After the death of my first son to SIDS when he was nine weeks old, I decided I wanted four more children.
But after my fourth child was born, I realized that four was one child too many. Problem was, I couldn’t exactly give him back. Not that I wanted to, but at that point, I didn’t know how to keep my life together and still be a good mom.
Four children proved to be overwhelming for me. In trying to manage their lives, I stopped doing everything for myself that I loved — drawing, scrapbooking, jewelry design, painting my nails and experimenting with nail art — all gone. My life revolved around diapers, laundry, feeding, cleaning, and everything in between. Fortunately the diapers are gone. But a lot of the other responsibilities remained and none of them made me feel happy.
I was stuck. So I began looking for a solution.
As I began studying with personal development coaches Bob Proctor, Les Brown, and others, I saw that the power of my thoughts had created my entire life of misery. I realized that despite everything going on around me, I was the only person who had the power to change my life and find myself. I quickly realized that my children were never going to learn these precious lessons in school. My job was to teach them.
As I wrote my book, What You Don’t Fix…Your Kids Inherit, I consulted hundreds of parenting books and created over 45 hours of interviews with a host of experts in the field. With each interview, I became a better mom; more patient, kinder, and a better teacher to my children. And, they started to change under my new methods; I began talking to them differently.
But problems remained. My children improved some, but they still didn’t respect me. They would neither help nor be kind to each other. My 4-year-old was developing a trashy mouth by joyfully copying his siblings. The more my husband Cory and I tried to stop his swearing, the worse Bradley got.
I had two years of research in my head, and needed to initiate new parenting choices and tools rather than blindly hoping some expert had the holy-grail answer to my childrearing problems. Using conventional parenting wisdom, I had created children who didn’t respect me, didn’t listen to me, were unkind, grumpy, lazy, ran around church like heathens, and were becoming better liars every week.
I asked myself, “Why do my children behave the way they do, and why am I having so little positive impact on changing their behavior choices?” The answer was because every parenting guru taught me to be the outside motivator to change my children’s thoughts and choices.
I had to discover how to create internal motivation, so that my children would decide on their own, “It’s a better idea to not jump on the sofas and my life will be more fun.” And I had to create a method that would create this desire in my children without my yelling at them, spanking them or handing them time-outs. And it had to be easy, because my memory was still shot after five pregnancies.
Here’s what I came up with.
- Instead of punishing bad behavior, I labeled it.
- I gave a name to every negative behavior my child indulged in.
- I used refrigerator magnets to help me remember the names.
- Rather than take away the things and activities that my children loved, they learned they needed to earn them continuously.
Within one week, I saw a huge difference in my children. Within four weeks, people were coming up to me at church, asking, “What have you done with your children? They’re so kind and polite. They’re delightful.”
Although a Masters or PhD diploma doesn’t hang on my office wall, I have gained a Masters in behavior and a PhD in Mothering. My children respect me, speak and act kindly, cheerfully help around the home and actually fight to sit next me at the dining table. (That said, with four children, I use a rotation plan.)
Oh, and now I treat myself to a new manicure every week.