Union Criticises TV ‘Supernanny’ Tag

A union for teachers and childcarers has welcomed the parenting measures announced by the Government  but criticised it for linking the new ‘parenting experts’ to the TV programme Supernanny. PAT General Secretary Philip Parkin said: “We  would  welcome  parenting classes or ‘parenting experts’ to support families with problems. I’m sure they will provide valuable and much-needed help.

“In a society in which the quality of parenting is increasingly seen as a determinant factor in the behaviour of young people – particularly in schools and colleges – a structured, expert programme of assistance would be welcome. We look forward to further details. In particular, we want to know more about these ‘parenting experts’ and how they will work with existing structures. How will they relate to the work of existing child psychologists – who work for health authorities – and educational psychologists – who work for local authorities?

“We hope that the new experts will be given the appropriate systems, funding and resources to support their work. We hope that this is not just a headline-grabbing initiative without substance. The Home Office press release quotes statistics based on public opinion rather than on any expert research into parenting issues. If parenting experts or courses fail to improve a child’s behaviour, what will happen then? Will the parents get the blame? Will they be labelled as failures? Will there be back-up systems in place?

“There is a danger of this initiative becoming a simplistic issue about ‘poor parenting’ ‘anti-social behaviour’.  Just because a child has behaviour problems that doesn’t automatically make it a ‘difficult’ child with ‘poor’ parents. Children’s behaviour can be affected by bullying, bereavement or a whole range of social, emotional and psychological factors.

“In June, the BMA published a report which found that 10% of children had psychiatric disorders experienced symptoms of severe depression including suicidal thoughts, bouts of despair and an urge to cry on a daily basis. At present nearly 400,000 children are on drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac. Twenty five years ago the average age that people fell ill with depression was 30. Now the average age at which mental health problems appear is 14. Doctors say that more than a million children are suffering from mental disorders that are severe enough to require treatment. Not all offending behaviour is the result of bad parenting and so other measures must also be in place”

PANN Senior Professional Officer Tricia Pritchard added:  “We do have a problem with these ‘parenting experts’ being called ‘super-nannies’.  Parenting experts or psychologists are not the same as nannies. They are separate and distinct professionals with different training and skills. Although the Government doesn’t actually appear to have called them ‘super-nannies’, the implication is there in the Prime Minister’s briefing and Sun article with his reference to ‘those television programmes in which experts help parents with their problem kids’.  Most of the media seem to have adopted the tag.  The Sun even carries a picture from the programme.

“I am very concerned about linking parenting experts with the Supernanny programme.  This is exploiting the popularity of an entertainment programme – that some see as expoiting children and parents – to make headlines and detracts from and trivialises the serious nature of this initiative.  Some of the methods used in the programme would not be endorsed by all childcarers or child experts.”