Daddy cool with Jeremy Watson

NOW this was a TV programme I was going to enjoy. Courtesy of Channel 4 and seated next to Daughter Number Two - and the boyfriend who is taking up permanent residence on the sofa - I settled down to The World's Strictest Parents.

It involved a parade of cussing, hard-drinking, piercing-laden British teenagers whose own parents had long since lost hope of controlling their wayward offspring.

So what's the solution? Not clipping them around the earhole, or applying the cane or the tawse. Not packing them off to boot camp in the Wild West - as in an earlier programme on curbing brat behaviour. It involved some poor TV researcher (tough job) scouring the world for the meanest, ugliest, rule-stickling couples on the globe and then planting the miscreants right in the middle.

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In pairs for comfort, one was despatched to India to share a home with a God-fearing family who spent their spare time helping out in the slums. Another couple landed in a remote African village where they had to help slaughter animals for the evening meal. A third was transplanted to Bible Belt America where smoking, drinking and swearing was beyond the pale. When the troubled teenies sneaked onto a balcony for a crafty fag, they were chastised by the head of the household and his fearsome wife who told them smoking was not allowed either inside or outside - and America is a big place - the house.

Gradually, all the teens mellowed, shedding their appalling behavioural traits like redundant snake skins and turned into little darlings. Filmed again weeks later, they had turned into paragons of virtue and, perhaps alarmingly, started LIKING their own parents. One particularly odious boy had even started ironing his own shirts.

There are those who think young people should go through some form of National Service to teach them manners, discipline and toughen them up for adult life. Perhaps it's the wrong approach. I've come to the conclusion that child swaps could well be the way forward. We could all then practise being strict parents with other people's kids and send them back transformed into the angels we know they could be. Mine would come back with a new respect for their old dad and a youthful enthusiasm for doing the housework that's not inspired by Andre Agassi-style crystal meth.

All parents know when their offspring meet other people, butter wouldn't melt. It's just at home their inner foulness emerges. So why not just extend it for a couple of weeks. I'll terrorise yours with a strict moral code if you terrorise mine.

• This article was first published in Scotsman on Sunday on 10 January, 2010.