parent opinion

'I tried watching Parental Guidance. Within 20 minutes, I had to turn it off.'

The premise of Channel Nine's new parenting reality show Parental Guidance is to find Australia's best parenting style.

For the new series, producers have selected 10 sets of parents for their competing parenting styles, and most of them represent the more 'extreme' end of the parenting spectrum. 

When the show began on Monday night, the 10 sets of parents and the show's hosts were invited to essentially judge each other with notebooks, pens, and raised eyebrows.

And as I began watching the show, I also felt inclined as an audience member to pass some swift judgements.

Watch: The two types of parents when it comes to school shopping. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia.

The first couple we were introduced to were 'nature parents' Liadhan and Richard, who live in a tent with their five children. 

Their relaxed approach to home schooling their kids in a natural environment made me sit up and take notice, and so did the 'fine dining' challenge where the family walked into a bistro-style restaurant while not wearing shoes. 

I cringed and rolled my eyes as the couple's kids played noisily with the cutlery, before remembering all the times I have been out to eat with my kids. 

As the episode played on and I witnessed the family's bond and their love for the outdoors, I thought to myself, 'Who am I really to judge?'

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The next set of 'extreme' parents put up for scrutiny were Andrew and Miriam, otherwise known as the strict parents.

Andrew and Miriam believe in smacking their kids as one of the many disciplinary measures they keep in their 'parenting toolbox'. 

In episode one, after admitting to smacking their kids, dad Andrew began to cry in front of the cast and crew. 

"We don't want to do anything as a parent at all that gives baggage to our kids," he said through tears as his wife looked on.  

"It's hard to try to get it right, we're doing our best." 

Host Ally Langdon then asked the rest of the parents whether they had ever smacked their kids, and over half of them raised their hands. 

While I do not condone smacking kids, and I am glad that expert Dr. Justin Coulson admonished smacking, watching Andrew break down and question his parenting choices on national television made me feel pretty awful.

Strict parents Andrew and Miriam. Image: Channel Nine. 

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Attachment parents Lara and Andrew are another couple whose parenting I questioned early in episode one, after Lara claimed that her parenting style had 'eradicated tantrums'. The audience then watched as the couple's son repeatedly kicked their car in frustration while Andrew pleaded with him to stop.

Whether you call it a tantrum, or 'big feelings' as mum Lara referred to it, most parents have been there. 

During the episode, the other parents were almost gleeful in pointing out the seven-year-old's behaviour, referring to it as a tantrum. But whatever you call it - a tantrum or big feelings - it shows that kids will be kids, and parenting is nuanced and hard. 

Later on in episode two, Lara and Andrew's kids excelled at the disturbing 'stranger danger' challenge, choosing to stay in the park rather than leaving with an actor who was playing a potential kidnapper. When this happened, I felt my opinion about their parenting methods shift. 

They might speak in grating high-pitched voices designed to address emotion, but they are thoughtful and they love their kids. So why exactly am I being asked to judge them?

Attachment parents Lara and Andrew. Image: Channel Nine. 

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While the challenges faced by the families and the methods of certain parents has certainly started a few conversations in our household, I am not sure we need to invite more ways into our lives to openly judge or deride parents and their techniques under pressure.

I have certainly been judged for my parenting choices in the past and it has never made me feel good. 

The judgement starts at the very beginning in pregnancy, and touches every aspect of parenting, from birth to toddlers to teenagers.

Of course, Parental Guidance is just television, made for ratings and for entertainment. But watching the parents get upset as they were derided for their parenting choices left a strange and unwelcome taste in my mouth. 

In fact, the first time I watched the show, I was so uncomfortable that I had to turn it off.

These 10 sets of parents have all been picked for their extreme styles that work well for television, but most of the parents I know offer up a mix of all the parenting styles on any given day. And as a result, the concept of awarding 'Australia's best parenting style' just feels... redundant. 

As long as we show our kids love, our parenting 'style' is only so impactful, anyway.

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For me, judging fellow parents and their kids on TV is not entertainment. It's awkward and uncomfortable. I wish all the Parental Guidance parents the very best - but I don't believe we should crown any of them winners, or even worse, losers. 

Parents have had a couple of incredibly tough years and the average parenting style in 2021 is more about coping - offering food, shelter, love and support while we tackle a global pandemic. Honestly, isn't that enough?

Parental Guidance is currently screening Monday to Wednesday at 7.30pm on Channel Nine.

Are you watching Parental Guidance? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: Channel Nine.

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