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Analyzing Supernanny
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. It’s great fun!

In general, I think the show is very positive. In each episode, the nanny, Jo, shows 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. But here’s the 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.

It’s the Naughty Chair I have more issues with. 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, “a spanking would be a lot faster”. Because allowing that child to get off of the chair and scream at you is still allowing them to be disrespectful.

What do the rest of you think?

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 techniques for different infractions. The main thing is this: 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: 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 Supernanny? How do you handle time outs, and do you find them effective? Let me know!


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At 9:16 AM , Blogger Owlhaven said…

Great points!

Mary, mom to 10


At 9:36 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

My issue with most of what you said about supernanny is her saying the kids have to hug you and apologize after being in time out. I don't want to raise little liars, and therefore I do not want my kids to apologize to me unless they are actually genuinely sorry. We used to have to apologize to our parents after a spanking, and many times I wasn't sorry, half the time because I hadn't even done what I was being spanked for. But we knew if we didn't we'd get another spanking. I'm not going to raise my kids to lie like that.

I would like an apology if they are genuinely sorry. Or maybe my kids will be like me, they might accept the punishment at the time, but might not be truly sorry until hours later. I would rather wait a few hours for the apology than to get an insincere one right away.

But anyway, I am often maligned for this belief so I expect I will be here, too. People seem to prefer to hear lies from their kid's mouths to satisfy their own egos.


At 10:11 AM , Blogger Sheri said…

We seldom used time outs or spanked (I can't think of a single time we spanked). Like you we tend to take away privileges.

We used to watch Supernanny but now it just irritates us and makes us sad.


At 10:17 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Mrs. W--

I actually agree with you about the apology. I never made my kids apologize to me, either, but that's what Supernanny does.

As for the hugging, on the show I think it's more that the mom hugs the kid, rather than that the kid hugs the mom, just to reassure the child. I don't have a problem with that!


At 1:12 PM , Blogger Megan said…

I haven't watched the show yet, so I'm just commenting on the post. We do require our 2 1/2 year old daughter to apologize at the end of time-out, and it works well to change her attitude. Most of the time she apologizes on her own now. In fact, if there was only one piece of discipline advice I could offer to new parents, it would be to teach their child to say "please", "thank you" and "sorry". These three phrases calm our daughter down, keep her from demanding things and sows gratitude in her attitude.

Regarding spanking, we do use an occasional swat (it doesn't even leave a red mark on her bum). We do so in two sitations only: when safety is at stake (for example, running across a parking lot when she is told to wait) or when direct, deliberate defiance is involved and a time-out proves insufficient.


At 2:17 PM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Megan, you would rather you child lie because she is "required" to apologize? I just don't believe that teaches anything but how to lie. I believe in teaching our children to apologize, but not until they are actually sorry. I guess I don't understand why parents require lying just to make themselves feel better.

I do however understand any parent wanting to teach their child to take responsibility for their actions.


At 2:21 PM , Blogger Mrs W said…

You know, maybe the difference is in the definition of an apology. A halfhearted "sorry" as part of a punishment ritual because a child is in trouble is not and never has been an apology.

An apology is when a person admits a wrong, and asks for forgiveness. Something along the lines of "mommy, I was wrong to disobey you and I'm sorry. Will you forgive me." I think it's terribly important to teach our children to apologize properly. An apology where they realized they wronged someone, they take responsibility for it, confess it, and ask for forgiveness. Pretty much like we have to do with God.

A child saying "sorry" won't cut it.


At 2:26 PM , Blogger Megan said…

Mrs W - It's not that we're requiring her to "lie". When her timeout is over and we're done explaining (in terms she can understand) why she was in a timeout, we simply remind her to say "Sorry, Mommy/Daddy". It's a good way for her to know that we're all okay now and to teach her that her actions effect other people and that she needs to be considerate of others. How will she know when and how to apologize if she isn't taught?


At 3:01 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

I can see both Megan's and Mrs. W's points here, and perhaps it's largely a semantic difference (I don't know), but let's talk about it for a second.

I am often uncomfortable when I watch the show (and I know Megan hasn't) when Jo requires the kids to say "sorry". They usually mumble it, or grunt it, or even yell it. To me, that's not really being sorry. I would be more comfortable if the child just had to repeat back that they understood why they were in time out: "I hit my sister. I won't do it again".

To make them say sorry is to require them to say something that really can only come from the heart. And I'm not sure we should require people to mouth words when their hearts may not mean it.

It's like that wonderful scene from Anne of Green Gables when Anne has to apologize to Mrs. Lynde, and basically does it so dramatically, without meaning it. Or the time when she has to apologize to Marilla for stealing the brooch, which she didn't steal at all, but Marilla won't let her out without an apology. So she apologizes (even though it's a lie).

I do agree that children must say something, and I think modelling apologies to them is a good thing. I think talking to them about how to ask forgiveness from God is a good thing. But I'm not sure I'd require an apology. We didn't, because I always felt like apologies are really serious things that reflect one's spiritual condition, and to make them say words they may not mean can encourage hypocrisy.

However, if they have hit or hurt a sibling or a parent, I think apologies are in order. So I'm finding it hard to draw the line. Anyone else want to try?


At 3:25 PM , Blogger Megan said…

I think there are a couple issues here. First is the scenario where the apology is a lie because the punishment is misdirected. In our case, there is zero chance that our daughter is being disciplined unfairly, as she has no siblings of an age to misdirect the blame. Any time she is put in time-out, it is because of something that we witnessed directly (like saying "No!" when she's told to get her shoes on or something).

The second issue is an issue of age...or maturity? It sounds like on the show, a lot of these children already have issues with humility. In that case, it may be inappropriate to force a meaningless apology. In our case, we have been teaching our daughter consideration from the start so there isn't an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. She doesn't (yet) know how to say sorry without meaning it.

I would like to say that even in this second scenario, I think it might be helpful to require the words to be spoken. Words that come out of your mouth have power, in that they often can change your heart. It's like praying blessings for someone you don't like -- after you do it enough, your dislike/hate fades. If the words are based on truth, they often become real even if they weren't to begin with.

I can see, however, that if requiring the words to be spoken only serves to feed a spirit of rebellion, it would be better not to require them.


At 3:31 PM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Sheila, you totally get my point! Requiring lies is very wrong. How you described it is how I feel. There have been several times my husband has asked me to apologize to someone and I've asked him if I can wait a few hours until I'm really actually sorry because I am still in the heat of the moment, and he's always respected that.

Megan, words do have power, but there is no point to them if your child isn't actually sorry but is just parroting words to keep you happy. That's not teaching repentance or teaching them to be sorry, it's teaching them to be parrots.


At 3:39 PM , Blogger Megan said…

I don't agree that that's what we are doing (teaching our daughter to "parrot"). I've been trying to figure out how to convey the change in my daughter's attitude and expression when she says "sorry, mommy." It's certainly not an expression you would ever see on a parrot. (Please read that last line as humor, not sarcasm).

Perhaps Sheila is correct that it is a matter of semantics. Perhaps we're "guiding" our child to an apology, not "requiring" it. I'm going to go take a shower now while my newest baby is napping and think on it some more.


At 5:04 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Okay, this is a tough one! I still can see both sides.

There are cases where I have required an apology. I was just talking to a friend about this issue, and she raised the point that when siblings are fighting, she often requires them to work it out themselves (they're 7 & 9). And part of working it out is apologizing to one another. Until they have done that, it's not worked out. And I do agree with that.

I guess I just don't necessarily agree with REQUIRING an apology to get out of time out, because I do think it can encourage hypocrisy. However, I would tell a child that I believe they should apologize, and ask them if they agreed they did something wrong and wanted to apologize. If they didn't, I think I'd let it go, because obviously some more spiritual training is needed in that instance, and that probably should come when emotions aren't as high.

I think if you can SEE that you're child is genuinely sorry (and usually we can), and you can detect actual remorse (which it sounds like the case in Megan's family), then guiding the child to make an apology is a positive thing, because you teach them the principle that when we are sorry, we apologize and that's how we rebuild the relationship--with each other, with God, etc.

And it helps them not feel badly about themselves, because you teach them the concept of forgiveness.

But to require an apology when they're still defiant, I think, probably backfires.

So I suppose that means I'm not setting down a hard and fast rule, but just saying that we should play it by ear. Which, after all, is what most of parenting is!


At 11:54 AM , Blogger Tessa said…

I can understand both sides of the apology thing too. I do ask my son to apologize (or show that he's sorry by giving me a hug) because I think that sometimes kids do need some encouragement in that department. He may not really understand it or even mean it but he's getting used to saying the words.

I think that the difference is the age that you start at. My son started saying sorry to me when he was a year old. He didn't understand it but now he does. Sometimes he'l do something on purpose, apologize and thing it's all fine. But at that point I just tell him "thank you for your sorry but it's still not acceptable to throw toys." Then I take the toy away. Because I want him to know that his words are appreciated but his actions are not. And just because he says sorry doesn't mean there aren't still consequences.

And let's be honost, sometimes we apologize before we're really ready to. I can't tell you how often I've said sorry to my husband for arguing over something when I'm still angry with him over it. I don't "feel" sorry but the words still need to be said. And often after you've said the words, the feelings come alot easier.

As for the naughty chair: my son doesn't sit still. At least not on his own. If needed, I will sit with him in my lap for a bit. Or things like "you stay on the lawn or we go inside" then I folow through. "You throw a toy, it gets taken away." I think that kids understand that kind of discipline a lot better than isolating them in a time out (not to say that timeouts don't work but they don't work for us). I just don't like my son feeling like mommy's angry and witholding her affections from me because I did something wrong. To me, that demonstrates to him that I only love him when he's being a "good boy." I want him to know that he can always come to me, even when I'm angry with him.

And my son is a very well behaved little two year old (certainly a large chunk of that is his easy-going personality) who knows that mom and dad aren't pushovers. But he also knows that we ALWAYS love him. Hope that makes a bit of sense. I've written this with two year old running around wanting to play trucks and an hubby who wanted to put his two cents in too (I'm glad we have the same ideas about it lol).


At 3:20 PM , Blogger Megan said…

Your comment makes perfect sense, Tessa. Very coherent for having been written with a two-year-old racing around :).

I was talking about the "apology" with my husband over dinner yesterday, and he made an excellent point that I would like to share: how is requiring an apology different than requiring a "thank you" (even if the child doesn't feel like saying it)? I think we all likely agree that a child must say thank you when someone gives something to them or does something for them (especially grandparents, friends, etc). Sometimes they don't want to or realize why they should, perhaps they don't even like the gift. But it is still good behavior to say "thank you" so we require it.


At 8:50 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Megan, it's because saying "thank-you" is good manners. Apologizing when you are not sorry is LIE and LYING is sin. I honestly don't understand why so many people have difficulty with that concept. Requiring a child to lie sometimes, and then punishing him for it other times is unbiblical because it's provoking your child to wrath, and it's leading them into sin. If you want to teach your child to lie to you, then go ahead, but don't be surprised when that child turns out to be the liar mommy trained him to be.


At 9:03 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Mrs. W--

I understand what you're saying, but I think your tone is a little harsh, because obviously Megan is not wanting to teach her child to lie. I think we're just having an interesting discussion on this.

And I'm actually intrigued by the "thank you" point. I agree that having a child apologize when they're not sorry isn't right, but how is that different from having them say "thank you" when they're not grateful? I'm still thinking this through, and I haven't come to a conclusion yet myself.


At 12:59 PM , Blogger Carla Anne Coroy said…

I struggled with the whole 'I'm sorry' thing when my kids were younger as well. I feel like Mrs. W in that when I was a kid I also was forced to say I was sorry when I was not. I felt like a hypocrite and it did nothing to restore relationship.

When my kids (4 of them) were old enough to understand discipline, I finished the discipline of whatever method I was using at the time, then I would sit down with them - sometimes one, sometimes all of them depending on the issue at hand - and we would talk about 'Does somebody need to apologize?' I didn't like the word "sorry". Then THEY would pray and take necessary steps.

This week, my 13 yr. old son had an issue. The discipline had been doled out (he had some things to do in discipline) although it was not completed because that would take time. When we got to the 'Is there anything you need to say to anybody or a relationship that needs to be worked out?' part, he said yes, he was mad at me.

Okay, fine. Then we sat in the same room, he thought long and hard, we talked, and eventually he said something like, "Mom I know that I didn't do what you said, and even though I don't think what you did was fair I was still disobedient. Will you forgive me?" We cleared that up. I hugged him, kissed him on the cheek and he went to do his 'work'. About 30 minutes later he came to me in the kitchen and said, "Mom my attitude really stunk and I didn't show you respect. I should not have done that, it was wrong. I really don't mean the things I said, I was just angry. Will you forgive me?"

And wah-lah! relationship restored.

Now - sure he's 13 and we've been 'practicing' this thing for more than a decade! But the point is I've always taught them to think the whole thing through, including restoring relationship. Because THAT is actually the whole purpose.

I have taught my kids that in any 'scrap' with another person there are always 2 sides to it and there is always something to apologize for... and it's the mature one who can think about it and make that apology first. I've also taught them that there are times when an apology must be given before the feelings have come - regardless of whether or not they've done anything wrong - just to promote relationship.

***My comment will continue in the next comment box!


At 1:00 PM , Blogger Carla Anne Coroy said…

Continued from previous comment:

For example... if they are a waitress at a restaurant some day, and their boss is upset because they didn't move fast enough, that is a very subjective offense. However, to demonstrate humility and submit to their authority, I believe that in most (not all, I do teach discernment and wisdom in this) situations there is something and some way to apologize because it is required in the 'job'. They don't have to lie... but even something like "I know I shouldn't be slow or dawdle when I'm at work. Will you forgive me?" That does not admit guilt but it does recognize authority and what is required, moving quickly toward relationship restoration.

Regarding manners... thank you is good manners obviously. Apologies sometimes are manners as well. If I accidentally bump into you my good manners better rise up in me so I say, "I'm sorry, please excuse me." Apologies are necessary as manners.

However, apologies are also more than manners. There are times when relationship is broken, trust is loss, or physical damage has been incurred and a proper apology is in order. This kind of apology moves toward relationship restoration. This is a state of the heart that needs to be taught, exercised and encouraged.

Like anything - like cooking, cleaning the house, algebra, driving, etc. - teaching apologies should come in incremental, age appropriate stages and parents should take the TIME to TEACH it. If that is not available, then the discipline should be post-poned until time is available (I've done this since my kids were 3 and it works) or dropped completely. Teaching this well is a big part of parenting and like all things, needs to be covered in prayer.


At 7:40 PM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Sheila, I have to think further about the thank-you thing as well now.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but the truth is, if Megan is forcing an apology even if her child isn't sorry, she is indeed teaching her child to lie. Her child isn't telling the truth when she says "sorry" if she's not. If it's not truth then it's a lie. I guess I don't see how there can even be any confusion on the point, and believe me, I've tried.

I'll try to just leave this alone now as my view on this usually isn't very popular and while I don't understand why, I just have to deal with it, haha.

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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