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Are the world's strictest parents in Barbados?

2/17/2010

They say there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned Bajan upbringing. Well, a prominent UK television channel is set to prove whether that’s true.

Twenty Twenty Television, producers of BBC3’s popular documentary “World’s Strictest Parents”, now in its third series, are currently seeking a traditional, conservative Barbadian family to host two British 16-year-olds for one week and give them a taste of Bajan discipline, instilling in them the values and morals they demand of their own children. Host families will be given financial assistance to take care of their new charges (US$1 000) and potential participants are told to expect a rewarding experience.

Producer Sarah Rubin told the Barbados Advocate that the show, which has already showcased families in Jamaica, Israel, India, Lebanon, South Africa and across the US, came about as a response to parenting challenges in the UK, with the concept being to expose British teens to different methods of parenting around the world.

According to her, “Teenagers in England these days are used to their home environment [where] they can do what they want. But in other places around the world – in India, in Africa, in the States, in the West Indies – it’s very, very, very different the way you bring up your children. And it’s something that’s really beneficial for our teenagers to see – how different it is to be brought up in another part of the world”.

When asked why they’ve decided to come to Barbados, Rubin explained that the show filmed in Jamaica was a huge success and was one of the more popular shows, so they wanted to return to the West Indies because, “We know how disciplined families can be there, in terms of lots of things, really, [for example] religion plays a really big part in people’s lives in Barbados,” adding, “Bajan families have a strong sense of discipline within the home”.

Discipline issues
Youth discipline is certainly a growing concern for UK parents, communities and authorities. An increase in juvenile delinquency is reflected in UK Home Office figures on Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), a court order that forbids specific threatening behaviour. They revealed that between June 2000 and December 2007, 6 028 ASBOs were issued to persons under age 18 in England and Wales, accounting for nearly half of the total 14 868 issued.

Rubin disclosed that the teenagers who will be taking part in the show are not from a disciplined home; they are “allowed to come and go as they please” as is the norm for the majority of 16-year-olds in the UK. Thus, this experiment in behavioural change introduces the British teenagers to an environment that is vastly different from what they know. Rubin explained that as a result, they learn a lot from the experience and they take what they’ve learnt back to their homes in England.

The teens themselves are very open to the experience. The show’s popularity means that many of them are keen to sign up, with the consent of their parents, to see what life is like in another part of the world. Meanwhile, the parents are equally keen to see a positive change in their children’s lives.

Rewarding experience
Naturally, host families can expect some resistance, but nothing that should fluster any self-respecting Bajan parent.

Rubin admitted, “At the beginning, they [teens] might not understand and respect why these parents have got such rules, and the way they bring up their children”. But, she added, “In the end, they’ve gone on a kind of real journey and learnt a lot about themselves and a lot about another way of life”.

Requirements for the host families are simple: they’re looking for a family with at least one teenager, preferably around 14 – 17 years of age. Single parents, retirees, any household with teenagers are welcome and interested persons are urged to contact the producers as soon as possible, as Rubin will be in Barbados in two weeks time to meet potential families, and hopes to begin filming in May. Interested persons may contact
Sarah Rubin at sarahrubin@twentytwenty.tv or call 011-44-207-424-7728 in the UK. Alternatively, they may call the Dover Beach Hotel in Barbados at 428-8076 for more information.

In encouraging interested persons to apply, Rubin said, “It’s an experience that you won’t forget... a rewarding experience, that’s what it is. In a way you’ve helped to change somebody and helped instil them with the morals and discipline that you instil in your own children”.

Whether traditional, conservative Barbadian families would be willing to open their homes to not just two teens, but all the BBC’s viewers, is yet to be confirmed. However, reality shows are such a large part of today’s TV programming, that the proposal just might not be as unthinkable as it may have been in the past. Besides, no one can deny that it would be an excellent opportunity to showcase real Barbadians and what it is that has earned us the reputation of being warm, friendly people.

(SEND US YOUR COMMENTS: Given the growing concerns about changing family values in Barbados, what do you think an indisciplined British teen would learn from living with a Barbadian family? Send your comments to letters@barbadosadvocate.com with the heading "Bajan values".)

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