The Problem With ‘Supernanny’ Wasn’t Her Accent

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Heaven help me, I thought we were rid of that “Supernanny” ridiculousness. Jo Frost quit and I was thrilled to see the end of a terrible television program. Then, Lifetime decides to resurrect the program. They are currently looking for an American who has, “a tough, but loving, philosophy to caring for children” and the “ability to determine the roots of highly emotional relationship problems within families in desperate need for help.” And you should determine what those problems are and how to solve them in less than 60 minutes. Please allot 15 minutes for commercial breaks.

Listen, I have no problem with parents learning to discipline their children. I believe that’s extremely important, actually. I think there are lots of parents who would benefit from parenting classes, where you can learn about child development and how to set goals and boundaries for your children. The families who go on television shows like “Supernanny” obviously have some serious issues that need to be addressed. I truly hope that these families get the help they need.

But not from a reality TV show. Not from a program that generalizes and forms opinions based on a single day in a family’s home. Not from a television personality who is more concerned with camera angles and catch phrases than your family’s well-being. These types of productions make parenting and family relationships into a cut-and-dry system where one parenting behavior is bad and produces bad children, while another technique is good and gives the world another angel. As recent studies have suggested, different types of children need different types of parenting and instruction. Each family has their own unique circumstances that they need to adapt to.

These types of television programs also promote the misguided belief that each and every bad choice from a child is a direct result of improper parenting. As a person who made plenty of mistakes as a teenager but had truly amazing, caring and inspiring parents, I will never support a system that says that every action I take is a reflection of my upbringing. My parents taught me much better than some of the choices I made. I’m not saying that parents should be excused from all responsibility. Their job is to raise their children to be productive and responsible members of society. But the simplistic correlation between a bad parenting choice and a certain bad behavior from their child is ridiculous. Life is just much too complex. A family’s relationship is too complex.

Even the instructions given to parents, which is paraded around as entertainment instead of knowledge to apply to their lives, is ineffective in the long run. There’s a reason that there’s no single instruction manual for children. They’re always growing and changing, just likes the struggles nad situations faced by parents. By giving them written instructions on how to deal with a certain behavior, instead of teaching them how to parent effectively through any situation, you merely give them a cheat sheet for the next couple years or months. One-time instructions do not foster family development and connections.

I agree that these families need help. A program like “Supernanny”, no matter where on earth the nanny is from, is simply not equipped to provide it. And none of us should be pretending that is.

(Photo: ShareTV)


  1. Abigail

    August 12, 2011 at 11:33 am

    On the other hand, since no one is going to throw free parenting classes at them or force them to actually attend those classes, this is the next best thing.

  2. B.Canoob

    August 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    As someone with over 5 years of intimate first hand knowledge of the original show (not as a viewier btw so I’ll let you assume what I do for a living), I have to say that this rant is unfair, misguided, and surprisingly mean. First of all, the actual amount of time Jo and the producers spent with each family was 13 straight 12 hour days, and 98% of those families were completely transformed by day 13. Jo also gave her personal cell phone and email to each family so that they can keep in touch as the children grow. It is impossible to put every single thing Jo said or taught in the show, but if you watch closely you will still see that Jo did in fact approach each child individually. The show was also intentionally cast with families that have widely relateable problems, and the families with more serious problems or “special cases” that came in through casting were not used for the show because THAT would have been irresponsible to air as “parenting advice” (even though Jo could have probably handled it.) The focus and point of the show was to give parents a little help wherever they may need it, take or leave it. Also, Jo brought over 15 years of being a highly demanded nanny to the casting and execution of the show, and the producers working with her were primarily parents themselves. It is because of that, and the resulting content, that out of every reality show on the LONG list of shows that I have “direct intimate knowledge of”, this one was the most positve, helpful, and real show that I was a part of, and you should be ashamed of yourself for trashing it. Advice is what you make of it, plain and simple. I learned a lot from Jo, but I also disagreed with her on some things. Luckily, human beings have the ability to only apply what they agree with from the things they learn. And let’s be honest, people are going to watch reality TV no matter what the content is. I would rather that society learns a few valuable parenting skills from a TV nanny for another couple years, than how to fist pump and hook up from Jersey Shore.

  3. Pingback: I Bribe My Kids And I’m Not Ashamed (Thanks, Supernanny!) | Mommyish

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