August 2, 2005

Reality TV Shocker! "Experts": SuperNanny Advice Is "Simplistic," "Questionable"

I sure hope you didn't get up in the middle of the night to read this. Pediatricians, child therapists, and some of the stodgier flavors of child development experts think that those nannies on reality TV are sometimes not that realistic. And those families! They're pretty atypical, too, now that you (i.e., a NY Times reporter) bring it up.

From the five minutes I've seen of those nanny shows, their hapless parents, shrill nanny/harpies, and gullible, quick-fix-craving audiences all deserve each other. But what really bugs is the idea of whiny, upstaged expert milquetoasts who "don't like labeling" and think the nannies are "mean". At least I can take comfort knowing they have to endure jealousy-fanning "Supernanny" conversations at every cocktail party they go to.

Those Televised Supernannies May Be Just a Bit Too Super [nyt]


I've watched these shows. They all have the same premise...

1) Multiple kids, of which one is an absolute terror/bully/sociopath.
2) Overprotective mother who can't stand to see her children unhappy. Mom is also a "stay at home mom." Mom's identity is wrapped around her parenting her children - therefore does not want Dad to participate (but blames him for not doing anything).
3) Dad is clueless. It's a wonder this man managed to procreate. Gives us involved Dads a bad name.
4) After teaching the parents the Ferber method for putting their children to sleep and actually disciplining the kids when they do something wrong (with the everpresent "Naughty... Corner, Step, Mat, etc...") the parents get down on their knees and sing the praises of the British lady who knows way more about parenting than anyone on the planet.
5) Then the Nanny rewards their progress by giving them a present after she leaves. My favorite: The family with 6 girls and one bathroom gets a second bathroom from the Nanny.

I pray I never, ever, ever need to go on that show.

I actually don't mind the nanny show.. I find the no-BS approach kind of refreshing, after enduring the "self-esteem will solve everything" crap that the media and educators have been putting out there for the past number of years.

And there's nothing wrong with "stay at home moms whose identity is wrapped around her parenting her children." Far from it.

They should have a super nanny on TBS, or CMT and just have a guy walk in with a wife beater shirt and a HUGE belt buckle. Then when the kids act up-OFF WITH THE BELT.

IMO, that's what a lot of these kids need.

[my kid LOVES my huge belt buckle, tho. Montana Silversmiths, baby. -ed]

Jason, they could call it "Hootenanny."

I think Supernanny is a useful show, and the protagonist (Jo), kind and fair, even if the shows often highlight her disciplining lessons to parents. Nanny 911 is less charming, but not terrible.
The Times's critique is largely fair, too, reminding people that these are TV shows, after all, and indeed are simplistic. Nonetheless, the issues are real, the people likewise, and the discussions often interesting.
I'm a father of twins, so I appreciate lots of input. Also we have a nanny who is marvelous, not much like those on TV (neither are we), but none of us think our job is to imitate these or any TV shows--still, we are glad to learn whatever we can from various responsible parties. Even from the web...... [d'oh! nicely played, Brendan, nicely played. -ed.]

I am wondering how many times the Super Nanny has been affective with her instructions, once she leaves and the parents are left with the kids. Does she have a degree in psychology?

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