When I was eight-years-old, my parents took a parenting class. My brother, who was five years older than me, was starting to have problems that they didn’t know how to handle.
The class was so helpful for them, they started teaching parenting classes in our church, where my mother was the Director of Christian Education.
They asked me to help them record audio vignettes for their parenting classes. I’d play the snotty-nosed bratty kid and they’d demonstrate some communication or discipline tool.
What I didn’t realize is that I was learning the language of effective parenting as my first language.
The skills I learned helped me a lot during my childhood and especially during the teen years. They also prevented me from having to un-learn bad parenting habits. (It didn’t, however, make me a perfect person or parent! Read on…)
In high school, I took my mother’s group facilitator course and her class for parents of teens, so I could be a Youth Leader in the junior high programs.
Little did I know, I’d be facilitating groups the rest of my life and even develop what others have said is the best parent educator training program they’ve ever attended — even those who are certified in dozens of other parenting curricula.
By this time, my brother’s problems were getting worse, despite every expert my parents consulted, book they read, and approach they tried. There seemed to be a “missing piece,” so they kept searching.
In an effort to help my brother — and others struggling with the problems they faced — my parents both got social service college degrees while I was in high school.
So the reading materials in our home were self-help books and college textbooks on abnormal psychology and other subjects most high school students don’t read!
All three of us graduated the same year, me from high school and they from college.
My first year of college, I went away to school. Honestly, it was to escape my brother and his problems, which were unbearable to live with. Shortly after, my brother finally shared a horrible trauma he experienced when he was only nine-years-old; it was the missing piece of the puzzle!
We didn’t realize it at the time, but the journey we all went on as a result of what happened to him, and how it affected each of us, ended up charting our lives on different paths than any of us would have likely chosen otherwise.
In college, my professors seemed fascinated with my family history, as they would ask me to come to their offices and ask me questions about it. I was even asked to tell my story at a conference of PhD psychology professors my senior year. When I showed up, there several hundred professors there! I couldn’t back out at that point, so I just started talking.
With a first speaking experience like that, everything else seems easy! Little did I know, however, that speaking would become my profession and I’d end up being considered a top-rated speaker and train over 50,000 parents and family professionals worldwide!
During college, I did family-focused research and taught my first parenting class as an intern, years before I was a parent myself. As much as I enjoyed it, I had no idea I’d teach parenting as a career, and would eventually develop my own curriculum!
After college, I worked as a protective service caseworker and realized that many of these parents’ problems could have been prevented if they had learned more effective parenting skills earlier. I gained great compassion for them, as most had abusive or neglectful parents themselves. I realized they really didn’t know any better — but sure wanted to do better, because they truly loved their children.
By now, I was a career-driven Licensed Social Worker and Certified Family Life Educator, not even planning on having children.
Then I met my husband; it was mutual love at first sight. We married and had our first child, who I absolutely fell in love with.
I couldn’t return to my high-stress job and quit, doing odd jobs to make ends meet.
Back then, we didn’t have the internet or Meetup groups. Desperate for adult conversation and support, I called my local paper to take out an ad to meet other moms. To my surprise, they wrote a full-page feature article, which led to my starting a non-profit parent support group called The Family Network, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012.
One day, I was eating lunch with my toddler while watching the noon news and was concerned about some advice given to a parent by an “expert.” I wrote a letter of concern, fearing the child could be abused, and the station called me in. At the end of the meeting, I was shocked to be offered a job as the On-Air Parenting Expert and Assistant Producer of the Ident-a-Kid television series, which won several Emmy-nominations.
How could I have known that would be the beginning of my career as a parenting expert to the media or that I’d give hundreds of interviews in the upcoming decades!
Parents in The Family Network started asking me to teach them what I knew, so I started teaching parenting classes in my living room. I called the class T.I.P.S.: Tools for Improving Parenting Success. Word spread and soon there were waiting lists for the classes. I did this for eight years, while raising my two young children.
Quite unintentionally, I ended up discovering a unique parenting system for preventing common challenges and planning personalized effective responses to problems.