Don't Make Me Put You in the Naughty Chair: Supernanny is Back
By Deb Rox on October 23, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
ABC's Supernanny is back on the air tonight, launching its sixth season of naughty chairs full of wild things. I'm happy Nanny Jo is returning. I don't watch it every Friday, but I do like a little Supernanny now and again because it stirs up a juicy conflict for my inner reality-show-loving child. Like Pavlov's dog or a kid who has been Frosted, the show's Men at Work theme song "Be good, be good, be good be good be good, be good, be good, be good, be good Johnny!" makes me sit up a little straighter to — just for Nanny Jo — be good.
But at the same time Supernanny makes me feel scummy, because I know I'm about to be bombarded with wide-eyed "how do people live like that?" moments that I should be ashamed to enjoy. The frosting on my personal regressive conflict cake: Jo Frost is often super hot working the secretly-sexy-librarian-taking-control archetype, and surely it's wrong for me to objectify a stern Madonna in that stereotypical, manipulated way. Right?
Be good, indeed.
Supernanny producers have been hosting casting calls throughout the Southwest this month, with the show hoping to sally forth for a good long time. There seems to be no end to mums and dads willing to immolate their privacy and pride. Fixing dysfunctional families is the stated promise of the show and the books and forums in the Supernanny brand, and the producers certainly have found some notably unwell scenes.
In addition to focusing on communication, Jo models a 3-point strategy to get acting out kids under control: consistent, authoritative guidance; positive reinforcement, reward and attention; and, systems for time and chore management. Fairly basic behavior modification--of the parents, not the kids, with Jo trying to transform the ill-equipped, isolated, depressed, overwhelmed, anger-prone, disorganized, checked-out, formerly abused or neglected, unconventional, or mid-guided, simply ineffective grown-ups. When the parents become more productively engaged with any of Jo's suggestions, the kids seem to do better.
I'm quite a bit more laissez-faire than Jo, and too Rogerian to get into the level of withholding reward that is needed for stern behavior mod, plus my kids are really great older teenagers, so I don't watch the show for advice. To me, the show is appealing in the way that Wife Swap, Hoarders or Intervention draw on our fascination with the inner working of dysfunctional people. This type of reality show stretches our concept of the diversity of psychological experience even within our North American culture, while reassuring viewers that most of us don't have to work to be good, because in comparison, we are very, very good as is. The old Prince Charming promise of rescue from the dysfunction around you is offered as well.
My younger son hates it when I have Supernanny on because of the inevitable screaming or bizarre behavior of the children or the parents. I like his complaints, because I then get to remind him of how lucky he is to have such a fabulous mother because I neither scream at him nor ask him to hide in the attic while I call 911 and news stations to report him missing on a helium spacecraft ride, and he is compelled to agree. (Or he won't get a gold star on his chore board.)
The second best part of Supernanny is the ending, where Jo goes back to visit the happier family that has found insights and a smooth flow for their home life. It is nice, even if dubious, to wrap up each hour with a happy ending. The second best part of Supernanny is that the parents on Supernanny make me feel like I'm the lovechild of Maria Montessori and Mr. Rogers. That effect lasts a long, long time.
Here are some blogged reactions to the divinely superior Nanny Jo.
Margaret blogged on Take a Walk with Me about similar feelings:
My 9 yo daughter decided to spend the day watching the Super Nanny marathon. It was culture shock for her! LOL! One child called the mom a B-word. She looked at me wide eyed and said Mommy, I'm shocked, did you hear what he said! I'd be dead! All his mom did was wash his mouth out with soap!
Bingkee writes an interesting blog called I Love/Hate America where she posted about the American cultural issues evident in the parenting shown on Supernanny, and she likes how a nanny-cam, which typically is used by parents to spy on their caregivers, is flipped to reveal the secrets of the parents on the show:
The nanny-cam in Supernanny gives viewers glimpses of how terrible and embarrassing parents transform their children into potential monstrosities. It also gives us a montage of how some American parents shamefully breed brats.
Many parents do find help in Nanny Jo's techniques. Apollo's Gal writes about how hard it is to use consistent enforcement to bust a dysfuntional bedtime pattern.
I will have to say that it is more fun to watch on tv! After 15 minutes I was worn out, but I dug in and fought it out. Finally, he fell asleep....until 3 AM that is! Then we started back with the SuperNanny technique until Ben finally went back to sleep at 5 AM!!! It was pure misery!
So, thank you, SuperNanny, for the tips, but I'd rather just watch you use them and not have to use them at home!! I'm hoping tonight won't be a repeat of last night!
Tonight (8 pm EST) Jo is visiting a blended family with relationship problems. Will you tune in? Does Supernanny speak to your inner child, or your outer reality show hound, or do you want no part of her Supernanny superpowers? Be good, now.
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