Sunday, September 02, 2007

So Farewell, Tanya Byron

Dr Tanya Byron has announced that she is quitting parenting programmes on TV. She reckons that the genre is getting out of control, presenting a simplistic and unrealistic picture of parenting.

I have powerfully mixed feelings about these programmes. On the plus side, I think that parents need and deserve education in what we are doing, and despise the idea that it should all come naturally to us and that any kind of advice is intrusive/unnecessary/patronising etc. And I have picked up some genuinely useful tips and thinking-material from some of them.

But on the negative side, some of these programmes are horrible. I can not bear 'Supernanny' Jo Frost deriding hard-pressed parents with a nasty "What do you think you are doing?!" or a sneering "Well that's just going to make things worse, isn't it?!" Frost destroys the little confidence that parents have, presumably aiming to rebuild them in her own image.

Even worse is 'Honey, we're killing the kids', a vile format where working-class parents are made to feel like a pile of shit. There's no "Junk food is killing the kids", or "Long parental working hours are killing the kids", or "Underfunded public services are killing the kids". No, its everything blamed on mum and dad.

Tanya Byron's programmes - Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways - are, I think, the best of the genre, being not as patronising or scornful as the others (though not entirely free of it). Although I might even miss her on the box, I understand her reasons for jumping ship and agree with many of her comments.

Mostly, I come away from watching parenting-TV thinking that everyone trying to raise kids should have their own personal Tanya Byron. Someone who will give them hands-on help and advice at what is one of the most difficult jobs in the world - and does so as part of public social and health services, not just because a TV channel thinks it will pull in the ratings.

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