British TV personality Joanne “Jo” Frost became famous after using her nearly 30 years of experience as a nanny to help others on her reality show Supernanny. The program originally aired in 2004 in the United Kingdom but then spread to other countries, including the United States and Netherlands. Frost was born in 1971 in Southwest London. Her father was a builder, and her mother an interior decorator. She had a happy childhood but had to cope with losing her mother when she was just 23 years old. Frost started working as a nanny in 1989 when she was 18.
The Launch of Supernanny
In 2004, Frost, who was 33, decided to show off her skills as a nanny to a larger audience by helping families on the reality show Supernanny. Each episode focused on a different family who struggled with typical child-rearing problems such as potty training, sleep issues, and behavioral issues.
Frost entered the home and changed lives by using a variety of disciplinary and behavioral techniques to get the family back on track. After observing a family’s interactions, Frost would come up with a set of instructions for them to follow in order to discipline their children and to create a more peaceful environment for the household.
A Big Hit
Supernanny was a hit in the United Kingdom and was very popular in the United States. During its first season in Britain, nearly five million people tuned in. It aired for seven seasons in the United States on ABC, so it obviously struck a chord with viewers. The final episode aired in 2011.
By 2014, 48 countries developed similar programs that were modeled off of Supernanny. It was so popular, the Lifetime network developed a spin-off called American Supernanny, which starred Deborah Tillman. Frost was not pleased, commenting, “I am not at all happy. I feel like I worked really hard to get where I am. I am Supernanny.”
The Show’s Format
On each episode, Frost showed the family’s DVD submission, which highlighted the issues they were tackling at home. Frost then traveled to the family’s home and spent the first day observing their behaviors. Then she met with the parents to talk about the things that she witnessed.
Afterward, she introduced various tools to make their lives easier, such as “house rules,” timeout, and sleep separation. After introducing a plan to help the family, Frost left. But the cameras remained to record whether or not the family was able to incorporate her advice. Frost then had a follow-up to check on the family’s progress.
Helping People with all Types of Problems
In some instances, Frost was forced to seek outside help to intervene with a family’s problems. On one occasion, she contacted a clinical professor to assist a family in communicating with their autistic son.
During a home visit in Chicago, one child showed signs of being a future juvenile delinquent, so she reached out to NBA player Dwyane Wade to meet him. She has also contacted Alcoholics Anonymous to help the patriarch of a family and reached out to a social worker to step in when a father exhibited signs of abuse. Frost also called a speech therapist to help a family who had a child with Down Syndrome.
Frost is against spanking and instead supports using a “naughty chair” to discipline children. But not everyone agreed with her style of child care or the format of the program. After all, her methods are just one way of doing things. Some thought children’s privacy rights were violated on the show. Others believed the use of the naughty chair/step was too embarrassing for children.
Still more thought the mothers on the program were unfairly treated. Tracey Jensen, a lecturer at Newcastle University media and cultural studies believed the mother in each episode was “shamed before she is transformed.”
Frost quit Supernanny in 2011 and Deborah Tillman, who had experience running a group of play schools in the United States, took over on American Supernanny. Meanwhile, Frost launched her own spin-off called Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance, which aired in the United Kingdom.
In 2013, she created Family S.O.S. with Jo Frost on TLC in the United States. Unlike its predecessors, Family S.O.S. focused on more serious disciplinary problems as well as addiction, abuse, blended families and marital problems. Frost served as executive producer of the program and appeared genuinely interested in helping families during difficult times.
Not Every Home Visit Had a Happy Ending
Although Frost worked hard to ensure that the families she visited improved their circumstances following a home visit, sometimes her methods didn’t stick. In 2005, Frost devoted two weeks to the Young family, which had five sons. Frost awarded good behavior but made them retreat to the naughty stool if they behaved poorly.
The youngest child, Joel, apparently did not transform following a visit by the Supernanny. In fact, his behavior left the family homeless. In 2007, Joel, three, got his hands on a lighter and started a fire in the living room, which caused so much damage to the house, it was unlivable.
A Boy, Three, Nearly Burns Down His Family’s Home
Joel’s mother, Susan Young, reportedly separated from her husband Paul over the summer. She had attempted to put out the flames started by her young son. Unfortunately, she was engulfed in smoke and was unable to stop the fire. Young, 40, was administered oxygen by medical personnel after inhaling some of the fumes.
She was left relatively unscathed, and no one else was hurt. Fireman spent 30 minutes putting out the fire; however, even though they were able to extinguish it, the house was left in a thick layer of soot. After the incident, the house was uninhabitable.
A Family in Trouble
After Joel set the house on fire, the family was forced to stay in a hotel until repairs to their home could be made. At the time, the four-bedroom property in Witham, Essex, was on the market for $275,000. It’s unclear how long it took the Young family to make repairs and whether or not they were able to sell their home.
At the time, a spokesman for Essex Fire Service commented, “Someone is certainly going to be sitting on the naughty step for quite some time.” In addition to Joel, the other children included Nathaniel, 11, Caleb, 10, Benjamin, eight, and Jacob, six.
A Mother’s Denial
When Frost first visited the home in 2005, she was described as being “up against a mob of boys who have no respect for their home, their parents or each other. Their behavior is so bad it’s driven their mother and father to the brink.”
You can’t help but wonder if the Youngs had any idea what was in store for them. After the fire consumed her home, Susan Young was adamant that her sons were not responsible for the incident. Joel, however, was home at the time, and neighbors and fireman believed he was to blame for the destruction.
The Home Was “Absolutely Gutted”
The results of the fire were devastating. One neighbor said of the incident, “Mrs. Young was on the phone when the fire started. She got some towels to try and put the fire out, but obviously knew it was too much and got out. The downstairs of the home is absolutely gutted.”
And despite the Supernanny’s intervention two years prior, problems obviously still occurred in the home. Fire officer Terry Hutton commented, “The family had TV’s Supernanny round to assist the parents in controlling their children. They clearly weren’t playing along as the fire looks like it was caused by one of the youngsters setting light to the curtains.”
After the Young family’s episode aired, the parents claimed that their sons’ behavior actually got worse because they said the boys were encouraged to play it up for the video cameras. The Youngs also said that the show misleads viewers into believing that Frost’s advice for the boys to clean up the garden worked.
Susan Young explained, “They have always been happy to do the garden.The issue is when we get them to do something they don’t want to do.” Her husband added, “At the end of the day, they have got to portray a TV program that looks good.”
Network Denied Supernanny Was Doctored to Make Good TV
Following the fire at the Young home, a spokesman for Channel 4 said, “The concept of the show is that Jo goes in for a short amount of time and helps teach the parents and children methods that both take on board. When she leaves they can then build on it. There is obviously no guarantee that will happen and, when she left the Youngs, the commentary says there is still a long way to go.”
As for altering the show to make good television, Channel 4 denied the allegations, noting, “The garden scene doesn’t imply or claim that the boys have never tidied the garden before.”
Who’s Really to Blame?
Even though the Young family sought help with Frost to help them control their five unruly sons, can she really be blamed for an incident that occurred two years after she visited their home? Joel was only one when she intervened and would have no memory of her presence.
In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Young had reportedly been separated at the time of the fire, which would cause a huge change in dynamics for the family. As for doctoring the episode, most TV viewers understand that producers sometimes take liberties to make programs more interesting or cohesive for the audience.
Frost Reports Georgia Family to DCFS
In 2016, Frost was working on her new series, Jo Frost: Nanny On Tour, when she was forced to call the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) on a family in Georgia over allegations that a nine-year-old boy was being abused. Video cameras captured some footage of the incident.
Production insiders revealed that the father contacted the show because his three children listened to him but not their mother. He hoped that Frost could instill more respect in their children. However, things turned out much differently for the father than he expected. Little did he know that having cameras around 24/7 would make trouble for him.
Frost Airs Controversial Episode That Features Corporal Punishment
According to Frost, she called DCFS after looking at a video that showed the father disciplining his son after he found him using his cell phone charger. The father explained what his son did wrong and sent him to his room. The video shows the father removing his belt from his waist; however, he closes the door to the bedroom so what happened inside is debatable.
Viewers can hear the crying and screaming but can’t see what is actually happening. While difficult to watch, Frost aired the episode because she wanted to open up a discussion about corporal punishment, which she vehemently opposes.
Father Defends His Actions
When the episode aired, Frost took to Twitter to express her outrage over the incident. She wrote, “There’s no place for corporal punishment when teaching positive values it creates fear for our children, let us teach effective practices…Marcus took a cell charger, no child will tell truth when this is what they get #truth #integrity #helpingfamilies…We must protect our childrens [sic] physical an mental,emotional health with effective positive parental teachings.”
After investigating the incident, DCFS found no wrongdoing. The father claimed he merely tried to scare his son by hitting the bed with it, which caused Marcus to yell.
Frost Dispenses Advice from a Traveling RV
On Jo Frost: Nanny On Tour, Frost worked not only one-on-one with families, she also stopped at various towns to give advice on the spot. She told the Express:
“Throughout years of helping families in this country, there was such a need to be able to provide a much thicker public service and so part of what you will see is me hiring this massive RV that I literally turn into a parental clinic, a hub where I can provide this public service for the community, not just a family that I was helping in a particular state of America, which was just absolutely unbelievable.”
Frost Loses Weight and Feels Great
In May 2017, Frost, who has a new show coming out in the fall, surprised fans by revealing a slimmer figure. She told The Sun: “I am just trying to live as well as I can within the hours of my work. I’m still trying to work out a balance and I have my off days like everyone else.”
“It starts with being more mindful about what choices you are making with your food. I don’t beat myself up about it too much if I’m not able to follow it, though… It is nice for people to be inspired by it and in a way it’s another part of what I do with my work with families.”
Frost’s Upcoming Show to Spotlight Children Who Kill
The new documentary series Jo Frost on Killer Kids will premiere on Crime + Investigation in the United Kingdom in fall 2017. The series will center on children who commit murder. Each episode will feature a different topic, including kids who kills family members to those who kill at school.
The British parenting expert will host the series and research the reasons why these children commit such heinous crimes. It will also examine the theory that some children may be born evil. Frost said of the new show: “How families function and observing behavior patterns for decades led me very keen to develop this idea.”