Don’t Use Your Childhood Issues As An Excuse To Emotionally Abuse Your Kids


Yes, I watched Extreme Guide To Parenting, again last night.  I am a glutton for punishment. Each week it’s becoming clearer and clearer that all of these “extreme” parents are simply saddled with issues from their childhoods and trying to right the wrongs of their upbringing through their own kids. Which is sick, if you ask me.

Our latest installment of I was ignored/ nobody loved me as a kid so I’m going to treat you like shit, comes from Darlene, a mom so obsessed with making her daughter the “total package” she incessantly rides her about her appearance and makes her feel small. It’s as if she wants her teenaged child Bianca to have body and self-esteem issues. There was another family highlighted as well, who pushes their nine-year-old to make weight in her Jiujitsu class and forces their kids to stay in a plank pose when they don’t listen – but that family made me too sad to even write. So back to Darlene.

Darlene is a mother of  three. Her older two children “have arrived” as far as she’s concerned. One is a successful dancer and one is moving toward a successful singing career. Her third and youngest, Bianca, is already a working journalist and by the end of the show we learn she has been accepted to an Ivy League school. This is not enough for Darlene, who at the beginning of her segment insists,

Out of my three girls, Bianca needs the most work. It”s Bianca’s turn. She’s on deck.

“Needing the most work” translates to a makeover and a trip to the salon to rid Bianca of her natural, thick, black hair. There are endless passive-aggressive interactions like this one:

Mom: Are you going to get ready to go?

Bianca: I’m ready now.

Mom: You’re going to wear what you have on? Scrunch-face of disapproval.

Darlene is constantly saying things like, “She needs to take more time on herself and her appearance so when she walks into a room she stands above the crowd.” She has a totally smart, well-adjusted daughter and she’s trying to drive her to be insecure about her looks. I don’t understand this woman.

In one scene, we see Darlene and her daughters having dinner with friends of the family. She thinks this is an appropriate thing to say about her child in mixed company, “We can go shop. Go to the hair stylist. Go to the make-up artist. Smooth out all the rough edges.” Bianca asks the friends of the family the mom has said this in front of, “Do I look rough to you?” Her older sisters totally gang up with mom, because they’ve clearly been brainwashed to believe these passive-aggressive insults are “helping” somehow.

The show’s most disturbing scene is when Darlene basically forces Bianca to go to the salon to get her natural hair straightened. Bianca wants to learn to drive, and her mother dangles the driving lessons in front of her like a carrot on a stick until she agrees to get a makeover. Bianca is so troubled by the thought of changing her hair (which she has no problem with, by the way) that she slips out of the salon crying. Ugh.

Another instance of a mother who feels she was failed in her childhood, trying to right the wrongs of her childhood by making her daughter’s life “better.” But in this case, better looks like criticism, body-shaming, and passive-aggressive judgment. Her daughter is gorgeous, by the way, so I’m not exactly sure what is going on in this woman’s head. At one point, Bianca says, “I’m at the top of my class, I’m a working journalist – but all she can see is my defects. And I’m getting pretty tired of it.”

“I just need for her to be put together – like me. That’s all,” is Darlene’s only excuse. Her daughter is smart, confident, and seems to have a very good head on her shoulders. This mother’s problem basically boils down to the fact that she doesn’t like her daughter’s afro and wants her to wear more make-up. That is just sad. By the end of the show she seems to soften a bit – probably because her daughter finally gives in and gets her hair done.

Nitpicking and insulting the appearance of a teenager is not helping her with her future. I’m sorry she feels like her own mom ignored her, but she’s being a real asshole. Darlene is lucky she hasn’t managed to totally push her daughter away or give her an eating disorder or a serious sense of self-loathing. She feels like she didn’t get enough attention when she was raised, so she is in turn smothering her own children.

A technique that will certainly backfire.

(photo: Bravo TV)

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