By Tom Neven
"My children aren't perfect, but neither are yours."
That tongue-in-cheek advice, according to Lisa Whelchel, is the motto all parents should adopt. That way, when your kids act up at precisely the wrong time, instead of saying, "It's time for his nap" or "He's not really my son," the other parents in the room will understand.
That's not to say you should just let your kids run wild. But this philosophy will, she hopes, relieve some of the guilt if they don't seem to be turning out like someone else's children. For that reason, she wrote Creative Correction. It is not, she stresses, a "guilt" book that says there is only one formula for raising children. Her book is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach to childrearing.
"Having three totally different children, as I do, you really do have to be sensitive to your kids and try different ideas," Lisa says. "If one thing doesn't work well, set it aside and try something else."
The Facts of Life
If you are of a certain age, you might recognize Lisa's name. From 1979 to 1988, she played "Blair" on the television show "The Facts of Life." She had gotten her start in a show business career when, at age 12, she auditioned for "The New Mickey Mouse Club." After that, she had roles in a few movies and TV shows before landing on the set of "Facts."
"I started in young acting because I was really shy," Lisa says "I would stay in during recess; I wouldn't even go out on the playground and play. My mom put me into an acting class at school thinking it might help me. (Acting) really did help, but I was still shy off stage. Then we read in TV Guide that they were auditioning for "The New Mickey Mouse Club" and I wrote them a letter. Long story short, I got it."
Lisa was living in Texas at the time. "We had never even thought about what it meant as far as a family," she remembers. "I'd have to move, and my mother would have to move. In fact, I didn't even know what a pilot was when I had auditioned. I was so na?ve." Getting the role, she says, was a fluke.
"It was a lot of fun," she adds. "I don't think there are sets like that in Hollywood these days, because it was really low-key and fun; maybe it was because we were kids. There wasn't the competition or the attitudes. It was just really a great experience."
Now 37, Lisa has been married to Steve for 12 years and is a stay-at-home mom to Tucker, 10; Haven, 9; and Clancy, 8, whom she home schools. Raising them is where she got some of her ideas found in Creative Correction.
But writing the book, like her acting career, was a bit of a fluke, she says. She had an idea for an entirely different book called Beyond Bible Stories, and she was flying out to meet a publisher. "They said, 'Bring any other ideas you have.' I was embarrassed to say I didn't have any other ideas, so on the plane I thought, Well, I guess I could put together a small book of some of the ideas I've come up with to discipline my kids. That was mostly because all my friends had said, 'You've got to put all these ideas in a book some day,' because they'd be here and see something crazy Tucker had done and the equally crazy correction I doled out."
For example, "Sometimes I will just think through what is the logical consequence of what they've done, even if I have to orchestrate the consequence myself." Often a correction is an opportunity to teach them things they need to know but consider boring.
"But they've got to do it, and whether it's their math facts, their penmanship or matching the states with their capitals. Oftentimes I'll just take advantage of an infraction and say, 'Okay, do another math page.' I use whatever is their weakness. My daughter would love doing a math page, but she doesn't enjoy reading, so I'll make her read a chapter-things to help strengthen them."
The book is organized to make it easy to use. It has a topical index to make it easy to find advice on, say, lying. Each chapter begins with a story from Lisa's family and is followed by a "Tool Chest" that gives practical advice for different situations.
Lisa cites, for example, an incident with Tucker when he was 3 years old to help children learn not just the rules but the reasons behind them. She was serving hot dogs with chili and sauerkraut, and Tucker said, "I can't eat this 'sour-crap.' It's yucky!
"'You should never say food is yucky', I told him. 'I'd like you to politely eat at least some of it anyway', which he did.
"A week later, we were having dinner at a friend's house. During the meal, Tucker turned to the hostess and ever-so-politely said, 'This food is very yucky, but I'm eating it anyway.'
"I almost choked on my dinner. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to teach Tucker that the reason we don't say food is yucky is that it could hurt the feelings of the person who prepared it."
That, she says, is why it's important to address the heart as well as stating a rule to obey.
The Ultimate Parent
"Much of the time, my motivation in parenting is simply to have well-behaved children-not for some higher, godly purpose, but for my own peace of mind," Lisa says. "My life is so much simpler and enjoyable when the kids obey me. As a result, I'm quick to correct them, sometimes in anger, when my comfort is disturbed without considering how I should be modeling God to my kids."
Her intent, she says, is ultimately to point children to the One whom they must always obey. "Since our children learn to relate to God through our example, we must take our job of parenting very seriously. God has blessed us with this role, and I believe it's our primary role as parents."
She adds, "I think the book will be really helpful for young moms. But one aspect I am most excited about is the evangelism tool it can be for my friends and neighbors. It's not the same as giving them a Christian book. There really is enough practical application so it won't offend them. You're giving them what they've asked for, which is help with their children. But I'm unashamed about why I teach the things I do; it's because they are in the Bible, and I believe the Bible is the handbook for life."
For Lisa Welchel's book Creative Correction, please contact your local Christian Bookstore or www.family.org
(c) 2000 Focus on the Family. All Rights Reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission. Article taken from November 2000 issue.