Whaddya Mean, SuperNanny’s Over?

It figures. Just my luck. The boys and I got totally into watching SuperNanny together, and we just logged on to watch last night. The link says “Watch the series finale!” SERIES finale? Not SEASON finale?

AUUUUUUUGH! SuperNanny’s done. I can’t believe it. Older actually said, “What am I gonna do when I have kids?” I told him he could buy her book or watch the DVDs. (Or whatever they’re doing by the time he has kids, instant streaming directly into your brain?) And then they decided that she should train a replacement and keep the show going.

I said, “Um, maybe I could help you?” Could that be a possibility? I am considered a professional in some circles.

Anywho, it’s been an interesting ride for SuperNanny, and interesting for me to watch. Her critics say she’s too mean, too rigid, too simplistic. But many of us who work with kids know she’s got it.

This strikes a nerve with me because in my line of work, you come across a lot of people who have strong opinions on how we should work with children, but they’ve usually never worked with children.

You don’t have to take every bit of advice she gives. I don’t use her version of timeouts, which are key to her system. But I’m in a different situation when I’m working with five kids from different families. Having peers in a non-home environment is different (and I’m not Mom).

But her overall practices are dead-on. She exemplifies what I teach in my parenting classes: the 4 C’s. Stay calm, be clear, have consistent boundaries, use natural consequences.

Children under the age of ten need “simplistic.” They don’t have the rationalizing skills of adults. I love it when I see parents trying to be logical with two-year-olds. “Honey, you need to put your coat on because it’s cold outside. See? The thermometer says 36 degrees.” UGH. Hey kid. Put your coat on. Period.

I think what people consider as “mean” is her excellent way of showing how to use your tone of voice. She does sound mean when she puts that voice on. But she’s being clear and consistent. I mean business. No more arguing, I’m done, this is The Way It Is. Having a tantrum at this point is a waste of your breath. But if you insist, go right ahead. I’ll be over here staying calm. When a child hears a sweet and wishy-washy tone, they know they’ve got an angle. They just have to keep testing until they find it – and they will. And then you’re on the path to negotiating with a toddler for the next half hour.

The way we’re taught to raise kids today, boundaries are a bad thing. “We don’t say no because she doesn’t like that.” “If I don’t let him do that I’ll crush his spirit.” (That was me – seriously. I said I thought I would crush my son’s spirit. You may laugh and mock me now.) In my world – today, after I figured out I wasn’t crushing spirits – boundaries mean love. They mean protection and safety in a scary, scary world.

Anyone who was a teenager while growing up knows that we hated our parents for the boundaries they gave us, but didn’t you feel deep down that they were showing how much they loved you? And didn’t you have that friend who said they wished their parents cared enough to do the same?

SuperNanny gave the parents boundaries as well. It is “una-sep-table” to scream at your child. (Get it? Do you see now that you’re teaching your kids how to behave?) If someone complains her system is too “rigid,” I say it’s predictable. Children need to know what’s coming; they not only crave routine but they thrive under it. They need predictability and boundaries in order to feel safe, and when they feel safe, then they can begin to learn and grow.

Ultimately SuperNanny’s goal was putting aside the bad behavior and helping parents and kids connect. Let’s be done with this nonsense so we can enjoy each other’s company. She always brought some fun or game or field trip to the table, and forced those uptight / cranky / stressed out parents to loosen up and enjoy their kids. I loved that.

Parenting is not easy. I don’t understand what people expect when they have a child – that it’s all going to be sunshine and roses? It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The biggest commitment I’ve ever made. Think about it – by having a child you are committing yourself to the care and responsiblity of ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. Not a car or a house or a job or a dog, but a PERSON. It’s not to be taken lightly.

It fills your life – it gives you meaning – it makes your life wonderful. There are beautiful, precious, unbelievable moments where it feels like your heart is literally about to burst through your chest because your physical body can’t contain the joy you feel.

And on the other end of that, the pain and anger can burn so strongly that you see red.

So in those moments, it’s up to us to take control. Realize that no matter how far this child has pushed you, they still need your love and protection. If you give in to your urge to scream, smack, and dominate them, you’ve damaged your relationship and lost a little more respect in their eyes. As Michael J. Bradley says:

“Your defining act of love for your child will not be the 2:00 AM feedings, the sleepless, fretful night spent beside him in the hospital, or the second job you took to pay for college. Your zenith will occur in the face of a withering blast of frightening rage from your adolescent, in allowing no rage from yourself in response. Your finest moment may well be your darkest. And you will be a parent.”

Being a parent forces you to change. It forces you to look at who you are. This is never easy. That’s where SuperNanny came in. Ultimately, she didn’t change the kids’ behavior nearly as much as the parents.

It did seem a little odd to me that she didn’t have her own children, and the explanation for the end of the show (besides low ratings) is that she wants to have her own family. So I hope she is blessed with lovely babies and I know they’re going to be awesome people. Critics be damned.

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