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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Super Nanny and Dr. Dobson

There is a neat show on Monday nights called "Super Nanny", in which an English nanny comes into an out-of-control home and sets them straight. It's a neat show, although Springer-esque in that it makes you feel good about your family because you are less messed up than those on the show!

Last night the Super Nanny visited a family with two four-year old girls who were berserk. They hit and kicked their parents, particularly their mother (kicking in the stomach, slapping her in the face, etc), called them names like "butt pie" and "stinky butt", and talked back almost constantly by yelling in Mom's face: "you'd better back off" with a finger in her face, "get me a drink now!" from the bed, etc, etc, etc. It was, by far, the worst set of kids to date on the show.

Super Nanny was horrified and got to work establishing discipline and order in the house. She uses many of Dr. Dobson's methods - structured time for the family to share together, improving communication and respect, and active participation of both parents. Super Nanny (of course) never advocates spanking - she prefers the 'time out' method, or "naughty corner/pad/room" which tends to be effective. Last night was a bit different.

The girls would not stay in the corner, nor would they stay in bed. Their parents had to put them back in bed 11 times in 45 minutes - and that was with the Super Nanny there to help. When she left, it was much worse. Did the girls stay in bed eventually - yes. But what did they learn?

The good thing they learned is that their parents were going to stick to their guns. But what did they learn about open defiance? Were the girls any worse off having to go to bed than they were before? If they were already told to go to the naughty corner, why not fight with Mom? After all, she'll just place me back in the corner I am supposed to stay in anyway! It's a win-win! I can fight and argue, and I might get my way, but if I don't, I'm no worse off than before!

That's why spanking is necessary. When a child openly defies your directive to go to the corner, there has to be a consequence besides telling her to go to the corner again. There are rules for spanking that HAVE to be kept for it to work right, however (from the Strong-Willed Child).

1)Define Boundaries Before They Are Enforced. The Super Nanny says the same. The child must be told explicitly what it is they can or cannot do, and what the consequence will be otherwise. Anything less is cheating the child.

2)When Challenged, Respond With Confident Decisiveness. Super Nanny says the same. The child must know that YOU are in charge, not the child. Children want order and structure, and the conclusions to the Super Nanny show.

3) Know the Difference Between Willful Defiance and Childish Responsibility. Super Nanny agrees. Forgetting to take out the trash is not defiance. Your child telling you to "Talk to the hand!" is. Defiance is the only offense that earns a spanking.

4)Reassure and Teach After the Confrontation is Over. Super Nanny agrees again. After the punishment, the child should apologize for their misbehavior, and hugs and communication about why we should do the right thing are critical to the process.

5)Avoid Impossible Demands. An early Super Nanny episode showed this, where a Mom wanted her little children to keep their rooms basically spotless. You shouldn't punish a child for wetting the bed or not being potty trained when he is only one, or for poor grades if your child is incapable of high academic achievement. Unresolvable conflict crushes the human spirit.

6) Let Love Be Your Guide! No parent is perfect, but if you keep your love for your child foremost (not your desire for him to like you!), you will do ok.

As a person who suffered physical abuse as a child, I know what negative turns corporal punishment can take, and vow never to do it with my kids. Don't make spanking an act of anger, not should it be for anything except open defiance. However, avoiding it altogether hurts your child instead of helping her.


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