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Chris Ivey / Parenting

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the show, Parental Guidance?

11 November 2021

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the show, Parental Guidance? There has been quite a bit of promotion about it and some debate about whether it is worth watching, mostly due to the format which pits each style of parenting against the other in a knockout competition. It’s co- hosted by Dr Justin Coulson who has worked with St Andrew’s in the past. Currently all St Andrew’s families have access to a premium school membership called ‘Happy Families’ which is a library of Dr Coulson’s parenting resources. I saw a post from Rebecca Sparrow who has a blog about helping kids flourish during their tween and teen years. As someone who is passionate about ensuring we help our children become the very best they can be, I know the greatest influence in this space is you as parents. So I simply want to encourage you to read the following insights that Rebecca shared, perhaps to help decide if the show is worth a watch?

I've had some really interesting conversations this week about the show Parental Guidance. Some people think it's brilliant. Others think it's awful. So I just thought I'd share my opinion.  When people say "Stop confusing parents with all this advice! There's no right or wrong way to parent!"  I would say I think you're wrong. I think there is a wrong way to parent.  And I think we're seeing that play out in society right now.

Because kids need parents who yes, love them. But kids also need parents who are engaged with them and connect with them. Kids need parents who give them boundaries.

And I think right now, our country could use some free parenting classes. This is something we talked about repeatedly when I was on the Qld Government's Anti Cyberbullying Taskforce. The frustrating thing is that schools are constantly putting on free parenting classes or tech information nights and the turn outs are often DISMAL. The parents who need to go aren't turning up.

Now let's talk about MAFS. MAFS (Married At First Sight) is one of the highest rating TV shows over the past few years. I'm not a fan. I will go so far as to say I think it's garbage-fire TV but I'm clearly in the minority.

But what the success of MAFS tells you is that we have to meet people - parents - where they are. 

You could make a parenting TV show with Dr Justin Coulson on the ABC or SBS where he was calmly explaining parenting techniques and you know how many people would tune in?

I'll tell you. Five people.

So instead the creators of MAFS have made Parental Guidance and yes because they're the CREATORS of MAFS and it's CHANNEL NINE the show adheres to lots of those reality tv tropes.

You get voted out!   We're looking for the best parent!   And we're going to Zoom in on eye-rolls and little-asides to create controversy to make it look like the parents are pitted against each other!

DRAMA! DRAMA! DRAMA!  But if you actually watch the show all the way through - you quickly realise it's not that at all.

This show is NOT about the kids. It's about the parents and how they're choosing to show up and engage with their kids. What's working. And what's not. The parents are actually all supporting each other and praising each other's parenting techniques. And yes, sometimes there's a bit of debate amongst the parents. But as adults we should be capable of debating and discussing things. It's okay for them to disagree. We're not THAT fragile, are we?

The real gold in this show are the moments when Justin is sharing parenting tips. He is calm, incredibly non-judgemental and very much evidence-based. I honestly think he's one of the world's best parenting experts. He KNOWS what he's talking about. And for the record he offers LOADS of free parenting advice and help over on his Facebook page Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families

So yes, I know it's not a perfect show. A parenting 'state of origin' is ridiculous. Comparing parents of one child to parents of multiple children is wholly unfair. And I think Channel Nine should be ashamed of all the Sports Bets ads I saw in Monday night's episode. It was disgraceful. But what this show is doing is taking parenting classes to Australian parents. AND WE NEED IT! I need it!  

As viewers we are being asked to self-reflect.

  • How good am I at giving my child some autonomy? 
  • Have I had the conversation about Tricky Adults with my kids? 
  • Am I so strict that my kids won't come to me to tell me they've screwed up because they fear my reaction? 
  • What do my kids need from me in order to thrive? Do I notice and respond to their concerns?
  • Am I too often rescuing my kids too early?
  • Do I take the time to play with my kids and have fun?

Raising our kids has never been more challenging and as a College, we have done exactly as Rebecca has proposed, we’ve had Justin Coulson conduct sessions here and other parenting experts and 30 people turn up. So, if maybe watching this show does nothing more than make us think, make as talk to each other and reflect on what we do, that’s probably a good thing.

Best wishes


Author Profile

Chris Ivey

In his own words, Chris “enables things to happen” at St Andrew’s. As Principal of the College, he leads the development and progression of St Andrew’s by enabling staff and students to achieve their personal best. Chris is a Reverend and has been the Principal of St Andrew’s for more that 15 years. He also represents and advocates for Independent schools across Australia as the National Chair of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Australia).

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