Mrs. Geek and I have both taken to watching Supernanny after Mrs. Geek watches The Bachelorette on Monday nights. It’s a bizarre little show. Playing off the American stereotype that all things British are proper, British nanny Jo Frost visits a different American family each week, first observing the (very!) poor behavior of their kids and then teaching the parents how to fix these behaviors. The stuff she generally teaches seems fairly basic, at least to someone who doesn’t have a beastly 8 year old crying and screeching into his ears 5+ hours a day. You know, basic ideas about structured play, vocalisations used to get a child’s attention, ways to show where behavioral boundaries are. At the end of each week, we see yet another family straining under loud screams of “I DON’T WANNA!!! I DON’T WANNA!!!” and a lot of pushing and shoving of younger siblings turn into… well, something a little more ordered.
The show makes me very concerned, on a number of levels. First off, I have to wonder if Generation X (as most of the parents visited are) really ever learned any parenting skills. Were we all too busy watching re-runs of the Love Boat and Fantasy Island on Saturday night or agonzing over parental divorce to pay attention to how our parents raised us? Has the self absorbed nature of the Boomer generation taught us that parenting is all about letting your kids run wild? Does this say something deeper about society at large today? Are we so busy working multiple jobs to make house payments that we just don’t have time to sit down at the dinner table every day? Or is it just that Dr. Benjamin Spock convinced everyone to use psychology instead of a leather belt, when a leather belt just might be the quicker option? I don’t know. I have no answers.
Seeing Jo Frost in action with her very British phrase “No! You’ve been a very NAUGHTY girl/boy! That is unacceptable!” does make me wish that she was around to school some of today’s celebrities though. I would just love to see her go after, say, Paris Hilton. “No, no, no, NO, Paris! You’ve been a VERY naughty girl! Dancing on the table in a mini skirt without underwear is not acceptable! Screaming at the Louis Vuitton rep at Sundance because she won’t give you free merchandise is not acceptable!” Or better yet, I think Britney Spears could use an earful. “No, no, Britney! You’ve been very naughty! Getting married in Las Vegas as a prank is not acceptable!”
Then again, perhaps Britney and Paris really are part of the crux of the matter. How can we expect children to behave well when we tolerate the poor behavior of so many “adults”? Perhaps, dear Brutus, the answer is not in our stars, but in ourselves.