World’s Strictest Parents, Mormon Style

BBC3 (the BBC’s youth channel) airs a series called The World’s Strictest Parents. It’s a reality show where tearaway British youths (“oiks” as the London mayor would call them) are housed with said Strictest Parents in an inverse of Nanny 911 (where a British nanny schools naughty American kids). In last week’s show, two kids are sent to Utah to live with a Mormon family. Enjoy:

There are archetypes aplenty including the feral British teenager and the American religious conservative. Whilst the Pecks’ Utah Mormon Nice is a bit much (and alien) for my tastes, the show ultimately celebrates their values and the positive effect they supposedly had on their British guests.


  1. Why of why Tooele?

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Woe to the kids of Liverpool and Leicester!

  3. Welcome to the Midwest, Utah!

  4. British yutes?

    (sorry…just saw My Cousin Vinny again…)

  5. Now I’m hooked and have got to watch the rest of this series….

  6. Me too, Jim.

  7. Fortunately, I see they are available on youtube.

  8. About 5:40 into in the second segment it appears that Hannah (one of the british teens) is wearing a CTR ring.

  9. Mormon parents are featured on an episode of the American show as well. Just FYI.

  10. Morgan–you have a link?

  11. Haha.. that’s great! A trip to Utah will set anyone straight!

  12. Ronan, did you ever see the disastrous Mormon episode of the reality show where families take each other on holidays? It was about five or six years ago. Dreadful.

  13. Norb,
    Thankfully, no.

  14. I think this clip makes a good argument for why children need their fathers.

  15. wow, did anybody else watch the final installment of this episode? it was a regular mormon cry-fest when the kids left for home. it would be interesting to see an update 6 months out.

    also, the mom in this episode struck me as some kind of jim jones / benevolent tyrant figure. nice enough, but a little strange with all the hugging/crying/”i-need-you-to-respect-me” talk.

  16. Re the episode linked to in comment 11. Wow! I feel so inspired to be a better parent. I think the thing that stood out the most in the episode was how much love the parents had and showed to both their kids and the teens. I bet the teens felt the spirit while they were in the home. I practically felt it just watching the episode and having the Spirit bear witness to me of how true the truths are. What a great example of being Christlike this family is.

  17. Wow! I just watched all 6 segments. I thought the Mormon family did amazingly well. And yeah, they actually came off looking pretty good and not as weird as I feared. The kids were a little robotic, but geeky and smart. All too good to be true. I loved the way that the 2 teens really did a turnaround by the end. It made me rethink some of my parenting strategies. (But I’m still not going to homeschool.) :-)

    I loved how Mom always kept her cool and spoke like a trained professional. I’d have been yelling all over the place.

  18. I really enjoyed watching these, and the ones linked to in #11. The only thing that bothered me was the underlying feeling that the strict parents were better or more effective at being parents. I wish that had been brought up and been hashed out.

    Yes, there are ways of interacting with kids that are more effective than others, and certainly there is lots of room for improvement in practically all parents. Maybe if those rebellious kids had perfect parents they wouldn’t have gotten to that state. Then again maybe not.

    I just really hope that those kids real parents don’t feel like miserable failures. I believe they were doing the best they knew how, and there’s no shame in that.

  19. I believe without frequent attention any of our relationships can get into a rut that can be difficult to get out of without some kind of outside intervention. We can get so into our dysfunction that we can’t see our way out.

    It seems that a short separation like these teens and their mothers went through combined with the teens being lovingly challenged helped them to have a type of “paradigm shift.” It would be interesting to see if they are able to maintain their new views or if they revert to previous habits and patterns….

  20. Interesting. My children don’t want me to watch more of those- they are afraid of getting more chores. Always good to see Mormons show well

  21. It really made me think about the other parents. In both cases divorce was the beginning of the downward spiral. The women may have been awol as parents a bit as they dealt with all the emotions and other repurcussions of divorce…then the dads never were even involved. Tough for a preteen to deal with that.

  22. I am the Mom from this show. I really appreciate all the positive comments about the episode. It was an amazing experience to work with these teens unfortunately the viewers only saw one hour of about 180 hours of footage. It was an editing amazment.

    Please don’t compare me to Jim Jones. He is not the kind of parent I want to be or am. I believe in real love and respect on all sides. I actually teach parenting classes around North America.

    The one thing I wish was shown but wasn’t was when the two youth all of the sudden stopped yelling after two days of fits. I asked Hannah why she stopped yelling and she said that at home if she yelled she got her way or someone would at least yell back. But at our house we were always so calm that she just decided her old way wouldn’t work and she should just be calm too. I think I will tell some of these experiences on my teaching self government website.

    Thanks again for all of the support above!

  23. Just one question: do the Pecks have a list of Pres. Monson’s iTunes library and favourite TV shows? I’m just a bit befuddled by the “we only watch or listen to the things the Prophet does.”

    Otherwise I like the notion – crazy kids need stern parents. I wonder how the show would have gone if they’d sent the kids to an actual Midwest LDS family (those of us out here on the Great Plains).

  24. Rumor has it Pres. TSM loves The Wire.

  25. Nicholeen, thanks for stopping by. I think it’s pretty brave to put your family in the hands of a t.v. show, not to mention taking in two troubled kids at thte same time. I’m really glad that things turned out so well for you, and that it was such a good experience.

    Do you mind if I ask a few questions? How did you get involved with the t.v. show? From your parenting classes? How did your kids react to the experience? Are you still in touch with the British kids? Are they doing okay?

  26. Nicholeen:

    Thanks for the very civil comment. You guys did great on the show!

  27. It looks like Sister Peck talks about the show a bit over at her own blog.

  28. I wish we had been more strict with our kids and had taught them to do chores when they were younger. At 12 and 15, as we try to get them to do more, it is almost too late. Fortunately they are very good children- they just haven’t quite learned to work very well yet….

  29. I’ve had the experience of adopting a teenage kid, and I would LOVE more information about dealing with teens. He’s an awesome kid and I thought I would be the greatest mom you know, lol, because my nieces all loved me but wow did I get an awakening. I now think I suck as a mom and I’m trying to learn better as fast as possible so as not to further damage my poor son. He’s extremely patient with me and hasn’t given up on me so I think I still may have a chance to do better. I read parenting books but they don’t seem to address my questions. This show, though, was awesome. I’d love to learn more. I’m going to your blog to find out some more about the kids. They seemed like really sweet kids. It’s awesome how they began acting better so quickly.

  30. Just got to Beehive Statesmen! Laughing so hard! I mean seriously!?! With Shirts and everything?

    And was that Steve Evans in there singing?

  31. Just watched, finally, and I think the Jim Jones comment was silly, mpb. Nicholeen just did a great job keeping her cool when provoked. (My favorite, favorite part was Quinton saying in that world-weary 13-year-old way that he had tried to push his mother’s buttons “for years.”) I second the hope that there will be an update (on your site, Nicholeen?)

    Also, I’d really like to have someone do some major editing of the footage of my parenting :)

  32. Just watched this with my two boys (aged 21 and 10). They both were fascinated. Twas a brave thing the Peck’s did. We were impressed. The messages we all got were, divorce is devastating ( the 21 year is just back from his mission and considering his next step in life; finding a wife and marrying). As well as spending time together as a family is important. Great bit of TV for us tonight. Thank you to the Peck’s and to the two British teens as you gave some important things to think about and discuss.

  33. I just watched the episode referenced in the OP and the Atlanta episode. I am impressed with the limits with love. The teens start to change when they realize they are loved and worth something. I want to watch all the episodes to see if the scenario is the same.

  34. Sis. Peck, congratulations on being willing to take on this challenge. A lot of us have enough problems with our own kids, so taking on two rowdy yutes would probably send us over the edge.

    I agree with the comment that this show indicates how important fathers are in families.

  35. nicholeen, i apologize. it was a rash comparison now that i think about it. i was hastily searching for a common reference and that one was horribly ill conceived on my part. it wouldn’t be the first time.

    i maintain that i was a little thrown off by your style with the teens, but in the end it seemed to help you to reach them. overall i am skeptical of these types of shows, but i think it is honorable that you invited these two into your home, and to the extent this show reaches others with a positive message about the strength of families and the importance of involved parenting, it probably does a lot more good than harm.

  36. My wife and teens and I watched the whole episode last night, and we were really impressed. Kudos to the Pecks.

    I’ve got mixed feelings towards the structured parenting styles I saw Sis. Peck use. Scripted verbage for given situations (eg., Sis. Peck responding with “those are no answers” when the teens were freaking about giving up cigarettes) drives me nuts. It feels very artificial to me. Even my girls (young teens), who automatically identified with the Pecks and were horrified by the British teens, made a couple comments about it.

    We have close friends that took parenting classes and started doing the same with their own kids, and my jaw clenches every time I hear them interact. BUT, I’ve got to say that their interactions with their kids seems to have improved, and the “button pushing” that used to go on seems to have decreased. Having and using parenting “tools” seems to work for them.

    I realize the whole thing was heavily edited, but it sure looked like the Pecks kept it together. I was impressed. Maybe those “parenting tools” that Sis. Peck kept using gave her the framework to keep from losing it. If so, “artificial” or not, the results are real.

    By the way, it was sort of surreal to have them zoom in on the name of the church with Johnny Cash as the soundtrack…

  37. namakemono says:

    very interesting, and my teens both watched it too and enjoyed it.
    one question though – did the British teens go cold turkey on cigarettes, alcohol and “weed” – all 3 at once? That would have been very hard to do…

  38. I think it helps to have a scripted response for crazy situations. It helps my emotions from taking over and my children know the routine-it kick starts them as well.

  39. who’s jim jones when he’s at home ( and not at the pecks home by the way). So no insulting Nicholeene Peck please, she was awsome as you say in the states. And fancy anyone insulting her children. They were bright articulate individuals who were very much part of the experience to. Bro Peck was a true gentleman or priesthood holder should I say. I Loved the family, and James said it all at the end when he said they do everything together as a family they talk etc, etc. It strengthened my testimony in the churches teachings of the family here in good old England. PS i bet the missionaries have been around their houses already, you know what there like. Its just a joke all you stress heads. Look youve got me sounding like Hannah already, bless her.

  40. Another really amazing thing about the Peck family is that they were able to understand whatever language the “English” kids were speaking.

  41. I wonder if they had someone interpreting behind the scenes. (just kidding) But there were times when I was asking, “Now what did they just say?”

  42. namakemono says:

    “English” English – well, we do that with “American” English sometimes too lol

  43. And the other unanswered question is, are the Peck’s related to the bloggernacle’s own Steve Peck? The dad bore a fair resemblance to him, I thought. A cousin, maybe?

  44. (mea culpa on the stray apostrophe above)

  45. There’s a lot more going on with those kids than the lack of a father.

  46. firstly, (as per #1)let’s be nice to Tooele. Although I’m British I grew up in Tooele and my ancestry practically starts and ends in Tooele (and Grantsville). My sister lives there right now, and has the same house layout as the Pecks so I had to take a double take at first! Practically every Utah missionary I feed laughs at me for being originally from Tooele. Although I do understand why any town that has a wal mart and nothing else should be made fun of a little bit.

    Secondly, both sets of parents I think did a good job. Naturally we all think we are the worlds best parents so I didnt agree with everything but I’d have no uneasiness with the idea of my non mormon friends watching either, so good job.

    #13 I saw that show and fully expected a similar result in these shows but thankfully not. ‘Disastrous’ is the word.

    I hope the British kids in particular did manage to change in something approaching a permanent way. My own kind of similar experience to this involves my younger sister in law, who we managed to get to EFY in Arizona when she was about 16. She wasnt such a bad kid like the examples in the show, but she was clearly going to flirt with activity and inactivity in her later teen years. She came back ‘changed’ and it was genuine, and nice to see although we were under no illusions that EFY had sorted her for lie. The sad thing looking back is that it was her elder inactive siblings that really didnt like the changes she was going through and kind of teased it out of her until she reverted. It was sad to see. I think Sis Peck said on her blog about the socialisation back in Britain being so important in the case of the 2 kids on the show: too true – It would be extremely difficult I think for either of them to continue on the curve the Pecks started them on.

    Finally, it struck me in both shows just how much of a big deal clothing is to us as LDS. Having very young children I have never had to tell them or even consider what they are wearing. And as a fairly standard male, I never had cause to be told to dress modestly either. I mean I’ve read standard for youth a thousand times but in both shows it was THE big deal. I did find myself siding with the British kids a little bit when they argued that they were looking to change whats inside and not outside. I guess I have always thought I’d have a fairly liberal approach to the clothing standards regards my own kids, but this has got me thinking….and I really don’t know what to make of it. Could those kids have made the changes they did without first changin the way they dressed?

  47. Ther are so many things I could comment on, so let me just tackle a few right now. Yes I do regularly speak with James and Hannah via email and facebook. I hope to stay in contact with them so that they have a positive influence lurking in the background of their lives and so they never forget that people in Utah love them and have high hopes for them.

    You are right there was a lot more going on with James and Hannah than no fathers, but the father thing was a BIG deal. James really attached to Spencer and opened up around him like he enjoyed it. This was a big step for James.

    James had a lot of other issues which were not brought up on the show due to time. A one hour program is not long enough for everything we did in those eight days and all the issues and behaviors we worked on. To respect James I will not discuss any issue that was not brought up on the show. I will say though that James opened up to me like he has never opened up to an adult before in some quiet moments off camera. Those moments were some of my favorite of the week.

    We talked, hugged, cried, and prayed. He was so honest and even started our conversation with the words, “I need help…” He knew he could trust me and that I loved him and wanted to help, so he humbled himself and asked. I am so glad he did. No one should have to deal with the hard things he is trying to sort out all alone.

    Regarding the “no answer” thing. Since you are not familiar with my style of parenting and the parenting interactions were chopped to bits because of time, let me explain. I teach four basic skills to my children: Following Instructions, Accepting No answers or criticism, Accepting consequences, and Disagreeing Appropriately.

    Before we told James and Hannah about our family standards we taught them how to do these four basic skills. This was not on the show. So, when they were getting anxious and emotional about what was so dear to them, their image, I was gently reminding them that we had just practiced how to accept no answers and that they could disagree appropriately with me if they wanted to. I was reminding them, but people didn’t really know what I was doing.

    I consider these four basic skills to be fundamental for happy living. I know grown adults who still haven’t mastered accepting no answers from people or disagreeing appropriately. I don’t want this for my children, so we all learn these life basics at my house.

    Regarding sounding too planned out…I like planned out. A parent without a plan can too easily lose control of their emotions. I am sure you all saw how calm my husband and I are. We are calm because we have trained ourselves to respond to situations with specific phrases. Knowing what our responses will be helps us stay calm. An out of control parent can’t change any heart for good.

    I have parented many hard foster children and teens over the years who are a lot harder than James and Hannah were and they all responded well to our style, so I guess the proof is in the pudding.

    You are right that stopping all three substances in one day would be really hard. We agreed and decided to let James and Hannah have four smoke breaks a day, after meals to keep them sane and not shaky. However, they didn’t have any drinks or weed. I don’t know if you noticed that in the one scene where he says he isn’t a child, he is figiting like crazy. He was having some withdrawl problems. But, by the end of the week the teens were down to one cigarette a day.

    There was a beautiful moment where James asked to say the family prayer. Then he asked me to teach him how to pray. He prayed that he would be able to overcome his addiction to smoking. He told me after that he never really realized how much control smoking had over him. There was even one day when James and Hannah said they totally forgot to want to smoke because they were so busy doing fun things with the family. These were all successful moments for me and them.

    I will be writing a post for this blog really soon. In that post I will talk more about how we got the opportunity to be part of this amazing journey and other powerful experiences which were not seen on the show.

    My personal blog is also going to have posts about the show for a while as well as other helpful parenting tips. My sister, Janelle, is going to guest write for me about her assesment of Hannah and James on the homeschool group youth conference which they attended and she supervised.

  48. A parent without a plan can too easily lose control of their emotions.

    This is so true. I am looking forward to your post!

  49. I am so sorry I said I was going to write for common consent. I can if they want we to, but I actually meant a different blog. I forgot where I was blogging for a minute. The Millennial Star asked me to write for them. It should be published soon. Also, my five year old son just posted on my site.

  50. Steve Evans says:

    “I forgot where I was blogging for a minute.”

    That happens all the time. Good luck to you, Sis. Peck.

  51. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    Very inspiring! And entertaining to boot!