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World's Strictest Parents: Looking after two troublesome girls

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Mandy De Zylva Mandy De Zylva | 11:20 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

I came to be a part of The World's Strictest Parents as a challenge thrown at me by one of my friends, who thought I brought up my four kids based on strong locally grounded beliefs, and felt that I could test myself out with some kids who did not know what these were and see how they coped with my rules.

When I first saw the two girls, Nicki and Jerri, my initial reaction was that they were not as bad as what I had expected. But that feeling didn't last too long when they were shown up in their true colours.

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After about two days my husband, Brindley, and I both felt that we would not be able to help the girls as they seemed too set in their ways and determined to carry on with life regardless of our values and thinking. These were based on tolerance, generosity, equanimity and love.

We founded our beliefs grounded on the conviction that people should concentrate more on fulfilling their obligations and not on demanding for their rights. Nicki's temper tantrums, for example, were quite shocking and, in my view, absolutely unacceptable by any sense of tolerance.

Each morning we got up wondering what the day would have in store for us. Their behaviour not only challenged our conduct as parents but also made us realise what their own parents would have had to go through with them. Luckily better sense prevailed at times when it came to breaking point, as it were.

For example, when Nicki shouted back at my husband on the second morning, he just issued her an ultimatum of accept or leave, and I am sure after some time she would have realised that he meant what he said and apologised for her behaviour, which made things more acceptable.

Nicki Stygall and Jerri MacVeigh, the two girls sent to live with Mandy and her husband Brindley

After about the second day we based our relationship with the girls on compromise. I believed that ultimately I didn't have to prove anything to anyone as we were sure that our system had worked well with our kids.

Though at times we wondered whether this was worth our while, where our kids were concerned, I am proud to say that they turned out the winners at the end. Not only did they value the grounding that they have got but came to our defence at all times.

At the end of the week we in fact felt sorry for the two girls as we saw the child in each of them emerge and we realised that they were just victims of circumstances and what life had to offer kids in the West. The system which always talks of everyone's rights seemed to have left the kids the wrong end of the stick to deal with life.

Mandy De Zvyla is featured in episode three of The World's Strictest Parents.

Episode three of The World's Strictest Parents is on BBC Three at 9pm on Monday, 25 October.

To find out future programme times, please visit the show's upcoming episodes page.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm just watching now. I must say that I very much admire the DeZylvas for their undertaking. These silly girls are by no means untypical of our society and it shames me deeply that this is the case. Its so embarassing listening to Jerri saying that "ponsing off other people is trampy" when she herself bleeds her own parents dry. And now I'm watching Nicky verbally abusing the father. Its just hideously ugly.
    Their parents must be so ashamed of them.

  • Comment number 2.

    Aw at least they're redeeming themselves at the care home now. I hope they brought this new sense of compassion home with them.

  • Comment number 3.

    how thick are these girls? there are making young girls look stupid and rude.if they were my girls they would get a slap round the legs and sent to bed.but they are to old for that so i would kick them out.I was an essex girl myself but i am horrified at they behaviour the parents should be ashamed and stop pussyfooting around these girls and grow up and i mean the parents how much more do you want these girls to turn in to tramps.so embrassing to be from essex

  • Comment number 4.

    Can 8 days change your life? I did admire the DeZylvas and their philosophy of care and compassion. Hope it has made those youngsters reflect on their selfishness and shallowness.

  • Comment number 5.

    Mandy I would just like you to know that not all British children behave in this manner...my children help their parents in the home & their grandparents wherever they can.... however I feel that without the love and care of parents these girls had no chance...
    Jerry father spoilt her and made what u see today.
    I don't believe this will last, once she gets back home old habits will appear, has her parents love to indulge their daughter I hope she proves me wrong but I don't think so.....
    Nicki can turn it on & off when it suits her at the end we all saw what she wanted us to see......bad girl turns good no way this girl got to much hate I've seen it before it a mask so nobody gets close ...I hope u can change nicki because the only person who will come off worse is you ....a good moral for you would be WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND.....

  • Comment number 6.

    I do agree, that sadly the two girls portrayed on this episode are very much the norm in the UK today. Yes,there are still young girls who are respectful and hard working, but sad to say they are hard to come by. Children today have everything easily to hand and are very materialistic and selfish. Good parents can do so much for a child but they cannot control outside influences. Sadly our western society promotes this bad behaviour with the help of the media, big companies and politics.
    Lots of people have had sad upbringings and bad things happen to them. It is how you deal with the traumas of life that makes or breaks a person. These girls have always had choices - they just chose wrongly because it was an easier option than dealing with personal issues.
    I don't hold out much hope for Jerri - her ignorance of people and humanity just astounded me. I was actually shouting at the screen when I saw how she reacted to the homeless and the disabled!!! Her attitude towards them was not only embarrassing, but shameful. Also her command of the English language was embarrassing to say the least! Mandy spoke better English than either of the girls.
    For Nicky - I do hope that she was giving us a true portrayal of herself. She seemed more willing to try (but always after an 'episode' where she had to be in control!). Her disrespect for a holy place was totally unacceptable.
    I do hope both these girls try to better themselves as people and understand that this is something they need to do all their lives. You can never stop trying to better yourself.
    I wish them both luck and hope they come to realise what a blessing and life changing opportunity they have been given. It would be good to have an update on these two young girls.
    Finally the host family are an inspiration for all and they are blessed with such beautiful children. I want to stay with them!!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    When i first started watching this episode i was disgusted to think that two girls from my country could act like such idiots - what a bad representation of our country to people from a different country and culture. They showed no appreciation that the De Zylva's were taking them into their home and actually feeding them every day let alone giving them a roof over their heads considering it was in monsoon season and there are plenty of people that could have taken their place.

    Over the days it seems like Jerry would turn out to be the more reasonable of the two but she just turned out to be a selfish little madam without a care in the world for anyone else. How anyone can walk sorry RUN away from someone who is mentally and physically disabled bearing in mind that they CANNOT help it themselves is beyond selfish and quite frankly DISGUSTING - the fact that she went back was most likely because she realised what an idiot she looked on television if she was left to her own devices she would have just walked out and never looked back.

    Nicki who seemed to be the more unreasonable of the two at the beginning is such a sweetheart - someone with a big heart who has built a wraught iron cage around it just so she doesn't get hurt again - eventually she will learn to let certain people in and how to judge whether or not it is the right decision for her without being so angry - the meditation seemed to have worked but in reality where in the UK is there time for that! She is a sweet girl and with the right people around her will finally be happy - i hope she is anyway.

    Finally all credit to the Da Sylva's for the way they are just in general they are kind, compassionate, loving people and there need to be more people like them in the world and maybe there will not be as many problems such as poverty etc - when Mrs Da Sylva gave the food parcels to the unfortunate it made me cry as it did when Jerry walked away from the people in the home and called it a Nuthouse - there are people all over the world that are severely disadvantaged purely by circumstance and the people in the world that are advantaged for simply the same should realise how lucky they are and give more back.

    What a great episode - i wonder if kids will start to actually care and APPRECIATE what they have got over here.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm sickened by the attitudes of those girls. Spoiled and selfish, they just endlessly showed themselves up as stupid little girls.
    The patience shown by the Da Sylva's is amazing, I would have thrown those two out the moment they threw their first toddler tantrum.

  • Comment number 9.

    I do have a proper understanding regarding the situation because I live in London and as a person who appreciate my student life with friends from all over the world. Yes, I agree some teenagers from here seem to be crazy but some people from here are really helpful, caring and respectful hence do not make a judgement about the community as a whole, after this episode.not all the people are same. I'm from Srilanka and I’m proud to be a Srilankan.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Congratulations to the De Zylva family on the way the situation was handled and I admire both of you and your family! You have mentioned your philosophy on raising your children as "fulfilling their obligations and not on demanding for their rights". Why can't it be both? Is it not important that children learn to stand up for what they believe in and what is right morally and right for them? My parents raised me in the same philosophy and as a result take great pride in fulfilling my obligations to them my siblings and other members that may need my help. But I have learnt that i must fight for myself as well or i would be stuck doing something that is wrong for my well-being and my future. Is it not important that children develop a sense of individual opinions?
    If it weren't for this realization, I would not be able to stand up for what i believe and achieve MY dreams that are not forced on me due to sense of obligation. At the same time, I believe i am a good person, who will always value my family and love them!

    The reason why I ask is to understand this philosophy of SL parents more. I hope someone may respond :) (politely hopefully!)

  • Comment number 12.

    I've always loved 'The World's Strictest Parents'. I'd love to be on it, I'm not as bad as these kids but i still think it would be a great experience.

  • Comment number 13.

    Great show, but....
    1. These are not the country's most difficult teens or anything like it. How about a boy who's violent and in and out of young offenders', and a 14 or 15 year old girl who's been having sex since 11, and done for shoplifting

    2. It might be more instructive to have The World's Strictest Children; ie sending unruly British parents to other parts of the world in order to teach them how to bring up their own children properly

  • Comment number 14.

    I find this programme mesmerizing - every episode. However, I cannot help wondering how long these transformations last once they return home - will there be a follow up programme to find out? Also, its a bit like dog training, train the owners how to look after the dogs and you have a well behaved dog! Unfortunately, nobody trains parents to be good parents, it's trial and error and being the parent we had ourselves. I think the break down of family life in this country is a big contributing factor, also - countries where the family unit is important, like India for example, just don't have these problems. Last week's episode which took place in India was a case in point. Once these kids begin to feel a part of a family, the transformation begins!

  • Comment number 15.

    I've watched a few episodes lately and find it quite fascinating that most of the 'strictest parents' are Christian believers. Is referring to these families as Strict merely a kick at Christian values? Or have Christian parents got it right? Discipline is essential when bringing up a child. Personally, I give God the glory because He's Words are wise. How I love the Lord.

  • Comment number 16.

    Jerry is into beauty but she looks awful in my opinion with her white hair and brown leathery face makes her look really old...

  • Comment number 17.

    As a Sri Lankan living in the UK I am really proud of De Zylva family. The way they handled Jerry and Nicky was remarkable. And I should thank BBC for telecasting this gem of a programme. I am proud be a Sri Lankan Buddhist.


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