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Is Child Abuse a Reality on "Supernanny"?

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A family that recently starred on ABC's "Supernanny" is being investigated for child abuse.

There might be too much reality, even for "Supernanny." In an episode that aired earlier this month, Florida father Phil Davis is shown smacking his small child in the face. In one clip, he shows Supernanny Jo Frost how he punishes his child with a belt.

Some viewers were not amused -- and neither were officials with the state Department of Children and Families. John Harrell, spokesman for DCF's Northeast Regional Office in Jacksonville, says the agency is investigating complaints of child abuse and neglect. "If children are hit in the face, they risk getting injured," Harrell said Tuesday. "This [type of] treatment of children is very inappropriate."

The "Supernanny" segment brings up the well-worn debate of whether or not spanking can be considered abuse. What are your views?

next: Woman Makes Clothes Out of Her Own Hair
25 comments so far | Post a comment now
NYCity Mama February 26, 2009, 7:17 PM

I was raised being spanked, and it caused more fear than anything else. All I can say about this clip is that the dad obviously resorts to physical pain (and humiliation) to send a message rather than taking the extra time to explain to their child why what they did was wrong, and even getting the child to apologize to their sibling. Nothing was learned here. Nothing.

Jen February 26, 2009, 8:13 PM

Getting hit in the face with a belt is not a spanking. I’m not a parent yet. I don’t know how I really feel about spanking but to me this is far, far more severe than what I consider spanking to be.

Family Anatomy February 26, 2009, 8:32 PM

There’s research showing the negative effects of spanking, but I’ve never seen anything showing a positive impact.

But the other comment is right - hitting in the face is not spanking.

Carrie February 26, 2009, 8:39 PM

Wow, I’m really surprised SuperNanny moved forward with that family and showed that on TV. Don’t they have lawyers??

solomompreneur February 26, 2009, 8:51 PM

That is abuse. Slapping a child in the face is one of the most humiliating, degrading acts a parent can ever do to a child.

gigi February 26, 2009, 9:29 PM

I don’t see it as abuse. He obviously didn’t smack the child that hard, he administered a pop on the mouth, which is pretty common among those I grew up around. He didn’t smack the child across the face,and he didn’t hit the child in the face with a belt, which was the impression I had gotten from the article. I know my view is different than the others posting on here, but I don’t see it as abuse. It was a consequence to a child’s behaviour. I don’t personally believe in spanking with a belt, though. I believe that if someone is going to spank, they should administer it with an open hand ONLY, and ONLY ever on the behind. Just my views.

Lauren February 26, 2009, 9:37 PM

Child abuse? Are you kidding? My parents used a belt on all of us kids and we all turned out great. That little ‘pop’ in the mouth was not child abuse either. Where the heck are you guys coming up with this? Go find a child that is really abused- getting raped or tortured, getting black eyes, or getting burned from cigarettes. The problem with today’s society is everyone is so scared of getting reported for child abuse that they don’t discipline their kids.

Queen Bee February 26, 2009, 9:43 PM

The point of this show is to help parents learn and use the CORRECT and EFFECTIVE forms of punishment/re-directing techniques. I never saw the whole episode so I’m not sure if the parents learned anything from their mistakes. As awful as what they consider punishment is I’m sure they are things they learned from their parents as okay forms to punish children. I’m glad Super Nanny continued with the family if it helped the parents and especially the children and break the cycle of “abuse” that they found to be acceptable.
Hopefully they did learn something and can now become better parents and in the end teach their children to be better parents too.

Sara February 26, 2009, 10:00 PM

Good, I’m glad they are being investigated. I watched that Supernanny episode in awe that this was on TV and not sent straight to police. The dad needs major help.

Anonymous February 26, 2009, 10:54 PM

I am sorry but what he is doing is not abuse and quite honestly there are SEVERE cases that need attention and they are taking away resources for this. The kids have no marks, are well cared for and seemed fine.
BTW MILLIONS of people were spanked as kids and turned out fine.

Chrissy February 27, 2009, 12:27 AM

I don’t know how anyone could NOT call this abuse. If a teacher or neighbor “popped” your kid in the mouth you’ll all be screaming bloody murder. If a older kid did it, you’ll call it bullying.
Just because a parent physcially assaults his own child doesn’t make it okay. It’s assault. Not displine.

Jenn February 27, 2009, 1:51 AM

You have got to be kidding you people have no clue what abuse is. He popped her lips not whacked her across the head. Good grief like the other person stated there are children out here that are really getting abused like that little boy who was starved to death now that is something that needs attention. How is something that big go unnoticed. An here is this family looking for help knowing that there has to be a better way of correcting their children; have asked for help and gotten it and yet you sit here and judge them? Unbelievable. Jenn

Anonymous February 27, 2009, 8:46 AM

My guess is he was editing his own behavior for the cameras, thinking he was within the realm of “okay”. Imagine what he does when the cameras aren’t around!

Sara February 27, 2009, 9:53 AM

I watched the video and realized they left out what I think is the worst part. On the actual show that aired it showed one of the young children trying to wake up his dad. When the child kept trying to wake the dad up he reached over and smacked her across the face very hard. The child ran off screaming. It was heartbreaking.

D February 27, 2009, 10:11 AM

I was raised being spanked. Now that I have children of my own, however I don’t believe that is the best route to take. I do think that each child’s personality is best handled differently. Stern words work for some, while others need the time outs to think about what they’ve done. Still there is a large difference between spanking and swatting their behinds to get their attention. I believe that spanking is usually done when the parent has lost control of the situation and really doesn’t know what else to do. This actually means that the child has won, they succeeded in causing the parents to lose their patience. By raising your hand at the child, it instills fear (‘wouldn’t want to do that again because those spankings hurt!’), but what happens when the child is a teenager? A boy I knew as a child was frequently spanked and the fear worked until he was about 15 years old (and had the mentality that he was an adult) at which point, when his mom raised her hand to him, he raised his right back. Only this time, he was taller and bigger than she so the fear was reversed.

lori petro February 27, 2009, 10:39 AM

This epidsode of Supernanny is beyond logic. Supernanny was obviously appalled and the fact that the producers let it continue is either the result of unrepentant greed or a sincere desire to exploit this family as a means of [perhaps] causing attention and thereby the involvelment of the authorities.

The way this father behaved IS child abuse and while some may not consider it violent enough to be called PHYSICAL abuse, let me assure you it is most defintiely EMOTIONAL abuse.

He has caused more damage to his children than he could ever learn to articulate. It’s a sad American epidemic.

There is another way. I hope this man finds it.

All the best,

Lori Petro
Backhanded across the face by loving, educated parents. It does matter.

Make the Promise to stop Emotional Abuse

Anonymous February 27, 2009, 12:30 PM

As long as the child is not been beaten, it’s not child abuse. There’s a difference between spanking and beating. I don’t think anybody should be beaten. Here’s where I have a problem, soon as we discipline our children somebody’s waiting to tell us how to do it. But let them get in some type of trouble. Then somebody else disciplines them and there is no love involved. They put them in jail and they get the mess beat out of them. It’s called rehabilitation then.
Even the bible tells us to discipline our children
Proverbs 13:24
He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Maybe if we start discipline our children (in love); we wouldn’t have all these child crimes.
The only mistake this parent made was using this type of punishment on television. Now if they are really abusing their children then yes they should be investigated. But if they are just spanking them and a little smack on the mouth, that’s another issue.

ANONYMOUS February 27, 2009, 3:06 PM


Anonymous February 27, 2009, 4:30 PM

I haven’t seen the show, so I can only make these comments. There is a rule in our house that NO ONE is allowed to wake my fiance up by touching him. EVER. He lashes out before his eyes are even open. He won’t have a memory of it and he does his best to warn people about it. Some people have decided to test that and had a black eye or swollen jaw as a result. I don’t know if this man has that problem or not, but it’s something to think about.

nik March 1, 2009, 10:37 AM

How the father acts off camera could be worse than what he does on camera; especially if he is willing to demonstrate how he spanks his children with a belt. The child being hit as she tried to wake him up is one of the signs as well as his eldest disagreeing with him, and I do apologize if this comment upsets anyone but if he did have a condition where he would lash out at any one who touches him while he was sleeping, do you not think that he would have warned his family, or at least his children.

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