Parents Just Don't Understand

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Parents Just Don't Understand TV Poster Image
Reality show lets family members walk in each other's shoes.

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Kids say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

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Educational Value

The show intends to entertain rather than to educate, but there are strong messages about family relationships, personal responsibility, and the value of good communication skills.

Positive Messages

The show encourages empathy and effective communication among family members, particularly between parents and their kids. Its approach isn't entirely easy to replicate at home (not many parents could hand over their careers to their tweens for a day, for instance), but the message about trying to walk in someone else's shoes is solid and well explored, and the understanding each party gains about the other from doing so is heartwarming. Occasionally one participant will attempt to sabotage his partner's success to prove a point, but it's all in good fun. The show incorporates different kinds of families, including two-parent and single-parent households. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both the adults and the tweens talk some mild trash about their partners' workloads, but they're always willing to learn from their experiences and adjust how they relate in the future because of them. Although there's some good-natured animosity between them throughout the job swap (and at times Fatone helps stoke the fire), the goal is always to gain greater understanding of a family member's needs and responsibilities. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Parents Just Don't Understand is a reality series that enables kids and grown-ups to swap roles and responsibilities for a day to better understand the challenges the other faces. Family-friendly messages abound in this fun show hosted by Joey Fatone, with the primary focus being on the benefits of communicating effectively. The parties' complaints may sound familiar to your family members ("I'm too busy," "I don't want to do that," and "You don't work as hard as I do," to mention a few), so their experiences can generate some good conversations and perhaps a different perspective for your family members. With no worrisome content, plenty of laughs, and great messages about responsibility, this reality series is worth families' time.  

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Kid, 11 years old June 18, 2015


I think it is a great show, it actually used to be my favorite show but it doesn't air anymore.

What's the story?

In PARENTS JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND, host Joey Fatone mediates role reversals for real-life kids and their parents so each can see what it's like to live in the other's shoes. Fielding volunteers from kids' video submissions, each episode centers on a different family, swapping the daily routines of one grown-up and one tween. Whether it's football practice and class projects or packing lunches before heading off to work, there's no telling how things will play out when parents and kids switch roles and attempt to be each other for the day or how the experience will change how they relate to each other in the future.

Is it any good?

At first glance, this reality series sounds like an invitation for kids' complaints about the underappreciated grown-ups in their lives, but parents in the audience will be pleased to know that's not the case. Yes, each story begins with a tween bemoaning the details of his or her rough life (feeling overly scheduled, excessive responsibilities at home, and so on) and parents responding with varying degrees of incredulity. But, rather than harp on contention, the show's focus quickly evolves to conflict resolution. Each party makes a to-do list for the other (and gets in a few digs about how easy swapping roles will be), and, from the moment the alarm rings the next morning, the "Freaky Friday"-inspired experiment begins.

Naturally the results are often comical -- usually related to mild catastrophes for one party or the other, of course -- but the process also has some really hearty messages that remind families how important it is to talk about problems and to listen to each other. Many of the scenarios will sound familiar to parents and kids in the audience ("I have too many chores" or "You take me for granted," for example), so the lessons the participants learn will have relevance for viewers as well. The content of this well-constructed show even manages to outshine the sporadic presence of Fatone, who lets the parents and kids have the center stage while he assumes a counseling role of sorts. The bottom line? Broad-spectrum appeal is a challenge for most reality shows, but Parents Just Don't Understand is a fun and meaningful pick for families. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the participants' experiences on Parents Just Don't Understand compare to their own. Does your family face the same kinds of challenges with regard to scheduling, work, and school? Do these kids have more or fewer responsibilities than yours do? 

  • Kids: How are tasks assigned in your house? Do you think the process is fair? If you were in charge, how would you do things differently?

  • How real do you think reality TV is in general? Would your life make a very interesting reality show? Why is this genre so popular right now? What, if anything, can we learn from watching other people's lives play out on the screen? 

  • How does Parents Just Don't Understand promote empathy? Why is this an important character strength?

TV details

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