The World’s Strictest Parents is one of those shock-therapy docureality shows in the vein of Brat Camp.
In a nutshell, the programme makers dump a pair of wayward teenagers into strict families for a week. The running theme is that British parents are imbeciles, completely incapable of setting boundaries for their children. The end result being some nasty, uncontrollable, slightly stereotypical little monsters.
I watched the Alabama episode of this a couple of weeks back. The aforementioned stroppy teenagers got shipped off to a much-hyped pack of bible thumpers. Now, I have a problem with bible thumping at the best of times, but the Garnett family were a lovely bunch.
The thing is, the title of World’s Strictest Parents paints a picture of old-fashioned, Victorian style parents waiting for their kids to slip up so they can give them a sound beating. Well, that would be misleading. These strict parents have rules, yes. But they do something that’s dying out in Britain – they communicate with their children. They explain that the rules are because they care, and what may seem like an invasion of privacy by our highly liberal standards is their attempt to shield their kids from culture gone bad.
This week’s episode sent our chosen rebel teens to stay with the Adega family in Ghana. And again, once you get past the sudden culture shock of these kids having their ‘freedoms’ taken away, they start to see the reasons for having so many rules.
In comparison to the Garnett family, the Adegas were true bible thumpers, and I couldn’t relate to that part of the show. The most uncomfortable part of the programme by far was the mother of the Adega family phoning home and telling the parents in no uncertain terms about their shortcomings.
However, the thing the BBC have managed to do here is to create a talking point: about how we’re raising kids in Britain today, suggesting that too much freedom may be a bad thing, and not taking the time to relate to your children is a sure-fire way to lose their respect and your opportunity to positively influence them.
On a parting note – both families I saw had one stay at home parent, were actively involved in their community and were deeply religious. Is that a common theme worth thinking about? I’d love to hear your thoughts.