As many of you know, we don’t have a television. But we do have the internet! And we recently found, to our joy, that you can watch episodes of Supernanny on YouTube! So every homeschooling lunch, my girls and I have been watching a new episode and analyzing Supernanny advice. It’s great fun!
In general, I think Jo Frost, aka Supernanny, gives great advice, and the show is very positive. In each episode, Jo tends to show the parents two things (because I think that’s all you have time for): how to get the kids to go to bed, and how to use the “Naughty Chair” (or naughty room, or naughty stair). She goes into great detail on the bedtime routine, which we used long before we watched Supernanny, and which worked. We started when the girls were babies, and by the time they were a year old they went to bed easily and always have.
Supernanny Advice #1: Bedtime Routine
1. Cuddle, read story, bath, pray, say good night to them. Leave them in their own room.
2. If they come out, hug them, tell them it’s time for bed, and take them back to their room.
3. If they come out a second time, say “It’s bedtime”, and take them back again. Do not say anything else.
4. If they come out again, say nothing, but take them by the hand and put them back in bed.
5. Repeat until they’re asleep.
And on the show, the kids are asleep within an hour, even if it used to take several hours to get kids to sleep. And that’s been my experience, too. It really does work. Kids just need to know you’re serious.
Supernanny Advice #2: Naughty Chair. (It Doesn’t Work That Well)
It’s the only real discipline technique she uses (likely because it’s only an hour long show, so you can only show one thing). The routine goes like this:
1. Issue a warning.
2. If the child continues the behaviour, put them in the time out place, where they must stay for a minute per year of age. Tell them in a deep, authoritative voice (different from your normal tone) why they are there, and what they must think about.
3. If the child leaves the area, take them by the hand firmly and put them back, reinforcing why they are there.
4. At the end of the time out, they must apologize and then you hug them.
It sounds good in theory, but if you have a child who refuses to stay on the chair, or in the corner, then it’s still something that takes an hour or so. I never spanked my kids, but I watch this show and often think, “that’s letting a power struggle with kids get out of control”. Because allowing that child to get off of the chair and scream at you is still allowing them to be disrespectful.
Last night, when I was out for a walk with my hubby, we were talking about this in general, and we mentioned two things.
First, when our children were little, we didn’t use time outs that much. We only used them for tantrums or for absolute disrespect, which was actually quite rare. Instead, we tended to take away toys, or dessert, or other privileges (but toys was the big thing), because usually the reason they were being disciplined had something to do with a toy. They weren’t sharing, or they were grabbing it from another child, or they were hitting someone with it. It’s more immediate, and it’s more effective, I find.
I just think you need a combination of discipline techniques for different infractions. Don’t get in an argument about it. Just do it. And do it immediately. We watched so many families on the show let things go by just by yelling at the kids or telling them that’s wrong, but then not doing anything about it. A child doesn’t care if you’ve told them they’ve done wrong without any consequence, but we magically think that if we express disapproval, that’s the same thing as disciplining. It’s not.
The second thing that occurred to me is that in many families, life has become so chaotic that the only conversations that parents have with their children have to do with logistics.
They talk about who has to go where when, who has to pick up what toys, who has to stop hitting their brother, who has to be quiet, who has to get ready for bed, who has to stop crying and eat their food. Everything is about telling a child what to do.
You could easily be with a child all day, and never really talk to them. Words are coming out of your mouth constantly, and words are coming out of the child’s mouth, but it’s as if you are always at loggerheads. You’re always telling them what to do, and yet you never really have fun together.
In every family we’ve watched so far, the children have called the mother some variant of “poopy head”. My children would never have DREAMED of calling me that. I never experienced that in the least. And I think one of the reasons is that my daughters and I had FUN together. We always did. Certainly I told them that it was time to get dressed, or to get their breakfast, but in general, we always did fun things together everyday. I wasn’t great at getting down on the floor and playing dolls or Barbies. My husband was much better at actually playing with them. But I’d read books, or set up crafts, or most of all, take them out for walks, or to the playground, or to a play group. And we’d sing and talk the whole way. We had a relationship.
When you have a close relationship with your kids, and they know you love them, they have less reason to act up to get your attention. There’s more goodwill, and they’re less likely to be disrespectful.
That’s why I think that while discipline is important, learning how to have fun again as a family is just as vital.
Learning how to talk around the table at dinner, or how to go outside and engage your children. It can be hard, because we adults usually don’t enjoy doing what children want to do, so we find it boring. But you can concentrate on the things you do well, like going for walks (hey, it gets exercise!), running around a park, singing, reading books, playing airplane with them up on your feet while you’re lying on the floor, and things like that. Laugh with your kids everyday. Laughter covers over a multitude of sins.
Many families are out of control because they have allowed the children to take the reins in the home. And then they spend their lives responding to the kids’ behaviour by yelling and ordering the kids around, and all fun is sapped out of their lives. We need balance back. If your children are out of control, learn to discipline immediately and effectively. Don’t just tell your kids they’re wrong; do something. Speak in a deeper voice so they know you’re serious. But then start having fun again, too. Play with your children. Enjoy your children. And you just may remember why you had them in the first place!
What do you think? Any observations on advice from Supernanny? How do you handle time outs, and do you find them effective? Let me know!