Parenting: Reality vs. Reality Show

Did you ever watch the reality show “Supernanny”? Here’s how the show’s producers promote the program:

How will Supernanny handle the demands of the X Family (name changed here to protect the innocent)? Watch as Supernanny shows them how to turn things around in the latest episode, and turn a nightmare into a dream come true. Best of all, children and adults alike can enjoy the lasting benefits of a more harmonious family life.

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Sounds like Supernanny performs miracles on misbehaving children in one episode’s time.

Now read a Center for Parenting Education principle:

It can take a long time for parents to know that the healthy ways they are choosing to interact and respond to their children will really produce emotionally healthy children. It can be hard to trust and wait for these long-term effects to become evident.


Parenting Takes Time

Hmm. How can Supernanny fix behavior in one show that the Parenting Center says takes a long time to teach? Well, she can’t. The show “Supernanny” is a big hit because it appeals to society’s quick-fix mentality.

But the truth is, parents have to be realistic and accept that getting children to behave in the way that they want them to takes more than a one-hour session with Supernanny. It takes time and occurs in the context of a consistently loving and firm relationship.

A good example of some parents’ quick fix mentality is evident in the following story. When my children were younger, a friend and I went to a parenting education workshop. The next day my friend called and told me she used one of the tips on her youngest son. She said, “I tried it and it didn’t work.” She tried one tip – one time – and expected overnight change. She was looking for a quick-fix.

A Drop at a Time

red paint swirled in whiteAt the same workshop, the presenter compared parenting to a bucket of white paint and said that if you want to change the white paint to the exact right shade of pink, you start by adding red paint one drop at a time.

One drop does nothing; the next drop, also nothing. But as you add more and more drops and mix and stir, you begin to see results.

My friend needed to think of her son as a bucket of white paint and her words of discipline as the drops of red paint.

It takes time and patience to produce emotionally healthy children. When you want to change behavior in your children, you need to remember the paint analogy.

No Quick Fixes

When my children were born, I became interested in learning everything I could about healthy parenting. My house and my family were like a living lab. But I often questioned whether the work that I put into my parenting would actually pay off, and if all the time I spent trying exhaustively to do the right thing would be worth it. I am here to tell you that, for me, the answer is a resounding “YES!!”

  • My children are not perfect – nor am I. We have had many difficult times, terrible arguments, and phases where I thought I was the worst parent in the world (and times when my children thought so, too).

  • But I took comfort in the knowledge I gained from learning about child development, realizing that all kids go through times when they are challenging. I also took comfort in knowing that they each had their own temperament and that I did not have to take 100% responsibility for making them the way they were.

  • I could lead them down the right path, but I knew I could not force them to be very different from what nature had intended them to be. I gained the tools to recognize their individual talents and worked mighty hard most of the time to help them hone those talents.

  • But sometimes, being human, I slacked off. Sometimes I just gave up for the moment because I was bone-tired and physically and mentally weary of doing the right thing. Sometimes I just sat down and let whatever happened happen.

    Then the next day, I’d wake up and get started on the appropriate path once again because I learned that parenting is a process; one drop of red paint at a time.


It’s Worth the Time

So if your one-year-old is crying non-stop and your two-year-old is taking all of the food out of the kitchen cabinet and throwing it on the floor and you’re worn out and fed up, you have to remind yourself that parenting is more than one session with Supernanny.

And when your kids are almost grown, like mine, you will be able to say to yourself: “My patience paid off.” All of the time and effort you gave will have been worth it. Trust me, parents, there is no quick fix.

A New Vision

Hmm. Do you think the public would be ready for a new kind of reality show with no quick fixes but terrific results? The blurb for it could read:

Basic Rule of Parenting: Change takes place over time. Just as it takes our kids time to change and learn new ways of behaving, so too do parents need to hear information, concepts, principles, or skills over and over before the ideas become firmly integrated. Over the course of eighteen-plus years, children and adults alike can enjoy the lasting benefits of a more authentic and realistic family life.


By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator




For more information about parenting, check out the following books. Purchasing books from our website through supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.


Liberated Parents, Liberated Children by Faber and Mazlish Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel The Whole Brain Child by Dan SiegelParenting by Heart by Ron Taffel

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