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Stream It Or Skip It?

Parenting is hard enough without having other parents passing judgement on what we’re doing with our kids. Yet, ABC is now airing a show that’s nothing but parents judging other parents. In fact, one of twelve designated parenting styles will be chosen the “most effective,” as if that exists in the real world. 

Opening Shot: Twelve sets of parents walk into a comfy, couch-laden studio, greeted by hosts Ali Wentworth and parenting expert Dr. Adolph Brown.

The Gist: In The Parent Test, sets of parents with varying parenting styles are brought into a studio. Four sets are brought to the front row and we see a bio on them and their families and examples of their parenting style. Then each of the four spotlight parenting styles are put through the test with two different scenarios, filmed in and around the families’ homes.

After watching the videos, the parents in the back row comment and vote on which parenting style they found to be the most effective; eventually the “most effective” style of parenting will win… well, we don’t know what they’ll win.

The first four sets of parents are the Leongs (Intensive — think work and high achievement), the Webbs (Natural — let the kids develop at their own pace), the Wynns (New Age — let kids be kids) and the Maghen-Dekels (Routine — rigid scheduling to give structure). The first two challenges (two more will be in episode 2) are a high-dive challenge, where the parents try to apply their styles to getting one of their kids to jump off a high dive, and a “Yes Day” challenge, where each household has a “Yes Day,” where the parents can’t say no to anything the kids request.

The Parent Test
Photo: James Clark/ABC

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The in-home segments of The Parent Test remind us of Supernanny, and not in a good way (see below).

Our Take: We consider our parenting style to be “hang on for dear life”, or at the very least, “fake it till you make it”, so to see all of the seemingly well-defined parenting styles on display in The parent Test was dizzying to us. Some of them seemed to overlap by quite a bit, like the “intensive” parents and the “high achievement” dad, who seemed to chime in at every opportunity. We’re also not sure what the difference between “Traditional” and “Disciplined” is, for instance.

But, just like Supernanny, we’ve found that it’s hard to judge other parents by watching them and their kids interact during a snapshot in time. And the clips for each set of parents really don’t give a whole lot insight into what their everyday lives are like, but the eight families that aren’t in the hot seat not only can chime in on what they see but then they have to vote for the “most effective” style based on those relatively brief clips. Even the parenting styles that look obviously bad on the surface, like the Leongs’ Intensive style, aren’t shown with enough context, like the fact that their daughter Juliette is a genius.

Of the two scenarios showed in the first episode, the “Yes Day” one was more indicative of how each parenting style affected the kids in each family. There were some fascinating insights, like when Juliette Leong just wanted to be by herself, or the scheduled Maghen-Dekel boys just wanted unlimited screen time, or the Webb kids taking their parents’ phones away.

Despite that, the whole exercise feels pointless, even with “Doc Brown” sitting next to Wentworth talking about the reason why particular styles are effective for a particular scenario. And the idea that one style is going to be voted the “most effective” is patently absurd. We’re not even sure why these parents would want to go in front of cameras and have their parenting judged by strangers on national television; perhaps they’re seeking tips to improve their own parenting, as Wentworth mentions. But that doesn’t seem to be enough of a payoff for the judgement.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: Wentworth calls the show “Like being a parent: Unrelenting and no days off.”

Sleeper Star: We loved Arlo Sarinas and Kiki Ng both pushing back at the Leongs, especially after hearing Willa Leong say in her clip package that “All losers blame their parents.” Their tough, unrelenting parenting style could work for a lot of kids, but both Arlo and Kiki are examples where it did the opposite, and hopefully their feedback gave the Leongs some insights.

Most Pilot-y Line: We still can’t get over the idea that there’s going to be a “winner” in this contest. The show doesn’t need a voting component; it could have just been a discussion. Also, the intense reality show music and intercuts as we wait to see if a kid jumps off the high dive were completely unnecessary.

Our Call: SKIP IT. The Parent Test may give you some insights into how you parent your children and maybe give you some ideas that you can add to your parenting toolbox. But the idea that these parents are being judged off short clips and one will be chosen the “most effective” is a complete turn-off for us.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.

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