Friday, 28 November 2014

Media Reflection - Bravo's "Extreme Guide To Parenting"

Image borrowed from
Love it or hate it, reality television makes up the larger half of your programming guide these days.  From dancing celebrities to extreme food cook offs, North America can't get enough.  Beyond the accessibility for water cooler chat, humans are fascinated with other humans.  What they do, how they live, and how they raise their offspring.  Shows that feature parenting in one way or another aren't new, however, Bravo's "Extreme Guide to Parenting" takes the voyeuristic pleasure of criticizing child rearing to a new level.  

Each show features one or two families with a unique method of parenting.  From nomadic to eco-kosher to shamanistic, these styles are certainly a twist on tradition for most folks.  At first viewing, the parenting styles I saw, while perhaps a little aggressive, demonstrated some very interesting approaches to the ultimate goal of all parents - happy, talented, and open minded kids.  

From "the pusher" who enrolled her son in every after school program imaginable, to the family of jujitsu specialists, skill and above-average discipline is admirable. Wanting your child to excel is nothing to be ashamed of.  Every parent dreams of the straight-A student, the basketball star, the piano virtuoso. Where the line needs to be drawn is the point in which your child's own interests and friendships are affected.  You can't control their whole world without limiting their freewill.  Moreover, these kids seemed exhausted by the high pressure of their parents' expectations.  

Borrowed from
Alternative methods, such as the nomadic photographers, the aromatherapy-loving mother of the "jade child" and the hypnotizing mother of twins, offers some interesting insights in to the power of suggestion. While a little odd to me, the calm and confident approach to their techniques certainly gave me a moment of pause.  I question the effectiveness of these styles, but I must say that they seem to have some positives that I would not have otherwise considered.  Asking your child to be calm, breathe deeply, and think of something relaxing is something that I look to incorporate in to my own methods.

Although all episodes end with the parents reflecting on their parenthood choices, often moderating them slightly in light of a conversation or event, one episode shocked me considerably.  I like to think there are as many ways to raise a child as there are children in the world, but for the first time in my life, I saw a style that I considered so "wrong" that I questioned why no one had stepped in.  

The "body positive" mom, which on the surface seems like a very good thing, went to the point of speaking to her child through a vulva puppet, saving her menstrual blood to feed plants as a play-date activity, and brought her daughter to a nearly-nude, performance art piece (staring herself, no less).  I agree that the stigma of the female form and feeling shame about our sexuality is a bad thing.  I don't even judge the fact that the couple continues to work in the adult entertainment industry.  That said, this child was three.  She doesn't need to colour pictures of her reproductive organs and see mommy bound in leather and chain... I am completely surprised that this woman considered this merely a body positive method that was acceptable, never mind appropriate for TV.

This show is very interesting to watch, because even if I am taken aback, questioning, or intrigued by the stories shown, I am reflecting on why I feel this way and how I can let this inform my own choices.  It helps me to formalize my values and my goals, both for my son and the way my husband and I parent.  I recommend watching it, or as always, reading about different styles, even if you disagree.  Broadening your perspective only makes you a more empathetic mother and understanding person.

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