The World’s Strictest Parents on BBC Three

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.

Tagged under:


  1. Anonymous

    I liked the fact about these programs that not all freedoms were denied by these “strict” parents. Instead, they were made evailable to be earned (e.g. an unsupervised night-out). Trust has to be gradually earned; if I can trust you more, I’ll worry less about what you do behind my back.

    In comparison, many parents in the UK simply dish out freedoms unconditionally thereby losing control and respect.

    In 1940’s Britain, a teenager wouldn’t swear away to glory in front of children or the elderly but today most do. Result? A society less harmonious with higher crime statistics and more broken down estates.

  2. lily

    Hi there l do enjoy watching the program and l let my kids watch to so their can see and learn a few things for it. kids and teenage  today have lost them self with values. l see this today because l have a sister who got married and had a baby who is two and her son is turning sixteen this august and he thinks he’s right when he is wrong and doesn’t want to say sorry to them.he talks any how to his stepfather with the attitude of who the hell are you,your not my father.He is stealing from his own family and freinds,they’re afraid that they will find he has taken something big and my sister had her son at a very young age and she loves him to bits.Then when she talks to him he answers her rudely, tells him to come home at a reasonable time he just says NO!!! and cuts the phone on her and ignores her.She tells him to clean up and tidy up his room he responds back to her  in a rude manor.He thinks by leaving home is the answer to his problems and not sorting out his issues with his parents,my sister keeps telling me she is waiting for police to knock on her door because what ever she says or talks to him about he’s not listening at all,he thinks he knows it all,going partying and fighting is life.She’s trying to tell him that he needs to settle down learn the true meaning of life and theres more to life than being a thug,she doesn’t know what to do about her situation and she is afraid about what it is going to lead to or (happen).Please may we have your advice.I love watching your program beacause we learn how to handle stressful situations like the one my sisters side of the family is going through and I would like my nephew to go and have the opuntunity to go and see how other family’s live togetner and appreciate life,family and how fortunate he is to have good parents and familys

    p.s HELP 


    1. Anonymous

      go on to google and type the world stricktest parets and apply fot him to go to africa or india for a week and he will change alot. thats what i done maybe he is worried about something or someone or maybe in relasonship probs



  3. PB

    For me, this is all about rules.  We’ve been reading a book called ‘How to be a better parent’ by Cassandra Jardine, the central theme of which is setting rules.  The thing I’ve found really useful about this is that it takes it away from the personal.

    Between us, my wife and I have identified the key areas where we struggle with our youngster and set rules around those.  For instance, telly was a problem, in that it was on all the time, homework didn’t get done etc.  So the rule has been that TV isn’t available until after 6pm and only when homework is completed and room tidied.

    Because the rule is agreed between you (if you have a partner – if not, you can either set the rule yourself, or ask the child (depending on age) what the rule should be) – and because it is then set – its then not about me wanting ‘you’ to do something different – but because we’ve set a rule and it needs to be stuck to.

    The same is true of bed times.  TV goes off at 9pm.  Rather than leaving it on and having a discussion about why the child should shun the TV and leave (not something I was good at as a child – and seems unfair to tempt them in this way) we simply turn the TV off.  Problem solved.

    That’s not to say its easy, and initially you will get some resistance – but it does allow you to be consistent.  And this is the real thing.  Children want to know where they stand.  If you ask them to do the washing up one day and not the next, they’ll wander what’s going on.  The interesting comment made in Cassandra’s book is if you watch children playing a game – one they’ve made up themselves – you will see them making a whole raft of rules on the spot – ‘You do this if I do that’ – ‘If I see you you have to wait 20 seconds before coming after me’ etc.  So setting rules is not alien to a child – its just that we as parents feel its somehow ‘cruel’ or ‘unfair’.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Deep down, children want to know what’s expected of them.  Deep down they really want to achieve our expectations – kids aren’t bad – they want to be good – but we need to give them the opportunity to do this by setting out clearly and consistently what we expect.

    That’s what the Garnett’s did in this programme.  They set clear rules and expectations.  They also spent lots of time with their kids talking – as has already been mentioned.  Most interesting for me was when Mark sat with Ross as he when onto MySpace, and the conversation he had about how Ross used the site and how it made him feel.  This simple 10 mins / 1/2 hour showed Ross that Mark cared, as well as leading to ways to better manage the sort of abuse Ross seemed to be receiving.

    My concern, as I’ve read elsewhere, was how the Garnetts would respond to Ross’s sexuality.  But I thought Mark was inspirational in how he dealt with this, with sensitivity and concern and a focus on the individual.

    Great Stuff.

  4. obi

    I really found the family inspirational especially the father. He knows exactly what his priorities are.  While the modern man concerns himself with hanging out with his buddies and having meaningless affairs, this man takes time out to have dinner with his daughter alone and to talk to his sons about sex and stuff. It did not appear to me that the children were scared of him, instead they seemed to really respect and trust him.  I think british parents have a lot to learn from this family.

Log In or Sign Up

Skip to toolbar