When reality TV shows became popular in the early 2000s, I was hooked. My friends and I would watch anxiously to see which participant would be booted out and who would be the one left standing with the prize! Twenty years later, and now a mom, I think reality shows have taught us some pretty solid parenting strategies.
We’ve watched participants hold the line and persevere to the end. And I don’t know about you, but I think parenting demands way more perseverance than I ever imagined it would! Here are 5 parenting strategies we can take from all those years of watching reality shows. (What do you know? It was worth our time after all!)
1. Do your homework.
The best reality show participants always did some homework before the cameras turned on. On the flight to start her season of Survivor, Elisabeth Hasselbeck read a book on tying knots just so she could be an expert at something. I was always amazed at the people who didn’t prepare. Like, really? You knew you’d be stranded on an island and you didn’t think to learn how to make a fire? And yet, we can be caught off guard at times in motherhood with a sudden new stage or obstacle, and we’re left feeling ill-equipped for the task.
Instead, we can equip ourselves with knowledge. Ask yourself, “What stage is potentially just around the corner for my child?” And if you have no idea (and often, I don’t either), just keep reading. A reading parent is a wise parent. There are tons of great books, podcasts, and of course iMOM articles for every stage.
2. Be neutral.
The reality contestants who are easily riled up and lured into arguments are usually voted off first. They’re easily offended, almost daring others to light their fuse. But the contestants who are neutral go the furthest in the game. They get along with all kinds of people, and they aren’t surprised by adversity. They are the calm in the storm.
As loving parents, we create boundaries for our children. When they cross them (note that I said “when,” not “if”) you can remain neutral by giving a measured response. You’re not going to cave, but you’re not going to flip out, either. If you let your child lure you into an argument over a crossed boundary, you’ve lost before the battle really began.
3. Make private alliances.
Reality show contestants often have private alliances with people they can trust. They have a tight group that they can run to when the big moments happen in the game. The ones who succeed choose their alliances very carefully.
Mothers need this, too! Our alliances are friends who can give us solid advice and encouragement when we need it the most. If we think we can go it alone, we are sadly mistaken. I love this verse from the Bible about being stronger with an alliance: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
4. Wait out the storms.
Reality show contestants always have some sleepless, defeated, miserable nights. They are, after all, out of their element, given unpredictable circumstances, and placed in a stormy environment. Sounds kinda like motherhood at times, doesn’t it?
In every season, there are those who give up right in the middle of the storm. We can be tempted to do this too—especially when trying to enforce a boundary with a child. We might receive some pretty stormy reactions from our kids. But be strong and wait out the storm! It will come to an end, and you’ll be glad you stuck with it.
5. Don’t hold grudges.
Some reality show participants take everything personally and hold grudges, firing angry comments that only agitate the situation. This usually gets them voted off. Knowing everyone is “playing the game” helps contestants keep it from becoming personal.
In the same way, our kids are just being kids. They are testing boundaries because that’s what little humans do. As they do it, we must forgive and forget—not hold grudges as if it is personal.
What parenting strategies have you learned from reality TV?