The new reality show “The Parent Test” asks the question: Is there a “right” way to be a parent?

Ali Wentworth and Dr. Adolph Brown host ABC's The Parent Test, a reality show that analyzes different parenting styles.  (Photo: ABC/James Clark)

Ali Wentworth and Dr. Adolph Brown host ABC The Parent Thest, a reality show that analyzes different parenting styles. (Photo: ABC/James Clark)

The debate about the “right” way to parent has been raging for decades. Some parents prefer a chopper style; others like to let their children have more freedom of expression, and there are many other parenting styles in between. Now, a new show on ABC has set out to determine which parenting style is best.

Is called The parental testand received a lot of attention on social media. “As a childless child [person] who recreationally judges parents… The parental test it’s the perfect show for me,” one person wrote Chirping. “The parental test he needs to do another show in 20 years about how the kids were raised and how they coped and any trauma they feel they may have had. That’s what I want!” another She said.

Whatever their opinion, a lot of people seem passionate about the show. “I 10/10 encourage everyone to watch The parental test”, a fan tweeted.

But a show that judges… parenting? How is it possible? Is there really a “right” way to parent? Here’s the deal.

What is it The parental test about, exactly?

Aired on Thursday nights, The parental test is a reality show that features 12 families with different parenting styles. Every family identifies with different styles of parenting, including disciplined, traditional, kid-led, new age, helicopter, and free-range. In the episodes, four families are put through a parenting stress test, such as getting the kids out of a high dive or a fine dinner with their kids.

The tests are later discussed with co-hosts Ali Wentworth and Dr. Adolph Brown III, and debates can be heated between different types of parents. In the end, the other families who didn’t take the test vote on which type of parenting they found most effective in that particular challenge. Ultimately, the show will pick a winner.

Where does this come from?

The show is actually an Americanized version of the Australian show, Parental orientation. “It was conceived as a new way for some evergreen classic parenting conversations, which are, ‘How do we raise our children right and what’s the right way?'” Charles Wachter, executive producer of The parental testhe tells Yahoo Life.

Wachter says he and his team looked for a “diversity of parenting styles” and people who had “clear ideas about what it takes to raise kids” when casting the show. But regardless of parenting style, Wachter points out that “everyone loves their kids — that was important across the board.”

What’s the point of The parental test?

Wachter says the show doesn’t necessarily introduce anything revolutionary. Instead, he says, “let’s take all the conversations that happen on the playground and have them with America.”

While a winner will be picked at the end of the season, Wachter says the show’s goal is more to demonstrate that there are many different parenting styles and that some styles work better than others in certain situations. “If you watch the show with an open mind, you start to see different ways to navigate a situation that maybe you’ve been doing subconsciously,” she says. “There are tools and tricks and new ways to see how you parent in certain situations.”

Wachter, who is a father to 13- and 16-year-old boys, says he learned a lot about parenting during filming. “I certainly went into this thought of getting to know the parents and learned a tremendous amount,” he says. “[The show] it’s really designed to open a conversation about parenting, not close it.

So, is there really a “right” way to parent?

The idea that there is one right way to parent is “controversial,” Hillary Ammon, a clinical psychologist at the Center for Anxiety & Women’s Emotional Wellness, tells Yahoo Life. “If you interviewed 20 parents, you’d probably get 20 different answers,” she says. “Parenting style is deeply personal. Parenting style can be shaped by both parental and child culture, trauma, upbringing, temperament, and knowledge.

However, Ammon says, there is research that shows that certain parenting strategies and qualities increase the likelihood of having confident, relaxed children. “Effective strategies and qualities can include setting boundaries, providing empathy, understanding, and respect, and helping your kids solve problems and learn how to cope,” she says.

The show puts families through a parenting stress test to see how they deal with a challenge with their children.  (Photo: ABC)

The show puts families through a parenting stress test to see how they deal with a challenge with their children. (Photo: ABC)

Effective parenting styles also depend on the children, Melissa Santos, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and head of the division of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children’s, tells Yahoo Life. “To say there’s one right way to parent would mean that every child is the same—she feels the same way, reacts the same way, thinks the same way—and that’s not true,” she says. “All parents want the same things for their children: to grow up healthy, to be successful in everything they want to accomplish, and to reach their full potential. How we help a child get there will vary by child and by family.

Santos points out that, for parents, “it’s important to be flexible and be able to pivot while staying committed to the goals you have to help your child be the best version of themselves.”

But “parenting is not a race,” John Meyer, clinical psychologist and author of Family Fit: find your balance in lifehe tells Yahoo Life. “Presenting parenthood as such is harmful,” she continues. “It raises parenting stress levels by communicating that there is a better way for them to be parents and that they are failing at parenting because they don’t fit into these categories presented in this show.”

However, experts say it helps to see other parenting styles and keep an open mind. “You’re not given a ‘How to Parent’ book to help you through all of life’s ups and downs,” says Santos. “Raising a child now is very different than how your parents might have raised you. Seeing how others handle situations, seeing tips or little tidbits you can take from others might give you more tools and tricks to try when you’re trying to parent your child at times.

Most people tend to stick to what they know when it comes to parenting styles, Ammon says, and they’re often shaped by how they were raised. “It’s important to recognize that your parents’ parenting style was likely shaped by experience, culture, and sometimes trauma,” she says. “I think it might be helpful to reflect on your parents’ parenting style and ask, How has this style helped me thrive? What would I do differently? AND Does just because it worked for me mean it works for my child? Sometimes exposure to other parenting styles can help you realize that there are other strategies you can use that may better serve your child’s needs.

Overall, says Ammon, this should be the point: “It’s okay to be flexible and blend parenting styles if that’s what’s best for your family and your child’s development.”

Wachter agrees. “Really, it’s a mix [of styles that are best],” he says. “A lot of parents would say, ‘I’m a mix of things.’ And the truth is, we all are.

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