Monday, February 08, 2010

supernanny recap and my top 10

Friday night, before we went to bed, Charlie and I checked out the SuperNanny website to see if the show was available online so I could post a link for anyone that might have missed it.


And while we were searching around the website, we saw that they had a "Discuss" board. And on that "Discuss" board was a post about the Mann family. Here's what it read:
Wow! Are the Mann parents poster people for requiring registration and classes before allowing someone to have kids? This is bananas! I have never seen anything like this. Why is she hitting them and hugging them and telling them she loves them at the same time? Talk about a recipe for creating a masochistic personality type. What is wrong with these people? And is Naomi the anti-christ? Spitting and screaming until she turns bright red while in a timeout and telling her mother she HATES her at 5yrs old? OMG, I don't get it at all. Please let these kids turn out okay and be productive members of society and not serial killers. Uggghhh.
Even though it was past 11 PM, because by the time we sat down to watch the show that we had recorded earlier, and then we discussed the show for over an hour with our friend Debbie, we felt compelled to register an account on so we could post a response. Here's an excerpt from what I wrote:
I genuinely applaud this family for pulling back the curtains and showing the real struggles that they are facing on a day to day basis. It is clear to me that they are desperately searching for help and they recognize that whatever approach they've been using, hasn't worked. Hence the reason they applied to the SuperNanny show in the first place. Right?! EVERYONE makes mistakes and every parent has their less than stellar moments. While I believe that most days, I do a pretty good job with my children, there are many (many, many!) other days when I'm looking for an emergency exit and expecting that at any moment, the men in white coats will show up and haul me away to the loony bin. Sure, there are a lot of good books on the subject of "parenting" but most of the time we're all just figuring it out as we go. As for me, I am so proud of the Mann's for sharing their family with a national audience. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there because you know that you are going to be criticized, and quite possibly humiliated, in front of millions.
What I know - for sure - is that when people are desperately struggling, they will do just about ANYTHING. They will buy books, they will attend seminars, they will embrace whatever philosophy they think will work. Even if that philosophy condones disciplining your children with wooden spoons.

As I was watching the show on Friday night, my heart was hurting. At one point, within the first 30 minutes, I told Charlie, "After going through IVF, it's obvious these people wanted children very badly. And now, these children are bringing them tremendous grief. You can't help but wonder if the thought has crossed their mind, 'What in the world was it all FOR?' "

Oh, it might seem terrible for a mother to look at her children and think "What the hell have I done bringing this insanity in to my world?" But parenting three-year-old triplets was the closest I've ever come to totally crazy. And more than once during that difficult year, I felt like I had way more than I'd bargained for.

While I have a very different dynamic with triplets followed by a singleton, I can certainly understand the challenges of raising triplets plus one. There are a lot of times we expect our five-year-olds to be a lot more capable than they are. But they're not. Because, you know ... they're only five. You can't get as angry with a toddler as you can with a five-year-old, who understands more and should "know" better and be "pulling their weight" and helping to make things easier.

Yes, of course this is illogical reasoning, but when you are outnumbered four-to-one by children, you might not be firing on all mental cylinders all the time (or most of the time, for that matter). And so there are these expectations and frustrations that you might unknowingly place, or vent, upon an older sibling, when you're dealing with their younger sibling. And when that younger sibling comes in the form of three-year-old triplets?

Oy vey.

While I haven't personally met the Mann family yet, I'll wager that life for them isn't quite as bad as what was portrayed on television. From my experience, when there are additional people in the mix, children's behavior can become a lot less predictable and edgy. Heck, I know how bat crazy my kids get when I'm simply talking on the telephone. I can only imagine how several people walking around our home for two weeks with cameras would add to the chaos.


That being said, here are some of my thoughts after watching the show:

1) Say what you mean and mean what you say. Consistency is key. Who is in charge? Children should know that they aren't the ones calling the shots and if they misbehave or don't obey, there is an immediate consequence, each and every time. As for us, while I'm not a huge advocate of spanking - I will not deny that there are times when a swat on the behind gets a point across faster than anything else. Ideally, I'm a proponent of taking a deep breath, counting aloud to three, and then removing the child in question from the situation. Provided they don't get in line before I get to three and their behavior doesn't require an immediate and prompt response (i.e. Henry trying to climb in to a lit fireplace).

2) Children are a DIRECT reflection of their parents, or whomever is raising them. Children will mimic what they learn because they learn what they live. If your children are exposed to harsh words and actions, they will use harsh words and actions. They become what you put in to them. And if you don't expect a lot of them - they won't produce a lot. Because of that, if there is one thing that I strive each day to achieve, it is to have a motivated, patient and compassionate demeanor. The most vital lesson I've learned in parenting is that when I'm not kind, my children aren't kind either. When I'm not driven, my children aren't driven either. No longer do I solely blame a child or teen when I see terrible behavior. If you've formed an opinion that a child is an uncontrollable brat? Look at the parents. What could they possibly be doing differently?

3) Know their cues. Whenever I see our children acting up, the first things to cross my mind are: How have they been sleeping - are they overtired? How have they been eating - are they hungry? How are they feeling - could they possibly be sick? It is almost always guaranteed that one or more of those three things will trigger poor behavior in our children. And then, this is the critical part: I respond as fast as I possibly can to correct the situation. To me, there are few things more cruel than seeing a child who is clearly in distress and watching the parents ignore it. "Oh, I need to finish my shopping. Oh, I need to finish this phone call. Oh, I need to finish this meal at a restaurant - even though it's 10 PM and my baby should have been in bed three hours ago." My advice? Drop what you are doing and attend to your child. Newsflash: Those little people that you are raising are your top priority and 98.999% of all tantrums and outbursts will be avoided if you simply know and respond to their cues and triggers.

4) Constrain your child if they have a propensity for running away. Put them in a harness, put them in a stroller, put them in a backpack. For Pete's sake - velcro them to your body, if necessary. But whatever you do - do not go in to an environment where you do not have complete control over your small child. Until our triplets were almost four, we did not leave the house unless they were A) In a stroller and/or B) In a safety harness. Do not worry what other people might think. Your job is to keep your child safe.

5) Sleep is a magical, wonderful thing. Everyone in a family benefits when a child sleeps well - most of all the child, themselves. While we have had our struggles with Henry (entirely my fault, nursing on demand for almost 2.5 years probably didn't help) our triplets have always been outstanding sleepers. When I watched the Mann's struggling with their five-year-old, all I could think was: Ditch the afternoon nap!! If their daughter is out and busy during the day without a nap, she will be in bed asleep without protest, by no later than 7:30 PM every night. Guaranteed. Our triplets lost their afternoon nap when they were four because I couldn't take them bouncing out of bed and off the walls until 9:00. Maybe once a month they'll need an afternoon nap (refer to #3, above), but it rarely happens because a midday snooze destroys a decent bedtime. Which in turn, destroys me.

6) Find a bond with your child - make a connection - do it, every day. Although we try to get our children out of the house for one on one time, it doesn't always involve a grand trip to the park, zoo or hardware store. Sometimes, our "special" time revolves around making a batch of bread. Or muffins. Or maybe we'll vacuum the car out together. At the end of every day, I always take between five and ten minutes for a heart-to-heart talk with each of the children. I'm not sure why, but our children open themselves up to me more at this time of the day than any other. So this is when we'll discuss what's on their mind and what's in store. I'm convinced a large part of the reason we've had such great success keeping our kids in bed at night is because during our nightly chat, I'll tell them what we're planning to do the next day. Then, their minds are so filled with excitement about what they have to look forward to, they're anxious to go to sleep and are snoring within three minutes.

7) Think ahead and get out in the world. Wherever we go, we are ready for pretty much anything that might come our way. We'll have a change of clothes for the children, a first aid kit, and warm layers. And if we'll be gone from home for more than an hour, we always bring some kind of snack and bottles of water. (Turns out eating helps to circumvent hunger issues. Who knew?) ALSO: We strive to be a part of whatever it is that they are doing because by and large, we enjoy playing with our children and not just watching them play. If we're going to the beach and our children are wearing bathing suits - we are wearing bathing suits, too. If our children are in the pool swimming - we are in the pool swimming, too. If our children are building sandcastles - we are building sandcastles, too. Push your sleeves up and get dirty. There are few things better than playing alongside your children.

8) Teach your children manners and how to give thanks. Regardless of what you believe (or don't believe) I think it's important that everyone give thanks for a meal. At our house, we thank the sun, the wind, the rain, the earth, the farmers that grew it, the people that picked and sold it. It's necessary for children to understand - at a young age - that gratefulness is one of the most important traits they'll ever learn. Followed very closely by graciousness. (Which is why we work on our manners, ad nauseum.)

9) It takes teamwork. Whether it comes in the form of their spouse, grandparents - aunts, uncles, neighbors - or people from the community, parents need support. Although I don't believe it's impossible to raise children on your own - I don't see how anyone could successfully raise children, entirely by themselves, without losing something in the process. A bit of their sanity - sense of self - maybe their patience? Charlie and I fortunate in that we are almost always home together to support one another. But we're also involved in a great church. We're part of a triplet support group. We've got wonderful neighbors and friends. And this past week, Charlie decided that our lives would be a lot more enjoyable if we hired someone to come in and clean the house once a week. Identify where you need help and then ... get it.

10) Out of the blue and for no reason at all, tell your children that you love them. Pick them up (if you can) or wrap your arms around them in a bear hug and tell them how much you adore them. Kiss their cheeks. Gently hold their hand. Regardless of what kind of day you've had (or are having) - cherish your child. Let them feel the love pouring out of your heart and directly in to theirs. If children perceive love they will become love. And all that any of us really need is love, love, love.


Here is a shot of the scene in our home, tonight.


Our neighbors and good friends, Tom and Dawn, who are big Saints fans, came over to watch the Superbowl with us. Since we wanted to get our kids in to bed at 7 PM, and no one wanted to miss the action packed second half, Charlie recorded the fourth quarter of the game and we took a break to get the kids settled down. In a final burst of energy, the children ran around and played and were tickled relentlessly by our friends.

We were having a grand old time until Charlie said, "Huh, I really hope I programmed our DVR correctly and it is recording the game..." The fun fest promptly stopped as our neighbors stared in disbelief at my husband and he continued, "I suppose that would make me the least popular Superbowl host in history if I flubbed this up!" Then he added, "Not to fear. If we miss the Superbowl, we can always watch my appearance on Supernanny. AGAIN!"


  1. great post! i love all your points- i think they really are true. overtired, sick, and hungry kids equals instant meltdown. and cherishing your children (truly cherishing) goes a long way.

    as for reality tv, having worked in the industry for years (in the editorial department), i know how powerful the editor is...and when you have two weeks of footage to cut into 44 minutes, oftentimes what is aired is not a TRUE depiction of reality. everyone has their moments when their child is acting out...i mean, 99% of people anyway- and so i wouldn't be so quick to judge what home life is REALLY like for anyone on reality tv, you know? those kids could be great 95 percent of the time and of course, the producers are going to pick those isolated moments of insanity to put on the show.

    fair? no. but it's good for ratings.

    obviously the manns were feeling overwhelmed- who wouldn't? i am just saying that a camera crew can pick up a lot in 2 weeks and the show could have just as easily been cut to make those kids look saintly. but it's supernanny! so tantrums sell...

    I hope the dvr was recording properly!!!! if not, say goodbye to those friends. ;-) just kidding- i am a big colts fan (my hometown) and it was HARD to see it end that way...but good for them. If we were going to lose to anyone, couldn't pick anyone better than the Saints!


  2. Thank you for your AWESOME, motivating words of wisdom.

    As a parent of three year old triplet boys, I feel like I'm about to lose my mind some days and I forget my own graciousness. I'm a printing out your post so that I can read it whenever I need a slap of reality across my face.

    It's hard for me to ask for help -- I feel that people will look down on me if I can't do it all. But, maybe my husband is right (this one time) when he says, "We can always make more money, but we can't buy back your sanity."

  3. Just another post that certifies how AMAZING you are :)

    And PLEASE tell me that you recorded that game.


  4. Beautifully said. Maybe if people would step off their judgmental soapboxes, parents feel able to ask for help before things were falling apart. (I'm referring to the commenter online, not you, Jenn!) Like you, I saw two parents who were totally desperate for something, ANYTHING, to help themselves and their children. The fact is that they *did* see that what they were doing was a problem, and they *did* reach out for help. That in and of itself tells me that they are good parents.

    Regarding the horrible comment posted on the website (and I'm sure it was just one of many), I read an interesting article that discussed why people feel a need to demonize others. According to Ed Hickling, clinical psychologist from Albany, NY, "We are vulnerable, but we don't want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we'll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don't want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters." It was in references to people who's actions lead to fatal accidents, but I see it to a lesser degree every time I read a comment like the one you quoted. It's sobering to realize that ANY of us are vulnerable to failures and mistakes. Left unattended, those mistakes can destroy our relationships. Stories like these remind me to refocus on my relationships - as a mother, a friend, a wife - and make sure that I'm keeping my skills sharp.

  5. Jen,
    what a fabulous, amazing, so true and SO SIMPLE of a list!

    I'm a former nanny for multiples + 2 (similar ages to your kids). I am single and childless. I left my nanny job and returned to my roots- social work. My job is working with parents referred from CPS. And if these parents followed your list... so many problems would be alleviated. Next time add stop abusing substances, being in violent relationships ... and that would end my job!
    Thanks for the words of wisdom, as always.

  6. Thank you for your post yesterday ~ I needed to hear it. I am the mom of one almost 6 year old drama queen. Last night, during the witching hour at my house, I took my time, I counted to 10 in my head, I did not yell. And at the end of the night, my sweet little girl gave me a sticker. She told me it was my "good mommy" award. Melt my heart.
    Anyway, thank you. Sometimes life has a way of getting in the way of the really important things...and your post yesterday reminded me what the most important things are.


  7. AMEN to #3, 7, 9 and 10!! The rest are great, too, but AMEN to those four!

  8. This was a great post. Watching those first scenes with the Manns was painful, but it was so obvious that they love their children and wanted to do better. I try not to make this comparison often, but the show did give me some sympathy for Jon & Kate.

    One small thing - I so hate to see moms who nursed their kids for more than a few months feel that they need to apologize or take the blame for something. Yes, Henry may not sleep as well as some other children, but I think you both got some benefits from nursing so long. Which I know you know, but I don't think you should feel or be made to feel defensive about that decision.

    Our two kids sleep in our bed (2 and 4.5). I used to, and still do sometimes, feel defensive when explaining it, but I try to hard to force myself to say "this was our choice; it's what works best for us" because no one should feel bad about the parenting decisions they make (as long as the kids aren't being hurt/abused/etc.)

  9. I haven't been looking at your blog for a while (crazy busy, not because I didn't want to :( ), but sat to watch Friday night's Supernanny with my cousins (while we're snowed in) and I recognized your husband right away, I didn't know he would be on and as soon as I saw him I knew it was him. :) anyway, good job! Was it cool to meet Jo jo? I have to read our recap now. :)
    SusanNJ (from the old boards that I haven't been on for a year)