What to say if you liked it
Finally a documentary that eschews hysterics and sensationalism but deals with the problem of extremely disruptive children in a thoughtful and intelligent manner.
What to say if you didn’t like it
BBC2 jumps on the bandwagon of problem kids to give other parents the chance to look at their own think, “Well, you’re not that bad!” and go to bed fulfilled with a sense of renewed hope and self-satisfaction.
What was good about it?
• Mouthy Jennifer’s story about throwing a chair at her teacher, missing and hitting her ex-boyfriend instead. She said she’d never been more sorry in her life.
• The programme successfully let the actions of the four featured families speak for themselves – from mums and dads permanently slumped in their favourite chair where they could shout their orders, to some breathtaking violence and language from the children. The voiceover did not explain every tiny detail and afforded the viewer some intelligence, which was refreshing.
• When it comes to kids who cause problems at school or anywhere out of the home, we all know the stories – vandalism, bullying, stealing etc. It was something new to see these children disrupting their own homes, influencing siblings and in some cases scaring their parents.
• Parenting officer Isla’s ability to almost immediately spot ways in which the parents can change their children by altering their own actions and reactions.
• The horrific scene of Jennifer and her dad, Reg, screaming at each other that ended with violence. It wasn’t comfortable to watch, but it was instructive as to how rotten their relationship had become.
What was bad about it?
• As with all fly-on-the-wall documentaries (and there were elements of it here, as fixed cameras were mounted to record happenings in the houses), you have to question how much was real, how much was exaggerated for the cameras and how much was exacerbated by the cameras. If the cameras were making things worse, was it right for them to be there?
• This problem was highlighted when Cathy and Gerry’s sons Nathan and Aaron were filmed hitting Cathy’s car with sticks and metal bars. Should the cameraman or director have stopped them? A neighbour eventually called the police, but should the film crew have done something earlier?
• Jennifer boasting to the camera about her laziness and how difficult she is to live with. Later we find out she purposely got herself excluded from school so she could have the day off on her birthday.
• Jennifer’s dad, Reg, who clearly has no clue whatsoever about how he is making the situation with his daughter worse, laughing like a yokel after attending the first night of a parental help course, after which he believes other people have children worse than his.
• Jennifer’s mum laughing about how Jennifer picked up swearing from them when she was a baby and how they never stopped her. Earlier, Reg couldn’t understand why she was always swearing at him.
• We’ll probably see Reg on Celebrity Fit Club next year.