How it All Began
Being on TV is not what I expected. It was better. In January of 2009 the BBC asked us to participate in an English documentary called “The World’s Strictest Parents.” My husband, Spencer, and I had done many years of foster care for very difficult teens and we have four children of our own. Also, I have been teaching parenting seminars and classes for the last 10 years around North America on how to teach your children to want to govern their own behaviors. I call my parenting principles Teaching Self-Government. After speaking to me and looking at my free parenting advice blog http://teachingselfgovernment.com the BBC said we would be the ideal parents for their program.
When I got this invitation from the BBC my soul just about jumped out of my skin. The sensation was strange to me. I wasn’t exactly sure what the sensation meant at first. I spoke with my husband about the project and we quickly made a list of every reason we shouldn’t do it. They could make us look bad. Even worse than that, they could make our religion look bad. How did we know if we could even trust these complete strangers? After we made our list of why not to do it we almost immediately had the distinct impression that we were supposed to do the show. The feeling was so strong that we knew we just had to do it. However, at this point we decided that the reason we were going to take this huge leap of faith in people we didn’t even know was to strengthen families around the world.
We decided to be dedicated to being completely authentic and running the show our way. I actually was preparing myself to battle the camera crew if they asked us to do anything which we wouldn’t normally do. I was so pleased when Ben, the director of the show, said that he wanted us to be completely natural and authentic and that he wanted us to basically tell him what the plan for the week was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, we had to have our regular life schedule approved, but they were insistent on not showing anything in our life which wasn’t real.
The BBC considers this story a documentary even though in the US we would consider it a reality TV show. The difference between reality TV and our show is that a reality TV show is scripted and planned. The BBC 3 in Britain isn’t the only station to have shows called “The World’s Strictest Parents,” but according to them they are the only branch of the BBC who actually do the show documentary style.
After multiple back story shoots and countless emails and meetings we were ready to begin.
Hannah and James came expecting the worst. I think they really thought we would be tyrannical and ornery. I think they were much surprised to see that we wouldn’t power struggle with them over issues. We were just going to calmly stick to our values no matter what they did. This is our way. Attitude problems and arguing don’t hurt parents if they have decided ahead of time that things like this don’t bother them.
A Parenting Tip
One of my governing philosophies as a parent is that parenting gets tyrannical and out of control when parents choose to engage in power struggles. Power struggles may get a parent her way sometimes, but even if she gets her way she has decreased her respectability in the eyes of her child. Children must respect parents in order for homes to be happy places, but that respect can’t happen by force. I don’t know one person who has experienced a real change of heart by force, and that is what my parenting is all about; changing hearts. I could go on and on about my parenting philosophies, but then I wouldn’t be able to tell a bit more about our BBC journey with Hannah and James.
Some Changes in Hannah and James
By living in a fully functioning family James and Hannah experienced a completely new way of life. I was so pleased to see that when James got home he told his mom the one thing he learned was how important family was. WOW! That was just what I was hoping he would learn. His relationship with his mom is much improved because of his experience in our home. We keep in contact with James and Hannah as regularly as possible.
If I had to pick a favorite moment in the show that would very difficult because there were so many wonderful experiences during the eight day shoot, but one thing I will never forget is when James and Hannah both expressed that they thought our family was perfect and that they wanted to have families like ours one day. They said our children were perfect (not true, but I am glad they thought that) and that they wanted their children to be like our children.
This conversation happened when my children decided to surprise James and Hannah by singing to them. Even little Porter sang a solo. Music is a big part of our lives because it stirs the soul and opens the heart to change. This is why we sang for them. Whenever our family is not feeling united we also sing with each other.
During our homeschooling the week they were with us I had James and Hannah read The Dream Giver. It is a great parable about how a higher power has a plan for all of our lives and we have the responsibility to find that dream and accomplish it. James especially was touched by this book. We were reading one day when he all of the sudden stopped and said, “I do have a dream. I want to be a fashion designer. I think I will go back to school so that I can have this dream come true.” After he got home he emailed me with other, more personal, dreams too. I don’t think James or Hannah had ever realized that someone besides them has a plan for their lives; God. This realization was inspiring for them.
After the Show
We all have purposes in life, even if we don’t really know what they are until after they happen. Doing this TV program and teaching people how to strengthen families is what I am supposed to do with my life. This mission is for my God. It keeps me really busy, but it is so worth it. Especially lately, because I have received so many emails and comments on my blog telling me how seeing our program has inspired people to make great changes in their lives. All ages have been impacted from other troubled British teens to parents and grandparents.
It is my hope the video will continue to be passed around by people to strengthen families everywhere. Since we went to all this work to make it, it might as well reach as many people as possible. If the homes around the world can be healed then many of our government and social problems can also be healed. Change starts in the home and I am convinced more homes were changed for the better because of “The World’s Strictest Parents: Utah” show. Our power really is in our homes. I was able to change lives around the world just by living my regular life. Everyone has this same power. May God bless families everywhere!