but I’m usually lost for words when people (including other home-ed mums of boys) voice surprise at my boys’ behaviour — at 15 & 13 they’re apparently not like ‘average, hormonal teenagers’. They can & will talk the hind leg of a donkey while you’re looking for the ‘off’ switch, they don’t shy away from public displays of emotion with their parents …
    One thing I do mind is the assumption that ALL teenage boys are victims of raging hormones & are expected to be moody & grunt all the time!!! Even boys who aren’t quite teens yet! To me it sounds like giving them the excuse to behave a certain way …
    Oo! Sorry, seem to have gotten carried away! Anyway, just wanted to say I totally agree with you — respect is most definitely a 2-way street.

    • I also am the parent of a teenage boy who is home educated (he is thirteen). We are really good friends as well as being parent and child. I have always treated him with lots of love and respect and yet have been firm about the way he behaves and how he acts towards others. Respect is definitely a two way street. I sometimes get the impression, when I see this type of programme, that people are frightened to be firm with their children. Children who’s parents are comfortable with sensible rules give the children a sense of safety and security. Children who do not have these boundaries often do not feel safe and secure and so try to push their parents in making them.

    • Glad you got carried away Joy – you’re right too! And I agree with you Michelle, some people do seem to be afraid to set boundaries and think loving parenting is about giving kids what they want and commanding no respect from them. How wrong could that be! It does them no favours at all.

    • Can definitely relate to that. although my child is an 8 yr old girl, I have a 16 yr old nephew and he is very taciturn and often sullen with the rest of the family, but with me he is open and friendly and we have in depth conversations about everything from football to politics via career options and sex. I take him seriously and treat him with the respect he deserves.

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