I recently wrote an article on the radical parenting methods of Demarcus (Sarge) and Joy Brown, owners of Naples Fitness Boot camp. The Browns have appeared on the TLC “Wife Swap” series and the “Radical Parenting” episode of the CBS “Dr. Phil” TV show. They have been openly criticized for their approach to parenting and extreme lifestyle. They eat a strict diet of mostly raw foods and significantly limit their children’s exposure to books, TV and even other children. When the family plays a game the loser does pushups and the children do chores and run an obstacle course daily.
However, after getting to know them, I must admit, the children are respectful, well-behaved and physically fit. As an experiment I decided to implement Joy and Sarge’s stringent diet, rules, chores and fitness regimen in my own family. I wanted to see firsthand the impact of their radical parenting tactics.
When I announced the experiment to my family I met with adamant resistance. “There’s no way I’m eating raw chicken” said my 8 year old daughter. “I’m not doing an ‘oxickle court’ said my 5 year old son. Everyone seemed to lighten up when I explained the details of the diet and obstacle course. When I started to explain Joy and Sarge’s discipline system, there was dead silence and wide eyes. “First I’ll give you a warning, and then you’ll have to write whatever you did wrong 150 times. If those two things don’t work, then you’ll be spanked” I said. That’s when my daughter wisely pointed out that my son can’t write. In fact, both children displayed a level of intelligence far beyond their years as they offered up reasons why they couldn’t participate in the experiment.
Joy and Sarge don’t allow their children to watch TV shows that include mature content. That’s basically everything on TV. We chose to play Chutes and Ladders. According to the Brown family rules, the loser must do pushups. We played four times and I did forty pushups.
Later, we all piled in the car to go to the grocery store to buy our healthy food. It was almost dinner hour and the idea of a salad seemed so daunting we were forced to stop for pizza on the way. We used the time over pizza to create the grocery list. Beyond fruit and salad, I couldn’t think of a single thing that I like to eat that isn’t cooked. We left the grocery store with $85.00 of fruit, vegetables and nuts.
The experiment immediately commenced. We went outside for the obstacle course. I led the kids through a series of pushups and sprints. My son led us through his own version of an obstacle course that included three sprints around a tree and culminated in a head first dive into the trunk of the SUV, a front roll over the back seat and a baseball-style slide out the back door. Sarge and Joy would have been so proud.
We’re now in day two of the experiment and all of the fruit and vegetables have disappeared and my son has asked at least fifty times “Can I have an unhealthy snack now?” As a reprimand for his constant pestering I told him to write his name 150 times. We didn’t get beyond ten times because it took him so long. This method of parenting is very time consuming.
My biggest issue with this approach is that it requires a lot effort on the part of the parent. There’s a surprising amount of ‘cooking’ involved with a raw diet and board games are a lot less enjoyable with a penalty of pushups. I think it would have been easier to just drop my kids off at Joy’s doorstep (I knew I should have gotten her address).