So much for reticence. Unlike the British, we Americans don’t hesitate to rush to Jo Frost—aka Supernanny—with our questions and pleas for domestic peace. For 25 years, Jo has been rescuing us from our inefficient childrearing ways with an SOS of her own.
“It’s been a beautiful journey here in America with respect to having much love and support from families in person and online—my Twitter overflows,” Jo is quick to say. Yet, here in the states, we want what we want when we want it—and we want family harmony, like now. So are you surprised that Jo says the secret to her success has more to do with parents stepping back, listening and then acting in a calm and chosen way?
“To do my job, I’ve got to be a very good listener. I listen to those families and what they need.” So listen up, gentle reader, because the first thing we need to hear is that the controversial “D” word is part of the solution we seek.
“In America, when somebody says, ‘I’m a disciplinarian,’ it’s frowned upon. We go to this extreme image of our parents standing over us with a paddle being unrealistic. A parent who is learning to instill positive, role model behavior has to discipline so that a child learns the importance of acceptable and unacceptable behavior,” says Jo.
“When you’re doing a time out, you’re going to be teaching what’s right and what’s wrong. I really want to dispel the problem with not being able to say, “Actually, I am a very loving parent and there are definitely times when I have discipline my children, and at the same time there are times when I can sit back and let them get on with it.”
Redefining discipline is “about parents teaching children to understand the boundaries and guidelines put in place, and teaching children the consequences of crossing those,” says the Supernanny without even a moment’s hesitation. “Every parent who is doing a fantastic job is a parent who understands the importance of having to discipline when you provide a consequence that backs up a house rule or for a situation that was told to the child could not happen. They crossed a boundary.”
The Toddler Rules
“But Jo,” we protest, “it’s so much harder than when our parents were raising us!”
“Parenting is always evolving,” she counters. “We have more dads at home and more moms in the workforce than we did 25 years ago. We have technology that didn’t exist when we were being brought up. Regardless, good parenting is still about feeling confident and trusting your instincts to bridge the gap between you and your child.”
The idea that modern parents are just getting it all wrong is just a myth, says Jo. “I look at the challenges of sleeping, eating, social play and sibling rivalry and you can’t put one up higher than the others. They’re all connected, so parents need to recognize that if certain things aren’t put into play, they bleed into the other areas.”
Hence, Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules, her newest book, which gives us not only the rules but the SOS tools to perfect our parenting—specifically around sleep, nutrition, social skills, learning and good behavior.
“Thousands of parents worldwide are struggling to get their children to eat different foods, to maintain healthy sleep, and when I get a family who is frazzled, they’re truly at the end of their tether. What they’re lacking is how these elements work together to either prevent or create problems.”
A Giant Parenting Puzzle
“It’s a puzzle. When you also see me working with families on television there’s a madness to the mess of everything. So I look at the whole picture with the methods that I’ve broken down in the book:
I want to know when a child goes to bed what’s really happening then
What they’re eating
Do they have a routine for their days and social activities?
How does this all come together at the end of the day?
“If I have a parent who says to me, ‘Oh, my child just doesn’t listen to me period,’ then I know then they aren’t even going to sit at the table because if they don’t listen during the day why are they going to listen and sit at the table to have something to eat? Often it’s a behavioral problem or standard that’s been set for the day.”
“When you can get that straight, you completely shape the appropriate behavior and you don’t end up with those temper tantrums at the table, at sleep time or during social play because you’ve dealt with each fundamental already,” she says so easily, as if saying it simply makes it happen.
“But toddlers are moving targets, changing developmentally—we’re not dealing with static individuals!,” we plead. Unflappable, Jo insists, “Here we recognize that we are a part of their development. Through my work, I want parents to become more conscientious of how they’re parenting, and to help them rethink to be mindful of how they’re raising their children.”
And one of the reasons this is really important is because “You’ll take the bits you love and you’ll forward them into your own relationships and parenthood. And you’ll leave some bits behind because times have changed and you believe in different things, and you begin to see you’re raising children for the longer term, not the short term.” Well spoken, Supernanny, well spoken.