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Supernanny's 'Seeds'

"Supernanny" was in town this past weekend. No, not British nanny Jo Frost herself, but the show's casting producers. And a funny thing happened: The turnout at their casting call was slim pickings.

The show put a good spin on it. Casting producer Kim Clevenger told The Post: "People usually only come to us when they're at the point of desperation, when they don't know where else to turn. We're planting the seeds."

But there could be another explanation. Maybe, just maybe, a large number of parents see the show as exploitive of young kids. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of parents need help, but would rather get it away from a nationally televised audience. I admit to watching the show with some fascination. And I sheepishly admit that I sometimes get some useful tidbits from Nanny Jo. On the show we see the out-of-control kids (and parents) wreaking havoc. But how much of this is constant chaos or are we really just seeing an edited compilation of the family's worst moments? Only when miracle worker Jo steps in is peace restored.

What do you think? Are you a fan of kid-based reality TV or do you take my jaded view of it?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 24, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Relationships , Teens
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Comments


Due to the editing, I think we only see the relevant points. My guess is these kids are not out of control all the time. But I think the kids and parents need some help. I also think she does some good tricks and most of them we have heard before. Like reward charts, time outs, consistency. I don't like these shows too much but I absolutely hate the switch the mom shows. They pick the most bizarre families to be on these shows.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 24, 2007 7:27 AM | Report abuse

I also think they clean out the houses and get rid of clutter! My problem with these shows is--do the families ever get real counseling? Or does Mary Poppins just leave the tricks from her bag and hope for the best? What about follow up? I admit my kids and I watch a rival show on Friday night a lot and we've all learned from it. Still, I think they only look for extremes in casting.
I agree with the other poster on the wife/mom swap show--YUCK!

Posted by: pbjmom | May 24, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

I think the show is crap. I've seen it twice and was disgusted both times. However, for the target audience, it's probably the way to go. I tend to get my advice on parenting from family, friends and books -- definitely NOT supernanny.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 24, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

The reward charts and time outs are also crap! Be a strong leader and teach your children to follow rules (gasp). Nip bad behavior in the bud. Train your children to have a strong moral code (horrors) to guide their actions.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2007 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I'll admit I've watched Supernanny before. It's like a train wreck, but somehow whenever I find it while channel surfing, I feel the need to watch.

I have often wondered how these people can bring themselves to put their children on tv, especially in this context. I'd imagine that the school-aged kids must go through a lot of teasing from their peers. Plus, I remember one family that insisted on saying horrible things about their daughter. How is that child going to feel when she sees the show?

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 24, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I watched the show once and was horrified by the treatment of the children. The mom was dragging a child back to bed by the arm. I was worried the child's arm would be damaged-- pop out of its socket or something.

Posted by: Jen S. | May 24, 2007 8:26 AM | Report abuse

On the rare occasion that I get to watch TV when it's on, I actually like Supernanny. Guaranteed to make you feel better about your own life. "At least my kids aren't THAT bad..." :) And she does occasionally have a few useful tips. As for Wife Swap or Trading Spouses, you do wonder what planet these people come from. Fun if you take it as fiction versus "reality." Who's reality would that be?

Posted by: Rockville Mom | May 24, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

My 13-year-old stepdaughter in Houston would be a perfect candidate.

Posted by: J | May 24, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Firstly, the kids on the show aren't bad--their parents are training them into following specific patterns of behavior. Jo and other "supernanny" types try to help them see that the parents are actually giving the kids cues to hit eachother or misbehave, etc, by not listening to them or giving them positive feedback when they ARE doing something well or trying hard. I see a lot of parents make expectations or demands without living up to them or making crazy threats that they don't want to carry out. They don't respect the kids individuality or hear the sometimes unreasonable demands they make. From what I've seen the best thing the nannies do is give the families relationship counseling--listen to your kids, and give your kids something they CAN listen to--vs. just yelling at them or bossing them (which would drive anyone nuts!)

Posted by: Jane | May 24, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The great irony about this show (and others of its genre) is that the most obvious problem with the participants is that they would elect to go on such a TV show in the first place. Counseling--good. Going on TV to do it--sign that additional counseling is needed to address problem that extends far beyond child-rearing techniques.
Bet this issue will never be raised by Nanny Jo.

Posted by: Cubegirl | May 24, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I WISH my sis-in-law would go on this show. Lordy knows it couldn't hurt @ this point.

The show is also great birth control. Everyone who is childless & of child bearing age should be forced to watch just one episode of this show just to show them what could happen.

Not that everyone would end up like those parents, or is even remotely like those parents, but just some should know that kids like that could be in your realm of possibilities.

Posted by: Bored @ work | May 24, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

My wife and I think Jo is great. She seems to have a real talent for identifying and illustrating the ways in which parents are reinforcing their children's negative behavior. She provides commonsense solutions to problems that are not necessarily intuitive. It's easy to see how some otherwise good parents could fall into certain traps. We have nothing but praise for "JoJo".

Posted by: Admiring Parent | May 24, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I love "Supernanny", and wish more people would watch it. The problems are usually not with kids, but with parents. Jo actually makes parents listen to, and treat their kids with respect, but also grow a backbone, create rules for their households, and stick to them. I know too many families who would benefit greatly from watching this show. I have used Jo's techniques on my own child, and it worked like a charm.

Posted by: Supernanny's fan | May 24, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I think because of all these reasons, the show is great. Horrified? Great! Educated? Great! Annoyed? Great! Get the word out that this is how families are REALLY working.

I think these families are real, even if we only see the highlights, those are REAL highlights. Kids do act like that, parents do lack skills on how to live up to their expectations and teach children how to behave.

I love the shows format in that it goes to both the kids level and the parents level and shows how to integrate them together so that everyone gets what they need.

Posted by: Liz D | May 24, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"I don't like these shows too much but I absolutely hate the switch the mom shows. They pick the most bizarre families to be on these shows."

Foamgnome, I know what you mean-- those families always look bizarre. But I know one family that was on it that wasn't that odd but was made to look like total freaks. Freak-watching makes for good TV.

Posted by: Neighbor | May 24, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I love Supernanny and Nanny 911. I have learned many techniques from watching those shows. I don't have kids yet, but my brother does and his kids are not well-behaved. I have seen what a lack of discipline has done in his house and don't want that happening when I have kids.

Do I think the shows depict real lives? Yes! I see that kind of behavior in my brother's house all the time. Kids are awful when they aren't raised properly.

Posted by: Watcher | May 24, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Well put, Jane. Supernanny is far and away the best parenting advice I've ever seen on TV. Although it's no replacement for a good book, or simple common sense, it's certainly useful when neither of those is anywhere to be seen. I have a wonderful friend who is a horrible parent, threatening her kids every minute and never actually taking any action. I watched a couple of shows with her and planted the seeds of consistency and carrying through (quickly and without discussion). I almost felt bad when my daughter said "may I please be excused" while her kids climbed all over the furniture, but it's because they did not have any real, predictable limits, and that's the core of most Supernanny episodes. Although it gets a bit repetitive for me, in general I don't think we can have that reinforced enough.

And there was that one episode where the aunt cared for the kids, the one who practically raised the mom when they were young, and she was overly permissive and resented the PARENTS enforcing rules with their kids? After seeing how Jo was able to get that family talking and working together, I think we should send her to the Middle East to negotiate a peace accord! :D

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | May 24, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Supernanny and Nanny 911 are exploitive of children - it's the parents who are exploiting the children. The kids don't apply to the show, the parents do. The younger children don't understand that their family will be (effectively) shown in a zoo cage to a nation-wide audience, but the parents do. How desperately do you have to want your "15 minutes of fame" that you would expose your lack of understanding and lack of control of your own children to a television audience?

And it's not the kids who should end up embarrassed, it's the parents!

My question to those shows is, when they arrive at a home where the parents are not just unskilled or overwhelmed but are actually doing dangerous things, do the shows ever just call Family Services? There have been episodes where the family locked children in bedrooms for the day, where the father put the kids on a sled and pulled them down the living room staircase, where a 4 or 5-year-old kid was driving a 3-wheel off-road motorized trike alone, etc. Those folks don't need to be on TV, they need to be under supervision!

Posted by: Fascinated | May 24, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The problem with reality TV is that whole "reality" part. Even the shallowest amount of digging behind most reality shows finds the amount of scripting and editing involved. In my oppinion, The troubleshooting shows like "Supernanny" are actually some of the worst and promote a overly simplistic thinking.

Personally, I often find that reality is stranger than fiction.

Posted by: David S | May 24, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that problems that have lasted for years can be solved in a one-hour program, or that parents who are just bad parents can change their bad behavior in the course of a week or two.

I think shows like "Supernanny" absolutely exploit young children and give a very unrealistic picture of what people need to do to become good parents. It's a process, not a one-hour show with commercials.

Posted by: ZenYoga | May 24, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Fascinated that I too have wondered at times whether the show's producers have ever intervened because of the dangerous situations the kids seem to be in. Also, sometimes, I agree that I have at time thought that Family Services needs to be called, not Supernanny or Nanny 911. I am glad that I wasn't the only one thinking those things.

Posted by: Watcher | May 24, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I have seen a few episodes of Supernanny and think it is both
a) fascinating in a train wreck sort of way -- it always makes you feel better about your parenting because at least *someone* out there is doing a worse job
b) has some pretty good lessons to teach, such as consistency and boundary setting
It would be a bit dicey to put your fammily through being on the show but I love to watch it.

Posted by: Chicago mom | May 24, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I feel that Supernanny has lots of good advice for parents who have lost any kind of control over their children. Some don't even know where to start. For most it seems like it's a last ditch effort before a divorce or other drastic measure. And is embarrassment (either of themselves or their kids) such a high price to pay to try to get some control in their lives before their kids are ruined? I know if I was in some of those situations I'd do anything to get help. For the person who said the reward charts and time outs are crap and the parents need to nip bad behavior in the bud, I would say that's what Supernanny is helping them do. They have to start somewhere. Yes I agree children should be taught to obey authority and bad behavior shouldn't be tolerated but Supernanny shows how that can happen with positive reinforcement (rewards) and by communicating the expections clearly to the kids. I would definitely do a time out before any other punishment with my child. As long as a timeout is a good working punishment why not use it?

Posted by: CatWoman | May 24, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Some of these poor parents had no example on how to be a parent before they became parents. Some of these families give up because it's hard to take back control because they fear their child will not "like" them. Then all we have are very out of control children. I applaud those families who seek out help whether it be from a book, friend, family or otherwise. But sometimes it's easier to "get it" and "hear it" and "do it" and "live it" with someone who is outside of the family dynamic who will not have a judgement on you, your parenting skills or your children. Jo is able to be that person. Let's stop looking at this through colored glasses. Are these families better off for having had SuperNanny or Nanny 911 helping them or should they worry about what opinion you or I might have about them and continue to live in chaos and unhappiness throughout the whole family.

It really doesn't matter what our opinion is - it only matters if their home has been put onto the right path of harmony. Afterall it could be any one of us in their position.

Posted by: cj | May 24, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

The Nanny shows are awesome and have even helped me as a baseball coach. To see the "monkey-see, monkey-do" type attitude in children, it helps me to see that in the teenagers on the field every day. The show also helps me with relating to the kids. The kids want to feel special and that someone is paying attention to them.

Those who say it's exploiting kids, get a life. You just don't want them exploiting YOUR kids so it's wrong for everyone. Get off your high-horses, you aren't anyone special, heck neither am I. I'm just a coach.

On the editing side, yes you need to edit the shows down and the kids aren't that bad all the time. Watch the timeline, listen to what's said. Actually, sit through an entire show and listen to EVERYTHING. Don't just pick one small sentence out and turn it around to your liking. You aren't Rush Limbaugh or on FOX News, they aren't special either.

The people who get offended by these shows are also the ones that most desperatly need these shows. Just because you are the mom or dad, doesn't mean you know it all. Be open to new ideas and find what works for you. If the charts and graphs and timeout chairs and rewards don't work for you, find something that does. Try spending more time with your kids and get to know them better, you'll know what works then.

Posted by: Jarrod | May 25, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

The Nanny shows are awesome and have even helped me as a baseball coach. To see the "monkey-see, monkey-do" type attitude in children, it helps me to see that in the teenagers on the field every day. The show also helps me with relating to the kids. The kids want to feel special and that someone is paying attention to them.

Those who say it's exploiting kids, get a life. You just don't want them exploiting YOUR kids so it's wrong for everyone. Get off your high-horses, you aren't anyone special, heck neither am I. I'm just a coach.

On the editing side, yes you need to edit the shows down and the kids aren't that bad all the time. Watch the timeline, listen to what's said. Actually, sit through an entire show and listen to EVERYTHING. Don't just pick one small sentence out and turn it around to your liking. You aren't Rush Limbaugh or on FOX News, they aren't special either.

The people who get offended by these shows are also the ones that most desperatly need these shows. Just because you are the mom or dad, doesn't mean you know it all. Be open to new ideas and find what works for you. If the charts and graphs and timeout chairs and rewards don't work for you, find something that does. Try spending more time with your kids and get to know them better, you'll know what works then.

Posted by: Jarrod | May 25, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I've always been struck by the audience's willing suspension of disbelief when they watch people who are being followed around by a camera and consider it "reality."

When I see some little kid acting out in the supermarket I think that the last thing this kid needs is to have his behavior validated by a camera crew.

Posted by: SteveT | May 25, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I stopped watching because it's redundant (same techniques every week), and because all the parents on Supernanny seem to be rich. Having "play rooms" and "time out" spaces doesn't really seem to bounce when you live in a 700-ft sq 2bd apartment. Also, I dislike the follow-up on these shows. The nanny pulls away to the smiling, waving family, and then what?

That said, I think the wife-trading shows are waaaaay more exploitative of kids than Supernanny or Nanny 911, and I think there needs to be a venue for parents to see what bull they put their kids through and that it's not too late to turn it around.

I have an acquaintance who lets her kids run wild, and they're just bad at this point, but they're both under 10. The mother complains on her blog that it's too late to start being consistent with them, and she's just setting them up for failure later.

Posted by: Kat | May 25, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I like Supernanny. Her advice is generally similar to what I read in well-respected parenting books that are tailored to strong-willed children, and I think she has a lot of common sense. Although she's a tough cookie, she's very gentle towards the kids themselves. She reserves her critical attitude for the parents. I don't think the show exploits kids: the fact that the kids behavior changes when the parents start treating them better demonstrates that it's really the parents that are messed up. Certainly it would be better for parents to read about parenting themselves rather than go on national tv, but many parents don't read well enough to do that.

Posted by: m | May 29, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

TO: Posted by: Kat | May 25, 2007 05:07 PM

I don't believe all the families have had "playrooms". I recall one show where the two boys slept on kid beds that were located in the living room for lack of space. They had to tie down EVERYTHING in the LR and KIT because they wouldn't stay in bed!!!!

And as for those families with large beautiful homes?....you now know that not everything that glitters is gold.... even they have monumental problems with their kids too. It really doesn't matter where you live -- living without boundaries and consistency will infect any home.

Posted by: cj | May 29, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

cj - I've always known that. I came up quite well off. My point is I feel, from all the Supernanny I watch, that they tend to choose families with big, filmable homes, and use the space in a way that makes it feel like its necessary to have it.

Posted by: Kat | May 30, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

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