Parental Guidance: Meet the families in the 'groundbreaking' show

·9-min read

Have you ever watched the way a family member, friend or acquaintance has parented their child and thought: 'well I would have dealt with that differently'?

It's not unusual to have differing opinions on parenting, sometimes strong opinions, and given that there are many different styles of parenting, there isn't one definite right or wrong way overall.

In a new reality show on Channel 9, Parental Guidance, Today's Ally Langdon and Australian parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson are putting opinionated parents, with very different parenting methods, to the ultimate test through a series of tough challenges to see if they can uncover Australia’s best parenting style.

Dr Justin Coulson and Ally Langdon on Parental Guidance
Parental Guidance is hosted by Dr Justin Coulson and Ally Langdon. Photo: Channel Nine (supplied).

In every episode of Parental Guidance, the challenges escalate in difficulty, pushing families to their limits (which can sometimes be hilarious and sometimes quite emotional for the families) to discover their strengths and the areas they can improve on. 


But will they be able to laugh at their fails, share advice and most importantly celebrate their successes, even when the parent in question can’t see it for themselves?

Here we introduce the families and their parenting style...

The Strict Parents

Strict parents Andrew and Miriam on Parental Guidance
Strict parents Andrew and Miriam and their children Luke, Grace and Tim. Photo: Nine

Christian pastor Andrew and his wife Miriam who works part-time and is the primary home keeper live in rural NSW.

Andrew and Miriam and their children, Luke, 12, Grace, 10 and five-year-old Tim have strong faith and enjoy holding traditional gender roles in the home and in life. They are a parent-led household.

Andrew and Miriam grew up happily in the country in Armidale with strict parents, the parenting style they have continued with their own family.

"I think we need to be really careful in, in saying, disregarding or passing judgement on our parenting style because of one tool that is used in an exceptional circumstance, very rarely, to bring correction," Andrew said on the first episode of the show after being asked if smacking was the best way to deal with bad behaviour.

"We want to love our children and see them grow," he said. "[We] don't want to do anything as a parent that will give baggage to your kids. You try and love. It's hard. It really is to try and get it right," he added.

The Nature Parents

Liadhan and Richard from Parental Guidance with their kids
Liadhan and Richard with their kids Miriam, Hannah, Esther, Eva, and Danny use the nature parenting style. Photo: Nine

Liadhan and Richard have five children together – Miriam, 12, Hannah, 11, Esther, nine, Eva, seven, and Danny, five. Liadhan grew up in Adelaide and has two adult children from a previous relationship. Richard is a former teacher who emigrated to Australia from England 40 years ago and has four adult children from a previous relationship.

They both parented their children who are now adults in a strict style and are now against strict parenting, so they practise the nature parenting style. Liadhan home-birthed all five of their children and is a voracious reader of philosophy on parenting.

"The kids can't bounce off the walls if we take the walls away," Laidhan explained jokingly in the first episode.

But the other parents on the show were shocked when Richard admitted that some of their kids couldn't read yet.

"The eldest two (Mariam, 12, and Hannah, 11) are proficient readers," Richard revealed. "The younger three, they can recognise words.

"Some people might panic and say, 'why aren't they reading?' They will read when they're ready," he added

The Attachment Parents

 Lara and Andrew with their children on Parental Guidance
Attachment parenting couple Lara and Andrew with their children Raphael and Chaya. Photo: Nine

Lara and Andrew, who live in Victoria, have been married for 15 years. Former dancer, dance journalist and drama teacher Lara is a stay-at-home mum, while Andrew is a performing arts physio.

Their parenting style is attachment where they address emotions first, behaviour second and they raise their children using the circle of security. 

They play with the kids constantly and particularly love to perform with them. They indulge their kids' creativity wherever possible.

The Routine Parents

Brett and Tony from Parental Guidance with their kids
Brett and Tony with their kids Ajay, Gyan, Taz and Jagan. Photo: Nine

Same-sex couple Brett and Tony from Victoria are raising two sets of twins, Ajay, Gyan, Taz and Jagan, all nine, and swear by their routine parenting style.

Brett, 50, is a primary school teacher and Tony, 49, is a social worker. Amazingly, both sets of twins were born on the same day through different Indian surrogates so they refer to the four boys as quads. 

"Only one birthday party a year," Brett jokes in the first episode.

Brett and Tony were born and bred in Bendigo, a town that really accepts them. They both had a great childhood and upbringing. They met in high school and were friends for 10 years before having a relationship, and their nans were also friends.

Other families on the show were impressed by how Brett and Tony are raising their boys. "These guys, they're doing an amazing job and they don't even know it," they said.

The French-Style Parents

Yann and Donna with daughter Harper on Parental Guidance
Yann and Donna with daughter Harper. Photo: Nine

NSW couple Yann, 43 and Donna, 40, live a European lifestyle with their daughter Harper, seven. Yann is a project manager and Donna is a general manager.

Yann grew up in Paris (of French Algerian heritage) and was raised in a classic French style while Donna grew up in Baulkham Hills (of Australian Indonesian background) and was raised in a Tiger style which she now finds very triggering. 

They treat Harper like an adult and call their style Nouveau French, being different from classical French in that it is not as strict and more affectionate.

When they encountered Andrew and Miriam's willingness to smack their children on the show they were horrified. "We would never smack our child," Donna said. "We feel very strongly about this. It's a form of abuse."

The Tiger Parents

Kevin and Debbie with son Leo and daughter Mimi on Parental Guidance
Tiger parents Kevin and Debbie with son Leo and daughter Mimi. Photo: Nine

Kevin, 44 is in technology and Debbie, 41 is a stay-at-home mum (though an accountant by trade). Debbie quit her job last year to help Mimi, 12, prepare for her scholarship exams. The couple met in Australia after moving from Taiwan in their late teens and now live in NSW.

Debbie says she adopted the Tiger style because she was Tiger-parented. She felt loved and supported; her mother was always there. She wanted the same for her Mimi and Leo, 10. 

Kevin and Debbie are constantly verbally reminding Mimi and Leo of their expectations around music, behaviour, food, eating, habits, speech, clothes, and everything else.

They discipline by telling their children that mum and dad are disappointed and embarrassed by their behaviour, their lack of effort or initiative.

Though they believe they are at the moderate end of the Tiger spectrum, giving their children a lot of love and affection.

The Home-Schooling Parent

Deb with her children on Parental Guidance
Deb with her children Jess, AJ, Ty, Cooper, Fletcher and Lulu. Photo: Nine

Single mum Deb, from Queensland, home-schools all six of her children – Jess, 16, AJ, 15, Ty, 13, Cooper, 11, Fletcher, nine and Lulu, seven. 

Deb is a huge advocate for home-schooling, believing kids don't need the stress and pressure that traditional school puts them under for a piece of paper that means nothing. She's heavily involved in the online home-school community.

Her children do a couple of hours of home-school every day and are relatively independent, but Deb supervises the younger ones.

She runs a tight ship however: she's the captain, the kids are her crew. She sees herself as authoritative not authoritarian and has clear expectations of the kids: they must complete chores and their home-schooling classes, listen to mum, and then they can play.

The Helicopter Parents

Rachel and Sam with their daughters on Parental Guidance
Rachel and Sam with their daughters Gracie and Ellsie. Photo: Nine

Queenslander Rachel, 35, is a full-time mum to Gracie, seven and Ellsie, five. But she also finds time to work as a personal trainer and parenting podcaster of Am I A Bad Mum?

Sam, also 35, is a former NRL player for the Brisbane Broncos. While Sam and Rachel enjoyed some fame during his NRL career, they find parenting is the great equaliser, saying: "You still have to wipe bums and clean up vomit."

Sam also has a podcast We Are Human which delves into mental health issues in elite athletes.

Sam likes to think they're not overbearing helicopters. "We let them do things and we're there, but if they fall and get hurt, we'll go and rescue them."

He adds he would like them to have more freedom, but realistically he is anxious when the girls go out of sight and has described himself as a security guard at the playground, supervising the girls from a safe distance.

The Free-Range Parents

 Penny and Daniel and their kids on Parental Guidance
Penny and Daniel and their kids Sebastian, Julian and Zahra. Photo: Nine

Penny and Daniel are from Newcastle in NSW and have good relationships with their parents. Penny, 35, works part-time while Daniel, 37, works in sales.  

They say you need a tribe to be a free-range parent because they always forget things and other parents help them out.

Penny had a similar upbringing to the one they're giving Sebastian, nine, Julian, six and Zahra, two, but Daniel had the opposite. His parents gave him very little freedom and said no to all opportunities and adventures. He says his parents were always afraid of what would happen to them, having lived in Beirut prior to coming to Australia.

Instead, their kids are always climbing, jumping, tumbling, tackling and doing dangerous things, and Penny and Daniel don't bat an eyelid.

They've chosen to live this way because it's stress-free and so they can raise independent adults who can thrive on their own.

The Disciplined Parents

Rob and Sioux with their sons on Parental Guidance
Rob and Sioux with sons Hudson and Fletcher. Photo: Nine

Rob, 42, teaches high school and Sioux, 42, teaches primary, so everyone gets up and goes to school at the same time. 

They're a very active and energetic family. The South Australian couple have built a home gym in the backyard and the boys Hudson, nine and Fletcher, seven, are heavily involved in sport. Rob plays cricket with them every day, mornings and after school.

Technology and television are strictly limited in their household and they have highly structured routines, rules and standards.

Rob and Sioux set the rules and what they say goes. 'Consequences' is a massive word for them.

Those consequences include washing your mouth out with soap for bad language (they have done this twice), writing lines if the kids misbehave, or simply writing a letter of apology if they have an argument.

Premiered Monday, November 1 at 7.30pm on Channel 9

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