Self-proclaimed “SuperNanny” Jo Frost has recently released a book, in which she explains how to keep toddlers from running and ruining the lives of parents, and basic instructional advice about how to avoid complete meltdowns in public. Theirs, not yours, apparently. She comes at the angle of disciplining children seemingly better and smarter than any parent. After all, what do parents know? Besides our own children since the day they were born?
I’ve always found her advice, while theoretically sound, is like getting advice from that crabby older lady in the grocery store who shakes her head at your squirming and yelling toddler. Advising on how to discipline children, when they aren’t your own, or when you don’t have children at all, is sort of like me giving my teen son a few pointers on how to dress cool. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never been a teen boy. Or dressed cool, for that matter.
Think about the substitute teacher that comes into a normally unruly classroom. Simply by not bringing any baggage to the situation, he or she is more easily able to establish new rules which the children are more likely to follow. And they’re just as likely to fall back into their own routines with their regular teacher once the sub has gone.
As parents, we have great huge piles of baggage with our children. Try as we might, we can’t tag it “unclaimed” and send it back. We were there from the beginning, and we inherently know that we will be there in the end…the end being hopefully when we pack them off to live their own lives. And so our discipline and our methods are somewhat tainted by the background knowledge of how many times they have previously struck their brother, the number and breadth of ways their sister has insulted them, and the uneasy feeling about the upcoming vacation where everyone will be expected to just get along.
We’re running, in essence, a family business (or of course, the business of being a family) and if you’ve worked in a corporation who has brought in an outside consultant to “fix” things, you know that while most of the advice and business plans that they present is fantastic in theory, (how can it not be when it involves so many super graphs and charts), the odds of effectively implementing these changes and making a real difference in the running of the business is slim to none.
Likewise, when a SuperNanny steps into an out of control household, her single biggest weapon in fighting against toddler meltdowns is that she is simply not the toddler’s parent. This is something, as parents, that we can never replicate, without being charged with child abandonment at the time of birth. What we can do, of course, is to make sure that our children know who is in charge, as I wrote about in my latest book, I Am So The Boss Of You.
Because there is no doubt that SuperNanny is in charge, and is deploying an effective, if not attainable, model of a perfectly run autocratic household. Her advice is really for other nannies, caregivers of children, or know-it-all-unrelated Grandmas in stores, not parents. Not that I wouldn’t hire her to be a Substitute Mom for me, every once in a while.