The Oprah Winfrey Network's season premiere of "Trouble Next Door" found an otherwise loving and happily married couple shut in and frustrated because of their two unruly kids.
Melissa and Shawn are a couple approaching middle age with a 16-year-old son and an aggressive and temperamental six-year-old. The family hadn't been out to eat or outside of the house to enjoy life and the community in approximately six years. A primary factor in their decision to recluse was the behavior of both of their children.
Their six- year- old had dramatic outbursts and the couple called on their neighbors to help them out. Reaching out for help from neighbors is part of the television series' premise. When the neighbors came for a visit with Melissa and Shawn, they immediately noticed that the parents catered to and consequently caved in to their six-year-old's demands. And the boy's (Hunter) demands were simple. One minute he wanted his dad in the room and the next minute he was scared and frightened so he really needed a parent in the room.
The problem, however, was that the parents were meeting with their neighbors-people who were genuinely interested in reaching out to the couple in need. After Hunter refused to cooperate, his mom pacified him the best way she knew how, with chocolate or stimulants. Their son was prescribed ADHD and anti-anxiety medications. Doctors have often noted that in addition to the meds, more caffeine or/and sugar helps keep some attention deficit children still for a good length of time.
The mom, Melissa, gave her son chocolate eggs. The visiting neighbors disapproved and the mom's feelings were hurt. The neighbors felt that the family did whatever they needed to appease their son because they didn't know any other way. The neighbors also debated about whether Melissa and Shawn really wanted to change their lives. They were concerned that Melissa's defensiveness and unwillingness to take criticism and be judged by her neighbors indicated that she was resistant to change.
Change is uncomfortable, this is the mantra of life coaches and best friends everywhere. Leaving one's comfort zone is a phrase thrown around a lot and easily. It was a term thrown around to describe Shawn and Melissa, even though their situation was beyond uncomfortable. In response to the temperamental six-year-old, their 16-year-old retreated to his room and filled his life with music.
It's been long said that when siblings are more than five years apart, there is a disconnect that renders the siblings more like friends or cousins , than brother and sister, particularly while growing up. Siblings separated by five or more years do not share the same interests, friends or learning capabilities which makes getting along difficult, especially when the older child reaches puberty.
After observing Monica and Shawn's eldest, they encouraged him to learn music more and invited him to join the sons of other neighbors and play in their band. This was a welcome change to the teenager whose parents didn't and couldn't fully share his enthusiasm for music. The teen was receptive to all of the neighbors suggestions, he was mature enough to feel encouraged, not bullied. And in the end, he gelled really well with others and smiled for the first time on the show.
Monica was invited to a Tae Kwon Do Academy, a venture she initially sneered. But she enjoyed class and so did her six-year-old. Self defense classes are often recommended to women who have experienced a situation in their lives where they felt powerless. Melissa took Hunter to the classes also and the most important facet of them getting out and participating was that they were, for the first time, able to take Hunter out of the house and participate in a community activity.
The neighbors also challenged Melissa and Shawn to let them babysit Hunter. The couple sighed because they'd been through that before and they've been called to come pick up their unruly kid in the middle of an outing. But their neighbors asked what's the worst that could happen. Melissa said Hunter would throw a chair, the neighbors said if that's it, bring it.
Shawn and Melissa let go and the neighbors held a large dinner. After the dinner, they held a block party where the 16-year-old played with his new band and neighbors.
"Trouble Next Door" is a real life healing project and the process took three months. The neighbors in crisis were shown in the initial stages and then visited again by cameras three months later.
Although Melissa and Shawn were reluctant to trust their neighbors, the neighbors were far more determined to see Melissa and Shawn free from living their lives as slaves to the unhealthy routine they had known. The families and neighbors were determined because a few of them had been through the same situation and found a way out.
In the end, the premiere episode of "Trouble Next Door" featured a successful intervention. But it is a fair guess and assumption that not all of the episodes will end so tidily. In this particular episode, Shawn and Melissa's family are a really good fit with the families who are already there. They are all similar in race, age, sexual orientation and their cultural values (love God, love family) are all quite similar.
"Trouble Next Door" airs again next Monday at 10 EST.
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