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Wednesday September 25, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday September 25, 2013 MYT 2:08:54 PM
by natalie heng
Kid wrangler: Jo Frost in action, working on getting the best out of the children on her TV show.
When the kids are bratty and the tantrums are loud, who you gonna call?
YOU may or may not have come across Jo Frost.
That is, unless you are an exhausted, bedraggled parent not above Googling for help during times of desperation.
In which case you might be quite familiar with the name.
Frost shot to fame as Supernanny back in 2004, when she won the role over hundreds of other applicants. The British reality TV series had her traipsing across both sides of the Atlantic fixing family troubles, in response to SOS calls from struggling parents. And after a seven-series run for both the British and the United States versions of her show, it’s safe to say that she’s emblazoned herself as a household name across both continents.
Not bad for someone with no formal training.
She did have 15 years of nannying experience under her belt when she responded to that ad 10 years ago that led to Supernanny. Since then, Frost has found herself in a unique position compared to other nannies. Instead of sorting out the parenting problems of just one or two families over an extended period of time, she’s had the chance to really hone her expertise, having counselled an extraordinary number of families, and across different cultures too.
Since her early successes, Frost has come out with bestselling books on parental guidance, and another series called Extreme Parental Guidance, which is currently airing on Lifetime (Astro Channel 709).
In it, she tackles 21st century problems like body image, ADHD, and how this digital age is eating into traditional family time. This time, the show brings in experts too. So while Frost solves the behavioural side of things, viewers get a professional take on issues like eating disorders and what computer games are doing to our young brains.
But the core message as always is that fixing the seemingly unfixable – tantrums, incessant bickering or getting your children to eat right – is about consistency. Frost’s stern techniques may seem conservative to some, but the advice always seems to work, eventually.
Despite the repetitious nature of it, seeing family after family drilled with the importance of following through on actions like the “naughty step” (at the foot of the stairs where Frost would send misbehaving children for a time out during the show), never seems to get boring.
Maybe it’s because every family is different. Every family is a little bit like us, in some way or another. And to see someone make things work is cathartic, because it makes us feel like we all have a chance.
“Everything is real. I am helping real families, with real issues, and there are no short cuts, everything is about looking at the long term,” says Frost during a recent phone interview.
Now, you may be sceptical about how every single episode that’s aired always seems to turn out all fine and dandy. But rest assured, a lot of work goes into getting the right outcome. As Frost points out, “You have to recognise, I spend over 200 hours with these families, a very long time. What you see is probably 42 to 48 minutes.”
Specifically, what we see is 45 minutes of the key moments and turning points, breakthrough moments that best summarise a long hard journey of consistent parenting.
In fact, Frost prides herself on knowing that whatever happens on her show is real: “On the show, you may see one particular outburst, whereas in reality, there will often have been three or four.”
Doing the show is incredibly draining, she says. Shooting often takes Frost from solving one family crisis after another, back to back, sometimes requiring her to travel from one side of the country (whether Britain or America) to the next.
“I’ve spent seven years mostly travelling and living out of a suitcase from one state to the next. I’d leave a family, get on an air plane and travel for six hours, and then wake up at four in the morning to start working again.”
Despite the marathon, however, Frost says seeing the show’s success and how it’s become a staple for people made her feel all the more committed. She simply learned how to cope with the hectic lifestyle during shooting season, and says the key is to be disciplined. In a way, her doing the show only emphasised the importance of practising what she preaches.
“You have to understand the importance of being able to look after yourself, in order to help the families. You need to find a balance between work and yourself, in order to maintain that level of performance.”
While Frost does not have children herself, according to a recent Daily Mail article the 41-year-old is considering adoption, having recently established a home with her partner, Darrin Jackson, in California (Why Super Nanny is considering adoption: With a new book, TV series and man, Jo Frost says she’s too busy to have a baby, March 1, Mail Online).
Enough of the mushy stuff. The truth is, Frost isn’t just good at dealing with parental issues. She’s perfect for reality TV. She comes across as open and sincere, but she’s also one of those people you don’t want to mess with. She has a wide-set frame, a South London accent, and a brand of no-nonsense that sometimes, when things get really heated, borders on brashness. But maybe the point is that in times of desperation, we need people like that.
Incidentally, desperation makes for great reality TV, and there are plenty of desperate families out there.
We certainly see it in Extreme Parental Guidance, where Frost deals with computer addiction, children who won’t eat, obesity, ADHD, and all the problems that stem from this brave new digital age of social networking and materialism that seems to have everyone worrying whether our children are being forced to grow up too fast.
But don’t worry. Because the message seems to be that if you keep your head screwed on and follow a few simple rules for guidance, and, of course, be consistent, there’s no need to panic just yet. Or else, you could always just make an SOS call to Frost.
*Catch Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance on Wednesdays at 8pm on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709).
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Family & Community, lifestyle, Jo Frost, supernanny, extreme parental guidance, parenting, naughty step
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