Thursday, August 20, 2009

"World's Strictest Parents" (Alabama)

There are many reality TV shows. Some has excellent educational value in it for families. For every successful product, I wonder how many others failed. While I remain skeptical about the Reality TV genre, "World's Strictest Parents" does speak into a cultural need surrounding the challenges of parenting rebellious teenager.

One of the latest ideas in Reality TV is dealing with hard-to-handle teenagers. Thus the idea is born, whether these teen challenges can survive in an environment created by "World's Strictest Parents." This first episode contains a strong message in that teens and strict control sometimes do work out well.

I attach the links to the Youtube videos below (in 6 parts).
  1. Part 1 of 6 (link)
  2. Part 2 of 6 (link)
  3. Part 3 of 6 (link)
  4. Part 4 of 6 (link)
  5. Part 5 of 6 (link)
  6. Part 6 of 6 (link)

My Reflections
Some positive take-aways:
  • INTEGRITY: Practice What You Preach. The Garnett family in Alabama puts into practice their core beliefs. They do not shirk away from their responsibilites to educate, to teach, affirm good deeds and reprimand fairly bad behavior.
  • INTERNET: Ross, one of the teens is an avid Internet user. His own lifestyle of using the computer non-stop throughout the day led him to do all kinds of online activities, like finding intimacy with strangers on the net. Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest causes of his rude attitude toward his own parents.
  • SETTING EXPECTATIONS: I am intrigued at the way that the host dad, Mark ensures that his expectations are clearly understood. He even gives the two teenagers time and double opportunity to ensure that their personal belongings adhere to the strict standards.
  • ENFORCEMENT: A rule is useless unless it is adequately enforced.
  • ENVIRONMENT: Without a supporting community, it is tough. Look at like how the organizers at the Homeless volunteer site reinforce the parents' expectations. A community that works in tandem with parental education reinforces one another in sending a common message.
  • ENGAGE IN COMMUNITY WORK: One of the key things to deal with teenagers is how to translate their bursting life and energy into some productive and meaningful work.
  • PUNISHMENT: Naomi and Ross learns that some of the things they do, have consequences that affect others negatively.
  • CREDIT/DEBIT: Maintain a fair and just admonishment and encouragement posture. Give credit or verbally reprimand in an appropriate way.
Some Reservations
  • SUSTAINABLE?: The immediate change in behavior of Ross and Naomi, after a strict week-long stint with the Garretts is commendable. However, are they sustainable? Will Ross and Naomi revert back to their previous ill-behavior when the environment they return did not change?
  • SELECTIVE COVERAGE: No matter what they say, anything on TV cannot be believed 100%. This is because we are only seeing the whole episode from the perspective of the producer and cameraman. Surely, the Garretts have their set of challenges which can help TV viewers to appreciate their humanness as well? Selective coverage is like putting make-up on a normal face, hiding the pimples and dark eye rings behind expensive cosmetics.
  • IDEALISTIC?: Some people may accuse the series as being overly idealistic, and the Garrett environment is more of an exception rather than the norm. Surely, their methods cannot be easily duplicated by mere methods alone.
  • STATISTICS: How portable can such parenting methods be? Are there statistics to support the claim that these methods can work over the long run? In other words, I am keen to know how many families were rejected in the auditioning process.
  • CONTEXT: Psychologically speaking, people behave much better in front of the camera. It is often what goes behind the TV lens that shows up the true being and nature.
  • CULTURE: What about a pluralistic culture, where there is a complex array of philosophies, beliefs, self-rights and various expectations of parents and teens?
  • NATURE/NURTURE: The series is geared toward the 'nurture' side of the perennial tug-of-war between nature and nurture. Little is said about the 'nature' side of the teens.
I think the most powerful reason why the Garretts are able to successfully bring up their own kids (as well as the 1-week lesson with Naomi and Ross) is because they are supported by an environment (75% Bible believers, common understanding of discipline, non-profanity, sustained and consistent approach to correction and prise). This reminds me of Hilary Clinton's book: "It Takes a Village" which proposes that a child grows best within an environment that comprises places both inside and outside the family walls. Picking up on this idea, Tod Bolsinger presents a version suited for Christians called: "It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian: How the Community of God Transforms Live." Maybe, the best thing the series has done is to recognize openly that parenting is difficult, and we should not worry about doing it alone. While the challenges are formidable, it is possible that one can raise up their kids well. Perhaps, we should indeed pray more fervently, that the day will come, where God's will be done both in heaven as well as on earth. When that happens, not only the angels rejoice. We do too. Let's build community.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ross needs castration!!!

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