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Childless parenting gurus

I don't like Supernanny. I don't believe that any naughty child worth their salt would stay on the 'naughty step'. I hate the hug, (mixed messages are always a bad idea)  and the 'saying sorry' shtick. Are we supposed to believe that after a spell on the naughty step, the child has had time to reflect on his naughtiness and is filled with regret. If not, what's the point of saying 'Sorry', it's just a get out of goal free card. As anyone with a teenager knows, it's shorthand for 'now get off my back'.

I auditioned for Supernany many years ago. the production team explained the concept as a return to old fashioned values in parenting. They asked me how I would deal with a misbehaving teenager. My answer involved listening, understanding the problem, negotiating, - while still having it clear in my mind where the boundaries where. Wrong answer!  They wanted telling, lecturing, threatening and laying down the law. A no-nonsense, nanny-knows-best, bossy boots approach, a kind of parenting dominatrix. The first series played up that element with Jo Frost, hair dragged into a bun, severe in a dark suit with a purposeful walk and a stern expression.

Have you noticed it is the parenting gurus who don't have children who are the strictest? The ones who recommend letting a hungry baby cry because the schedule says it's not time to feed or teaching baby that his cries will go unheeded, because he has to get into a routine. I know that most of these gurus have been nannies, even if they don't have children of their own. There may be a view that being less emotionally involved they are able to do a better job but I don't think so. 'Emotionally involved' is what the parent child relationship is all about. 

The hormone oxytocin is sometimes called the 'love hormone' or the cuddle hormone. It's released during labour, during breast feeding, from skin to skin contact and it makes us feel calm and relaxed. Distress - when for example you listen to your baby howl and are not allowed soothe him, produces the stress hormone cortisol in both mother and baby. (For anyone who wants to know how we know baby is stressed, a swab of saliva shows the presence of the hormone).

Evolution gave humans helpless infants to nurture. That infant has one main way to survive, to get a caring adult to tend to his needs and nature gave that caring adult (aka mother) the hormones to make sure it happens. Our bodies tell us what to do. We do what comes naturally. We relieve our cortisol-induced feelings of stress by responding to our baby's cries. Breast feeding mothers will lactate on hearing their child cry. Breast feeding itself releases oxytocin, as does skin to skin contact. It seems to me that to ignore these basic facts in the interests of managing or training the baby defies biology. Trust your instincts seems to be far better parenting advice, especially in the first few months.  

I wouldn't take lessons in cooking from someone who didn't love food. I feel the same way about parenting advice from someone who has never emotionally bonded with a child; the most essential element in getting it right is missing.  

There's an old joke that goes 'What's the difference between involved and committed? In a bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken was involved, the pig was committed. When it comes to bringing up children, parenting gurus are involved but parents are committed. 


Reader Comments (2)

Great post..

As we all know, there’s no single way of parenting. There are many ideas about how to rear children. Some parents adopt the ideas their own parents used. Others get advice from friends. No one has all the answers. Psychologists now know what parenting practices are the most effective and are more likely to promote positive development for their children. Parenting can be grouped into three different styles. These are different ways of deciding who is responsible for what in a family.

Parenting that is authoritative usually does best in promoting positive development in their children. Authoritative parenting believes in rules that govern behavior, both their kids’ and their own; however, they explain the rules to their children and try to create partnerships with them. They feel that they are responsible for making their children understand why the rules of the family exist, and for helping their children develop the skills they need to govern themselves in appropriate ways. http://www.newportpsychotherapy.com/psychology_topics/parenting_styles_psychologist.html

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternewport

Bravo! I have thought the same all along! I do not like Jo Frost's programme Supernanny at all; in fact, I really can't stand the woman. If Supernanny is on television, I reach for the remote control.

I cannot respect her opinions on parenting, purely on the issue that she, herself, is not a parent. This is akin to a motor vehicle designer claiming that the car they designed is nice to drive, when they've never even taken driving lessons!

Anyone can theoretically step inside a household and preach to parents where they are going wrong with tackling their children's behaviour, but I have doubts that her advice is sustainable.

Were it the case that she was placed in the position of living with challenging children day in, day out and having to be up in the night with them and left absolutely exhausted, I think she may find trying to apply her own advice a tall order!

For my money, I prefer Dr Tania Byron. She is far less irritating and patronising than Jo Frost and the main point is, she is a parent, thus she can identify with the issues from our point of view.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMJW

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