Supernanny & Discipline

When your child does something unacceptable, you have to back up your rules with firm and fair control.

Having studied Dr Spock’s approach to discipline during the earlier part of my ‘experiment’ I’m interested to see that Supernanny doesn’t really talk about her philosophy of discipline (which Spock says is about teaching a child the right way to behave). Instead, she seems to dwell much more on the ‘punishment’ side of it.

It’s a very no-nonsense approach and seems to focus on establishing order and control rather than looking at the underlying reasons for bad behaviour and how to address them so the child actually learns WHY what he/she is doing is wrong.

I do however agree with these bits:

-Be consistent, stick to your guns

-Each parent must do the same thing and back each other up

-Act immediately so the child links the punishment to the bad behaviour


The Involvement Technique

Small children need attention. When they don’t get it they play up but you can’t give it to them all the time. The answer is to get them involved in what you’re doing.

Really, Supernanny? Is it honestly going to make my life easier to get Ben and Harry to help me load the dishwasher, take turns pressing buttons of the washing machine, vacuum the carpets? Somehow I don’t see it but this experiment means I have to try anyway.

It’s true that whenever I start doing household chores the kids act up, Harry probably more than Ben to be fair, and I’m sure Supernanny’s right, it’s because I’m not completely focused on him.

Look, I’m washing my clothes too! -he said the other morning after I’d taken my eyes off him for a second while I put on the laundry.

He’d removed his socks and trousers and had climbed onto a kitchen chair to soak them in the washing up bowl.

Who wants to help, Mummy load the dishwasher? –I said the other morning, through gritted teeth, hating Supernanny.

Me!-they chorused.

They had a great time stacking plates and cups while I hovered and guided their hands terrified that any minute I’d look like I was hosting a Greek wedding.

I involved them all day, and everything took five times longer than if I’d done it myself, but they had fun and have even discussed setting up a cleaning business; I’ll be the boss– said Ben.

Supernanny’s Avoidance Strategies

If you can head off bad/reckless behaviour before it happens you’ll save yourself unnecessary conflicts

I think as mothers, this is probably something we all do instinctively but as usual, Supernanny forces us to think hard about what we’re doing, and yes, you guessed it, lists are involved!

-Make a list of which times of day are most fractious and see if altering your routine makes a difference.

-Write down which activities are causing most upset and see if there’s a way to break them up.

-Make a note of any toys that tend to cause arguments and put them away for the time being.

I’m running out of room on my fridge and need to buy some more magnets to stick up all these lists, but after a lot of head scratching and cups of tea I’ve managed to make some bullet points about problem times and activities.

Harry always wakes up with a smile on his face (he doesn’t get that from me) but Ben is frankly a nightmare in the morning.

When I sat down with my pen and paper (I really felt like Supernanny had set me homework) I realised that maybe it comes down to a question of blood sugar. Ben normally wakes up around 6ish and is happy to play in his room or read his books before I come into him at 7 to fetch him for breakfast. Could being up for an hour without eating be affecting his behaviour?

Over the last few days I’ve been putting a little pre-breakfast snack of dried fruit in a bowl by his bed for him to eat when he wakes up and I have to say it seems to have made a difference. When I came into his room this morning he was sitting up in bed ‘reading’, Fantastic Mr Fox and chewing a piece of dried mango.

Morning, Mummy– he said smiling- that was a first.

Maybe there’s something to all these lists after all!

How to Talk to Your Child

When I read the Supernanny section on discipline and ‘Talking to Your Child’ I could almost picture Jo Frost in front of me speaking the words aloud- it’s exactly what she says and does on TV.

Shouting at your child only communicates one thing- that you’re really wound up.


-Get down to their level so you don’t intimidate them with your height
-Hold your child’s arms to make them look at you
-Adopt an authoritative tone
-Tell them clearly what they’ve done wrong

It’s true that when I do shout it’s normally because I’ve lost control and the boys know it- more often than not it makes their behaviour worse not better.

Let’s be naughty– said Harry to Ben the other morning when I’d lost my voice (no, I haven’t been yelling too much, just got a nasty cold.)

Good idea, she won’t be able to shout at us!– said Ben laughing

That’s the thing with shouting; I lose my authority because they can see I’ve lost control so as well as creating a stressful environment it’s also pretty ineffective.

Let’s try the Supernanny method:

Harry– I said kneeling down and holding his arms- Your breakfast is for you not the dog.

No, it’s not– said Harry pulling free and throwing his last square of toast on the floor.

Harry– I try again holding his arms- throwing your breakfast on the floor is not allowed.

Yes, it is– said Harry delighted with the attention he was getting.

Don’t worry, Mummy, I’ll deal with him– said my 5 year old- Harry, if you don’t eat your breakfast RIGHT NOW, I’m going to eat it.

Harry raced back to the table and gobbled up what was left.

Hmm maybe it’s not about shouting or how I speak to them, perhaps I simply don’t have the authority of an older brother….

Supernanny’s Rules

If you don’t tell your kids the rules- they can’t abide by them and if you set impossible rules you’re looking at endless strife– says Supernanny.

Well that makes sense although I’d have thought some things go without saying- like it’s not OK to hurt someone or be rude to me (very important!)

Supernanny thinks otherwise, she says we need to lay out the rules for our children so there’s no question about what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable, and actually Ben’s response the other morning implies she might be onto something.

Mummy, Ben hit me with his bendy bus– said Harry coming into my room crying.

Right, give that to me– I said to Ben, taking his bus and putting it on a shelf out of reach.

That’s not fair; you never said I’d lose it if I hit Harry with it– said Ben.

No doubt he’s grasping at straws but I decided to test Supernanny’s theory.

I sat down with the kids and a pad of paper to write out a set of rules to stick up in the kitchen (Supernanny seems to like things involving lists and fridge magnets).

I asked the boys to tell me what they thought we should write down-

I know, we shouldn’t be allowed to throw each other’s supper in the bath– said Harry helpfully.

We got there in the end, a list of three key household rules we could all agree to stick to:

– No hurting
– No snatching
– No being rude to each other

The boys each signed their names at the bottom to show they’d agreed to them and it all seemed to be going well until Ben smacked Harry for being rude to him when he’d snatched a toy out of his hands.


Supernanny Routines & Schedules

Supernanny’s chapter on the importance of establishing a good routine made a lot of sense but to be honest, it didn’t actually tell me much that I don’t already do.

I agree with her that:

Kids function best when things are predictable. A good schedule will help meet your child’s physical needs at the right time.

On her suggestion I sat down with the boys the other afternoon to draw up a timetable, which Harry helpfully decorated-

He’s scribbled all over it, I’m going to scribble on him -shouted Ben.

When they’d finished squabbling (perhaps I should schedule some time for that) we agreed to try and stick to it.

Three days on, we manage to eat, bath and go to bed at the designated times but the rest has pretty much gone out of the window- homework takes longer than expected, playtime descends into fighting and calm down time etc.

Having said that, it is helpful for us all to know what to expect at different times and on Supernanny’s suggestion I have become a Speaking Clock, counting down to when the next activity will start-

Bathtime in 3 minutes boys.

2 minutes left till your bath.

1 minute to bathtime…

This has worked well, it gives the kids notice of what’s coming next and for the first time yesterday I didn’t tear my hair out trying to get them to go upstairs and get undressed.

Supernanny & Tantrums

Do you remember the TV ad where a mother has a meltdown in the middle of the supermarket after her kids start kicking off? They stop open mouthed, mid scream as the other shoppers turn to stare.

Sometimes I wish I could give vent to my feelings like that because let’s face it, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to coax a toddler out of a temper tantrum- and nothing more embarassing than when it’s in public.

But as Supernanny says:

The worst thing you can do is have a tantrum back

And unfortunately she’s right-

Anger will only inflame the situation

She also says forget about trying to reason, instead try these tips:

-Make sure the child can’t hurt himself
-Try holding him firmly; or
-Remove yourself from the room

In Practice

This week Harry set up camp in Strop City so it was a good time to put Supernanny’s tactics to the test.

Holding him tightly didn’t work (I just got very bruised legs) and when I tried removing myself he just followed me from room to room bellowing.

In the end I put him in his bedroom to cool off and every minute or so I went in to ask if he’d calmed down and wanted a cuddle. It took a while but in the end he snuggled on my lap sucking his thumb and my ponytail happily while I sang him the ‘Teapot Song’- though this nearly prompted another outburst when I apparently got the words wrong!