CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Should you raise your child to be a kung fu kid?

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Should you raise your child to be a burger babe or a kung fu kid?

Britain’s Best Parent?

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The First Team

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When my first son was born, a colleague with a brood bigger than the Von Trapp family gave me some advice: ‘That child,’ he said, ‘is a blank slate and it’s up to you to write his personality.’

Robin and Rin won the first round, with a regime based on martial arts training and chess. They aim to raise ‘scholar-warriors’

What a load of tripe. It’s incredible that anyone who has even met a child, never mind fathered a row of them, could believe such blither for a minute.

The fact is that even babies have their own distinct characters and there’s not a lot that parents can do to change that.

The most we can hope for is to spot our child’s potential and nurture it — encourage the clever ones to read, the sporty ones to play games, the musical ones to learn instruments.

Apart from that, the rules are basic and simple: don’t let them kill each other, and keep them fed and watered. Oh, and never leave them tied up outside shops.

But that’s not enough for our self-absorbed culture. We are expected to treat parenthood as an ego trip, shaping our children into the perfect geniuses that we might be ourselves . . . if only our own mums and dads had bothered to do everything right.

Channel 4 loves to promote this myth with shows about super-intelligent pre-teens who are made to study quantum physics instead of playing video games.

Now it’s telling us how to achieve the optimum results, as couples compete to prove their methods are most effective, on Britain’s Best Parent? (C4) — by swapping children with complete strangers.

Robin and Rin won the first round, with a regime based on martial arts training and chess. They aim to raise ‘scholar-warriors’. 

Presenter Anita Rani and the studio audience liked the kung fu approach better than Kevin and Kerry’s laissez-faire approach, which left their offspring to lie in bed till 3pm and live off cheeseburgers.

A cynic might say Robin was allowed to watch too many Karate Kid movies in his youth, but the reality is he was probably always going to turn out this way.

Presenter Anita Rani and the studio audience liked the kung fu approach better than Kevin and Kerry’s laissez-faire approach, which left their offspring to lie in bed till 3pm and live off cheeseburgers. They called it ‘lazy parenting’, but the couple seemed to be working pretty hard at making their children bone idle.

The show was most problematic with five-year-old Willow, raised to be ‘gender-fluid’ by his single mother, Joana. 

Sensitive Willow seemed too young to be taking part: he curled up in a ball and cried when urged to take part in boisterous games, and pleaded to go home to his mother.

He wasn’t allowed to leave, of course. Willow’s a mere child, and this programme is about the all-important adults.

There were no adults in sight on The First Team (BBC2), a sitcom set at a failing football club which hires unknown American player Mattie (Jake Short) by accident.

The manager is a drunk and the owner an overgrown baby. The star striker can’t even put his shorts on unaided.

Meanwhile, the academy trainees are driving round in customised Bentleys. It’s a promising idea, from the creators of The Inbetweeners, Damon Beesley and Iain Morris.

The Beeb’s football commentators plainly love it — Gary Lineker and Jonathan Pearce were quick to put in cameos.

But an idea is all it is. Most of the attempts at jokes floated high and wide, like shots over the crossbar from 30 yards out.

There was no rhythm, and far too many characters . . . more than 20 names on the cast list for the first episode, and that’s before you count the real-life celebrities such as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

The First Team just isn’t ready for the big time. Back to the training ground. 

Soap showdown of the night: Which is smarter, Corrie or EastEnders? Lucy Fallon, who plays Weatherfield’s Bethany, and Shaun Williamson (Barry from EastEnders) put it to the test on Britain’s Brightest Celebrity Family (ITV). Result: a win for the Pearly Kings. Lumme!   

The Beeb’s football commentators plainly love it — Gary Lineker and Jonathan Pearce were quick to put in cameos. But an idea is all it is. Most of the attempts at jokes floated high and wide, like shots over the crossbar from 30 yards out

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