I do, however, have a difficult time finding most of the episodes credible. A family of 5 with parents who have not had it together for years miraculously changing the entire dynamic of their relationship and household in one week? Sound a bit like finding the love of your life through a reality TV show that lasts a couple months, only to find out that person was not who you thought they were and make tons of fans upset because your life and your decisions are not what they want? (ahem.. The Bachelor / The Bachelorette)
I nanny from time to time and after 10+ years of experience and a CPR certification, I consider myself pretty qualified. I have observed some pretty interesting children and have many stories. The most horrifying was a little three year old girl named Belle.* This wasn't one of those jobs I could get away from after 4 hours. No, I was with this little "angel" 3 days a week, 8+ hours a day for a year.
Belle was beautiful. Blonde hair, blue eyes, very sweet disposition. She had a lot of people fooled. I quickly learned that Belle was starving for attention. Pooping and peeing in her panties when she was fully capable of using the toilet. Screaming at the top of her lungs when she didn't get what she wanted. Throwing her food across the room when she didn't feel like eating. Scratching and hitting. She was crazy! I have never seen a three year old girl with SO much personality.
One day, I took her to target to pick out a coloring book. She really liked Dora so I found a really cool Dora one that I showed her. Meanwhile she had been looking at the books and found a 200 something paged hard cover coloring book that she just HAD to have. (Please bear in mind this is a $30 coloring book.)
Me: No Belle we can't get that one today. Check out this one. It's really...
Belle: NO I WANT THAT ONE. (she rips it off the shelf)
Me: I'm sorry Belle but that one is a lot of money and....
Belle: NO I WANT THAT ONE. I DON'T WANT THE DORA ONE! I WANT THAT ONE!
Me: Belle, I guess maybe we shouldn't...
Belle: I WANT THAT ONE! GIVE IT TO ME! GIVE IT TO ME! IT'S MINE! (I didn't even take it from her.)
(Screams at the top of her lungs)
Me: Okay Belle. We need to go home now. (While she is screaming)
I promise, this girl had one of those bloody murder screams that everyone in the store could hear and everyone stared at me like I'd abused this poor child. I eventually got her to calm down but she did not get the coloring book.
At some point during my time with Belle and her parents, I realized that they felt bad for not being in her life and thus gave her everything she wanted and did not discipline her.
I hid the crayons from her one day because while I was in the bathroom for 1 minute, she drew a mural across 2 walls, 2 doors, and a stairwell. That was fun to clean up. Her dad asked me where her crayons were later that day because Belle asked him for them as soon as he got home. I told him what had happened and they were everywhere when I came in the following day.
After several months with Belle, she grew on me. She learned that I wouldn't put up with her crap and that she needed to listen if we were going to have fun. Her parents told me that I was the only babysitter she ever said she really missed/loved. (I think she wanted someone who would be honest with her and show her right from wrong.) This took several months to accomplish and the new babysitter had to go through the same thing. (She's a friend of mine so I heard more stories.)
I think children are much smarter than we often give them credit for and they pick up a TON from their parents. I also believe that the ones who do have behavioral issues can improve with time. And although I do believe in miracles, saving 100s of families and fixing behavioral issues in one week is just not feasible.
* Not her real name