Parenting Bake Off

September 29, 2015

Bake off

Given the success of Bake Off, I have come up with a winning formula for the next gentle yet compelling series: Parent Off.  In this new series, parents would be pitched against each other and set a series of tasks to complete.  There would be the parenting challenge of the week, a technical challenge and a showstopper.  I, for one, would be fascinated to see how others approach the daily joys of parenting in the hope of picking up tips along the way.  The great excitement of Parent Off would be that the outcomes on any given week are just slightly out of the parents’ control.  They can apply every positive parenting approach under the sun, but if their children feel like it, they can totally scupper their parents’ efforts.

There are many possible categories in this series, which could increase in technical difficulty as time goes by.  Week one may include a fairly simple category: ‘Get your child to school on time’.  By week five, this would be: ‘Get your child to school on time with everything they need for that day without shouting at them’.  By the end of the series, the finalists could embark upon: ‘Get your child to school on time with everything they need for the day cheerfully and willingly, ten minutes after they have sat down to watch their favourite tv programme’. Mary Berry could float around, looking dubious as she quizzes people whose children are still not dressed 5 minutes before departure time as to how they plan to achieve a successful and timely exit.

Technical challenges could include the Sibling category.  I’d like to nominate a few options.  Back to tv.  Week one could be, ‘get your children to agree on a tv programme they would like to watch.’  By the end of the series the challenge would be, ‘achieve a harmonious outcome between two children of differing ages and sexes where only one can watch what they want to, which just happens to be the one thing the other person doesn’t want to watch (largely because they know their sibling wants to watch it).’  You’d know you were in trouble when Sue Perkins popped up to ask how you hope to move on from stalemate to success.

The Sibling category would almost always include a zero sum game.  Only one child will be happy with the outcome of any situation.  You have to take a view which balances justice and an easy life, taking into account who is likely to make the most fuss and who can be bribed/persuaded to step down.

Other technical challenges could include The X Factor round.  In this round your child/ren decide the only thing they want to do in life is something which they are very unlikely to be able to achieve, such as become a major film star, win X Factor, or become a dolphin trainer.  What fun to observe the parent participants wrestle with whether to introduce reality at this stage or to foster dreams and manage the outcome of that decision!  How many X Factor participants have never experienced the blessing of a parent telling them they are actually rubbish at singing, and have to hear it from a celebrity judge?  Or have parents been telling them and they haven’t listened? But I digress.

The Showstopper would surely include situations requiring patience and wisdom.  The ultimate test would be ‘the stand off’ whereby parents have to get their children to stop the enjoyable thing they are doing (eg playing on the tablet) and start something much less enjoyable (going to bed/having a vegetable-based dinner) within strict time limits.  Parent participants would have to toss up whether to lose points but achieve obedience by shouting and losing their temper, or to  persevere with rational, reasonable requests at the risk of being ignored and running out of time.  Maximum points for those who achieve obedience in time without resorting to shouting mixed with threats.

The reason I would love a programme such as Parent Off is that I’d love to have some ideas about how to handle these daily issues.  That said, at ages 5 and 8, my children are easier to be with than they ever have been.  I have a feeling of the (relative) calm before the storm, although there are some choppy waters around at the moment.  My children are old enough to be ‘incentivised’ to do things in terms of potential rewards and punishments.  They are largely ‘reasonable’.  They are not yet under the sway of hormones.  They generally like having their parents around.  I do have some idea of parenting ideals.  I’m aware, for example, that it’s important to be consistent.  I am, therefore, consistently unpredictable.  Sometimes I have the patience of a saint.  Sometimes I don’t.

Of course, I wouldn’t really be watching to pick up tips.  I’d be watching in the hope that I’m not the only one struggling with wisdom and patience.  Nothing cheers me up quite as much as someone else’s child being naughty.  Not schadenfreude, just relief that I’m not really the worst parent in the world.  Whatever my children may say during their Showstopper moments.

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