Monday, August 24, 2009

Reflections Upon Watching Super Nanny

We got home from holidays this week, and most of the week thus far has been spent playing house games: Catch-Up Email, Clear Up Garden Jungle, Lay Around On Couch, See What's On TV. You know, stuff everyone missed while away.

More than a few nights were spent going FLICK FLICK FLICK on the TV remote: Jeopardy! HGTV! Arthur! Coronation Street! (okay, that was me) Dr Who! MI-5! Midsomer Murders!

And thus it was that we happened upon an episode of Super Nanny one night. Do you know this show? It centers around a very earnest and very British 30-something former nanny and her attempts at rescuing middle America from its disastrous attempts at parenting. The parents are generally idiots; the kids are generally horrible. The twins were captivated. "OMG, I can't believe his mum lets him DO that!" gasped FDPG after one second of action, so I left the show on, intrigued at the parenting possibilities. Mind you, I sometimes wonder if they jack these kids up on all kinds of sugary substances before they commence filming, because it's hard to believe that any kid does ANY of this stuff unassisted by either sugar, allergic reaction, or violent video intravenous. The kids in this particular episode were running into other people's houses, hitting their parents, and generally behaving without any sense of propriety whatsoever. It was weird, alarming, and slightly unbelievable.

Anyhow, as we're watching, the two brothers do something totally and completely over the top with each other, and Super Nanny, as it her wont, interjects with a slightly patronizing cameo, which goes something along these lines:

Parents? Do you see this happening in your neighbourhood? How would YOU react in this case? Would you

a) Leave the kids to work it out themselves
b) Do nothing

(and here she pauses and looks very archly at us the TV audience, just in case we're not sure which one is the correct option)

c) take immediate action by intervening

At this point all of us had a vaguely disturbing flashback to something we had experienced earlier this summer, an incident involving a few kids we knew (one of whom has the uncanny knack of bringing out the very worst in his colleagues). An incident involving some bullying and a kid with some, umm, hmm, let's just call them social issues. An incident to which I was very sadly privy. And an incident in which none of the parents involved seemed to want to have much involvement with. An incident in which I was very clearly told to back off and leave the kids to work it out themselves. One parent (not the parent of the victim, I hasten to add) even went so far as to demand that I apologize to the kids for getting involved at all. And he was mad. Really mad.

Which made me sad. Really sad. Just what, I tried to ask him, are we teaching our children when we allow them to be cruel without just cause? Are we teaching them to be reasonable adults? Adults we will one day admire?

Or are we teaching them that they can do whatever they want? That we will never call them on their willingness to go along with one Badly Intentioned Idiot just to stay in the group?

But all that went nowhere. The entire event was left at a stalemate.

It makes you wonder, sometimes, doesn't it?


Michelle said...

I totally agree; it's like the blind leading the blind. How on earth are children supposed to learn how to interact well and sort out their differences if they're never shown how and if they're not given good examples? Why is it ok...not ok, but expected that children be taught maths, science, reading, etc...but social skills must be figured out? Figured out how, exactly? It's like throwing kids some bricks and tools and told to build a house without any guidance. They'll give it a go, but it won't be a sound structure.

This is why kids in schools interact so badly: they're thrown together and told to work things out on their own. Ten years down the road and they still don't know how to get along. Our prisons are filled with the proof of this pudding. Ok, I can't just blame the schools; it's bad parenting, too.

My son's going through a phase of rudeness. He never used to speak to us this way, he's just suddenly started doing it. But I'm not going to leave him to it, or shout at him to knock it off. When he does it, I tell him a nicer way to say what he's just said and I expect him to repeat it back to me. That's my job as a parent, to set the example.

It's sad that we now live in a world where kids are expected to raise themselves and it's considered an intrusion to do anything to correct bad behaviour. This is why the world has a need for people like Super Nanny.

Samantha said...

I say good for you for speaking up and getting involved! Those are some pretty serious incidents you are describing and absolutely calling out for parent involvement. If the parent of the bullying child is turning a blind eye, or saying it's all part of growing up, I would either try to work it out with the kids myself or else stay away from those particular families. I know not always easy with a hs group though. Makes me sad as well.

sheila said...

Michelle, you are absolutely right - it IS bad parenting, plain and simple. I was shocked that these parents thought it okay to leave the kids. As far as I know they didn't even talk with them about their behaviour.

Samantha, it's totally depressing, isn't it? Made me really shake my head a few times.

Rebecca said...

Brava to you for sticking your neck out!

If we do not want to tolerate mean-ness and cruelty in our society/world, we cannot "let it go" when children are interacting with one another. I actually believe that an adult should be within ear-shot at all times when kids are playing (maybe not siblings, but definitely "friends") and ready to lend a hand when needed.

Children do not have innate "work-it-out" skills. After being an elementary school counsellor for years, I have seen this time and again. Kids need respectful support.

The H/S community is large-ish here. There are always new connections to be forged!

sheila said...

It's not the HSing community here, Rebecca (and Samantha): it was something we experienced when we were away. Fortunately 2 of the 3 kids involved don't live anywhere near us. But we will see them once a year. Which is about all I'll be able to endure after this summer.

I love what you say about tolerating meanness and cruelty, Rebecca. That was exactly how I felt at the time. What are we saying about getting along with others if we let this stuff go unnoticed. Like you say - kids don't have innate "work-it-out" skills.

Heather said...

I'm just reading a book and the author talks about this very thing. In his opinion (it seems to me) it is our duty as a responsible adult in a community TO do something and not to just stand by. The book is called We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids by Michael Unger.

shaunms said...

I always assume SuperNanny is popular because it makes people like me say, "Phew! At least my kids aren't *that* bad!"

I totally agree about "saying something." Even for little things -- I am shocked at our HS co-op at how often otherwise lovely parents will simply allow their children to ignore the posted rules, knowing full well that breaking the rules jeopardizes our relationship with the church that offers us facilities. Yes, yes, kids will be kids, but how are they supposed to learn respect without some guidance?

I suspect there is no philosophy of parenting behind it. Based my own mistakes, I'd say it is plain Lazyness.

ps good to see you posting again!