With her straight-talking attitude and ability to whip even the most problematic of children into shape with a spell on the naughty step, Jo Frost is the ultimate parenting guru. After winning over the hearts of the nation with her child-rearing techniques on Channel 4’s reality show Supernanny, she’s successfully taken her advice global, with mums and dads in 48 countries hanging on her every word. “Sometimes it feels weird when a mum runs up to give me a hug and I don’t know her, but it also makes me feel good, especially when I’ve done a 16-hour day,” insists Jo, 41.
Rapport with parents
After eight years in the limelight, Jo shows no signs of slowing down, continuing on her mission to nurture the nation with a brand new book – Jo Frost’s Toddler SOS. “Having spent years bonding with families at a time when they’re most vulnerable has helped me build a certain rapport with parents,” explains Jo. “Mums are always writing to me or tweeting dilemmas, so it felt important to answer their questions. Being able to help parents means you have to be a good listener, and I listened and created the book.”
But if you’re expecting to see a softer approach from Frost’s usual tough love techniques, think again. “Parents get conflicting advice all the time, so sticking with a technique I’ve used for years, and is proven to work, is essential. Why fix something that’s not broken?”
Although Londoner Jo resides in the US these days, working hard to build the Frost brand Stateside and fronting a series on parental guidance on the TLC network, she hasn’t forgotten her roots and keeps a steady eye on UK parenting trends and concerns. “It’s clear the UK has issues. Obesity in children is cripplingly high, and the traditional family dynamic has changed. Men are staying at home to look after the kids while more women are working,” she says. “It’s important to look at how the family structure is evolving and work out the best way to integrate modern roles with how we were raised. British families need to be asking the questions: what are our values and what will make them happen?”
One hot topic that Jo is no stranger to is sibling rivalry and the daily tensions between brothers and sisters that can turn the happiest of homes into a battleground. “The relationship between siblings is an incredibly close one, I know from personal experience,” she explains. “When my brother and I were little, we used to fight like cat and dog. We both thought we were the alpha! I now know, with hindsight, that those squabbles were just part of us building a close relationship.”
This insight, coupled with her years of childcare experience, means Jo believes she can get to the core of any family feud. “Sibling rivalry can happen because of many things, such as the evolving needs of a toddler, being territorial over toys, looking for fairness and equality, and not to mention temperament and personality,” she explains. “Parents play a major role in how siblings dispute and resolve issues, and it’s all about learning when you should intervene.”
And she says it’s key that mums and dads face up to the meltdowns rather than bury their heads in the sand. “Most parents want to escape sibling rivalry but you can’t. It’s part of human nature,” Jo explains. “Despite being in the same family, children aren’t born knowing how to get along. Putting in strong practices early in life will help them in the long run. And, it’s important to remember as they become more mature, these impulses tend to decline.
Firm but fair
Happy to restore sanity to some of the most beleaguered parents, Jo says she understands the hardships of day-to-day family life. “I know being a parent can be tiring, but I won’t let a mum or dad off the hook when they’re in the wrong. I’m firm but fair.” And with 17 years of childcare knowledge under her belt, this one- woman cavalry is now at hand to help MFM readers cope with two of the most common parenting problems – tantrums and sibling rivalry.