This Friday at 9 pm/ET, after ABC's Supernanny saves yet another day, a new partner in brat-fighting will arrive on the scene: Super-Manny, aka Mike Ruggles, a developmental therapist with 16 years' experience working with children. Ruggles gave TVGuide.com a peek at Super-Manny's fight for truth (versus fibbing), justice (in disciplining) and the American way.
TVGuide.com: I understand that you have a different approach than Supernanny Jo Frost. Tell us about it.
Mike Ruggles: I'm not sure it's that different. There are just different techniques that I use.
TVGuide.com: One of which is a 24/"CTU"-style hidden earpiece, by which you remotely and secretly counsel the parents.
Ruggles: Yeah. I like to sometimes separate myself from the family so I can get an uninterrupted view of what's really going on. Sometimes kids will show different behavior rather than "appear angelic." I use the "Mini-Mike" to coach the parents and make the advice the kids are hearing appears to be coming from the parents. That way, I can also give the parents verbal praise — "You're doing great, keep going" — without interrupting them.
TVGuide.com: Your bio states your belief that "kids should find their parents more exciting than a computer or TV."
Ruggles: I should hope so! You need to engage your children. The more they're not engaged with you, the less their emotional attachment might be. You want them to seek you out and be with you as much as possible.
TVGuide.com: What special challenges did your first family, the Markos, present? What was the nut to crack there?
Ruggles: It ended up being the dynamic between the dad and the oldest daughter. He wanted to be the "cool dad," and he wasn't. He had a misguided view of what being a dad was, that it would be all fun and giggles and the kids would think he walked on water. When that didn't happen, he really didn't have any techniques to deal with a 7-year-old who would test boundaries and push for however many things she could get from him.
TVGuide.com: As a father to twin 6-year-old boys, I run up against that a lot. You want to be their "friend," but you also need to have them regard you when you have something important to say or behavior to modify.
Ruggles: And again, you're never their true "friend." They have friends, little people they run around with in school! You're their friend when they get what they want, and you're their dad when they don't.
TVGuide.com: "You're mean!" "I want a new daddy!"
Ruggles: It's never personal. They never wake up in the morning thinking, "all right, it's time to screw with dad." They simply want what they want and will do whatever they can to get it.
TVGuide.com: As far as you can see, does any celebrity parenting give you pause?
Ruggles: I don't know enough about anybody to make that assessment, because I prefer to be in there and witness what's really going on. You can read as many tabloids as you want, but it's never the true story.
TVGuide.com: I know that some people had made a point about Suri Cruise staying on the bottle too long....
Ruggles: You can find 50 people to refute 50 people. You really have to do what you think is good for you. Sometimes parents change their style so many times, the kids get confused. The most common mistake made by parents today is a lack of consistency. They read a new [advice] book and go, "Yeah, that's it!" Six months later, they read another book and "Yeah, that's it!" Being a parent is the hardest thing ever, and you have to do what's comfortable for you.
TVGuide.com: You volunteered to work in the special education class at your elementary school when you were in the sixth grade.
Ruggles: We had a program in our school where they would bring in kids who could be role models or tutors, and I wanted to be one. You always saw in the schoolyard how the [special ed] kids would get picked on by kids who didn't understand them. So I would try to "big brother" them. Even if I worked an hour or two a week, it was really rewarding.
TVGuide.com: Last question: As Super-Manny gets ready to premiere here, has the estate of Superman creator Jerry Siegel fired off any warning shots?
Ruggles: [Laughs] Absolutely not.