Monday, 28 March 2011

World's Strictest Parents

I've been watching BBC's The World's Strictest Parents this season, and I just realised this morning that it actually relates to my research. It's like a week-long exchange of persons program!
Basically, two teenagers are sent to live abroad with a strict family for a week. They're usually spoiled, not in school and not working, and they treat their parents like crap (and the parents throw their hands up and say 'I don't know what to do anymore!'). They always start out all defiant & rude, and then they always have some kind of breakdown, and end up learning so much about life and want to be better and more respectful of their parents. A lot of them are from single-parent households, and there are a disproportionate number of teens on the show from Essex.

I love working out the producers' thought process--why choose this family and this country for this kid? What is it about the context that will help this particular kid sort out his/her problems? For example, there was a girl with serious anger management problems, and she went to Sri Lanka where the Buddhist family introduced her to meditation and it changed her life. On another episode, they took 2 school drop-out, party-types to the Netherlands, where it was legal for them to drink and smoke pot, but where they met teens who took their education very seriously. My favourite episodes (where kids change the most) are the ones in developing nations. They stay with wealthy families in the host countries, but 'wealthy' in the developing world is middle-class in the UK (and these kids are spoiled), and they also usually have to do some charity work where they'll have contact with the poorer groups in the host country.

Last summer when I was back in the States, I caught a few episodes of the American version on CMT, but it's different. The unruly teens don't go abroad--they just live with stricter parents somewhere else in the States. The process and results look the same as the BBC version--the kids act up, have a breakdown, and come home changed for the better. But I still think the BBC version probably results in a more drastic change, and possibly a longer lasting one. It would be interesting to see these kids over time, and compare how the CMT and BBC ones changed over time.

On a side note, I get annoyed with the emphasis on naughty kids being raised by single moms. The narrator on the show always shows their bad behaviour, and then says "His father left when he was 3", or "She was brought up by her hardworking single mum", as if that explains everything. In their interviews, too, the kids blame everything on their absent father. I don't do that. I was raised by a single mom, and while I did have my rebellious stage like all teens, I was still a good kid. I stayed in school, aced my AP classes, got into great universities, etc. I didn't get expelled, or pregnant, or arrested. These kids are just using their absent dads as a cop-out. It's easy to blame someone who's not around to deny it...

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