If you've ever seen children in a restaurant running wild and screaming at the top of their lungs, then you've glimpsed the kind of behavior Jo Frost is exposed to every single day. On ABC's Supernanny (Monday at 9 pm/ET), Frost enters a home for 10 days and tries to transform unruly tots into kids who do chores and have manners and all without raising her voice. How does she do it? A spoonful of sugar, perhaps? Read TVGuide.com's Q&A with Nanny Jo, or else we'll have to put you on the naughty beanbag!
TVGuide.com: As a new mom, I've been watching your show and committing it to memory, so I'll be prepared when my child gets a little older.
The point is that you're watching the show, and that puts you a step ahead. As you know, the [TV] program deals with certain issues way ahead. We have not dealt with 1- or 2-year-old, but the book will give you that.
TVGuide.com: Your book [Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your Children] is great. Is there another one in the works?
I'm really excited because there's a new one coming out in July. It's full of new techniques and is definitely going to be looking deeper into certain family issues and why they arise, getting to the root of things. Those burning questions that have been answered on my website have been put in there as well.
TVGuide.com: You must be inundated with questions when people see you.
People come up and say, "I've just got one question to ask," which is good. Wouldn't you, if you knew someone could give you the answer? Only someone not of wisdom would walk by that person and not ask. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Do you think there are any families out there that don't need any help?
Nobody's perfect. Everybody's trying to learn for themselves through trial and error. Some will regurgitate those mistakes and go, "This isn't working, we're covering the same ground here, and we're not achieving the results we want here. How do we change?" Parents are trying to do the best they can, and in the show I concentrate on the areas that have become an issue for the family as a whole. For me as Jo Frost, I deal with much more than that, which goes beyond Supernanny.
TVGuide.com: I did notice in your book that you focused on general child-rearing.
I hope people get to understand that the show has kind of labeled me as the nanny who only deals with exceptionally naughty children. My advice and wisdom from 16 years goes beyond behavior.
TVGuide.com: Is there one thing that you consistently see in every home you go into?
They ask their kids all the time about things they want them to do. It may be, "Can you put on your shoes? Can you do that?" They leave an open invitation for the child to say no. The difference between saying, "Go put your shoes over there, darling, underneath the coatrack" and "Can you go and put your shoes?" is the child going, "No." The difference between asking a child and telling a child is that when you tell a child, it's something you want them to do, but when you ask, you give them a choice to make a decision. I hear parents say and I use this example a lot "We're going to go to the park. Get your coats on, OK?" I use the word "OK," but some people use it as a choice, like "We're going to do that, OK?" and wait for a yes or a no. It is making people very conscious of how they talk to children.
TVGuide.com: I'm going to be paranoid now, feeling like I have to watch what I say.
A parent will ask why the child won't do it, and I say that they're asking the child rather than telling the child. There are some things you'll tell a child to do because you need them to be able to do that, and there are things where you'll give them a choice because you don't want to choose for them you want them to choose for themselves. It's recognizing what kind of a parent you are. You don't want to control your children. They're human beings, not dogs. You own a dog and you can condition a dog to behave a certain way, but you don't own a human being. You want them to be able to think for themselves on their own feet.
TVGuide.com: I think it's great that you encourage kids to do chores, which instills independence in them.
It does, and a sense of responsibility to do things for themselves, which gives them pride that they're able to achieve the small tasks that you set for them. I [recently worked] with a family with a child who's 7 years old and doesn't wipe his own butt. You're developing children's life skills, and some of those will be rewarded, and some of those are an expected part of life.
TVGuide.com: Out of all these naughty children, is there one you just couldn't deal with?
"Naughty" behavior is when it's affecting the whole family and you're not teaching the child any morals or principles. We can also use "naughty" as in "mischievous," where sometimes children will do things that are naughty but are mischievous and playful fun. The times when it will be difficult is when you have children who are extremely angry, and I've just worked with a child who has serious anger issues. I spent most of my time really counseling the parents, and it felt like I hadn't enough time to work with the family as a whole. You always want more time on Supernanny. The show lasts 10 days, and in this case I had to spend more time with the parents to help them recognize a lot of personal issues about themselves before they could move on to address the children.
TVGuide.com: Do you get an opportunity to follow up with any of the families you work with?
We do updates on the show and some of the families will call me to just drop a friendly line to ask how I'm doing. Others will let me know how they're progressing. Those who don't... I was needed at a point in time to get them through a point in their lives, but they're moving on. For me, that's great.
TVGuide.com: Do you ever get free time? If so, what do you like to do?
I have a horrendous schedule. When I get off the phone with you, I have a few days off and my hotel is actually on a beach at the moment, so I'm going off jet-skiing and parasailing, and then I'm going to get a massage. I'm going to relax and then call my girlfriends and my family to catch up.
TVGuide.com: So you avoid children on your vacation?
There's no avoiding that. My breaks will be during the children's holidays. It would be nice just to chill, away from children. But they find me even on the beach! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Do you still love kids after all the bad behavior you've seen?
Oh, yes! I'm 36, so I'm not feeling like "I need children!" I've got kids around me all the time. I'm in a place right now where I'm loving getting the chance to help many families, not just in America. The success of the program has [allowed it to be aired in] 47 countries. I just feel really blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love doing. How many people get to do that?
TVGuide.com: Do you feel any competition with the ladies on Nanny 911?
[Laughs] You don't feel competition with nannies you're all there to help parents. Supernanny came out first, and other people have been inspired to make programs like it. It just means that more people are getting help. Maybe the question of feeling competition is one for the "big dogs" in production, but I'm not worried about ratings or production concerns. I get rewarded every day by helping a family.