At a time when society is questioning its ability to raise children “the right way”, Bravo aired the premiere of its new “docu-series” The Extreme Guide to Parenting. As Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker a few years ago:
Historians once assumed that when childhood mortality was high people must not have loved their children very much; it would have been too painful. Research has since proved that assumption wrong. Now that children are very likely to survive to adulthood, you might think parents wouldn’t worry so much. This is wrong, too. We love even when that spells grief, and we worry even when that means worrying about nothing.
Lepore, a Harvard professor and author of The Mansion of Happiness, writes about a recent increase in parenting advice due to this concern. In one chapter she discusses the tactics of George Hecht, the founder of Parents magazine, who told of illnesses and warned of childhood dangers. “To protect their babies and children,” Lepore writes, “[mothers] would buy anything, so long as they could be kept good and worried.”
Just why would anyone want to allow cameras to follow them around, knowing that they are focusing on their extreme parenting styles?
Because, says Shari Levine, Bravo’s senior vice president of current production, “The motivation of these families is that they really believe in what they’re doing. They don’t see it as putting their child out there, they want to help people. They’re passionate about parenting.”
The first episode focuses on the Masterson-Horns, two fathers whose goal it is to spend every minute of every day with their daughter in an “all baby, all the time” parenting style.
“We’re showing people that families are all different. We think people will relate to us – some won’t. We also can inspire people,” said Scout Masterson.
A second episode features Marisa Silver’s “push parenting” style, which includes waking her five-year-old son up every morning for a quiz on the US presidents and practicing writing his name before he is allowed to have breakfast. Silver rationalizes her push to make her son competitive with the sentiment “it’s a hard world.”
In yet another episode, a family considers throwing a chickenpox party to expose all their children to the disease as an alternative to vaccinations.
The “extreme” show offers viewers numerous chances to judge other parenting styles, and may be viewed as a reassuring look into one’s own parenting abilities. No matter the reasons for watching, the show is sure to leave viewers speechless.
“The Extreme Guide to Parenting” airs on the Bravo network on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time.