Bill is the founder of Cooperative Kids and developer of the parent education class, “Love, Limits and Lessons”. In addition, he's on the Resource Advisory Board of Attachment Parenting International (API) and spent 12 years as a parent educator and training director with the International Network for Children and Families. Bill is the creator and host of the radio talk show "Parent Talk" that ran on Clear Channel's WLAC 1510 AM out of Nashville, Tennessee, and has developed and presented behavior programs for such companies as Dollar General, Aetna Insurance, and the State of Tennessee.Recently he has authored, "Love, Lessons and Limits" a 2010 PTPA (Parent-Tested, Parent-Approved) Media Award Recipient.
Empowered Mommies (EM): Mr. Corbett, thank you again for giving us the opportunity to sit down with you. You have such a fascinating background as per your Bio above. Can you share with us how you began your career and what made you decide to focus on parenting education?
BILL CORBETT (BC): When my three children were very young in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I began searching for better methods of discipline. I wanted my kids to be cooperative with me, not just compliant. I also wanted to help them develop into “whole” people who would each one day find their purpose in life. I believed that this development began at home. Because I grew up the oldest child of eight in a home controlled by an abusive man, I knew what NOT to do, but I wasn’t sure what TO do. In essence, I had to become a father that I had never seen. I was committed to being a father that was not punitive and yet also not permissive. I began taking any parenting class I could find and buying all the books on parenting I could afford. Classes were rare and the books I acquired were written mostly by psychologists, religious leaders, or pediatricians.
To accelerate my learning of child behavior and discipline in 1995, I went through a training program to become a parent educator to teach parenting classes. I taught classes for 11 years, working my way up to eventually training other parent educators. I knew that the best way to become a better parent was to teach others. Third person teaching is one of the most powerful methods for personal development. Eventually, I left that organization, went back to school to get my psychology degree, and sat down to write the parenting class that I believed every parent should take. Based on what I learned over the past 20 years, I constructed the Love, Limits, & Lessons® parenting program and launched the organization COOPERATIVE KIDS.
EM: What are the principles behind “Cooperative Kids” Parenting? What do you mean by Parenting “Toolbox”?
BC: Whether you’re a teacher, parent, grandparent, step parent, foster parent, adoptive parent, or even a babysitter, we all have an imaginary discipline toolbox we walk around with everyday. Inside of that toolbox are the methods we use to discipline the children in their care. Many adults received their tools from their own parents, which have become outdated and ineffective. Others may have acquired their tools from books they read or classes they took, as I had. But with so many methodologies and opinions, parents feel lost as to which methods are best.
The principles behind the Love, Limits, & Lessons® program are designed to help a caregiver better understand why a child behaves the way she does and why some discipline doesn’t work effectively. I was inspired by the published works of two psychologists, Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs. Adler in his private practice in the early 1900s taught that if adults spend more time helping a child feel like he has a place in the family or the classroom, the child will have less need to act out through challenging behavior. Dreikurs in his private practice in the 1950s and 1960s took Adler’s work a step further and taught that behavior is communication or the expression of needs. The child acts out because he is trying to tell us something or attempting to get his needs met. For example, a preschooler is refusing to get into the car seat and begins to throw a fit. The initial reaction of the parent may be to coerce or bribe the child to get into the seat and then plead with her. Frustrated over the lack of cooperation and pressed for time, that pleading turns into demanding and maybe even punishing. The behavior of the child may actually be an indication that she is tired of being bossed around, may feel powerless, feel revengeful, or she may be over tired or hungry. The Love, Limits, & Lessons® books and classes help caregivers learn how to interpret the child’s behavior more accurately and how to know what the child needs at the moment. If the true needs of the child are addressed, there is a reduced need for her act out and more motivation for her to be cooperative. The child feels heard and important and then has the desire to want to please and support the caregiver. No one becomes successful in their relationships with others by using force and control. We develop successful relationships with our children by helping them get their needs met and ultimately, teaching them how to get their own needs satisfied appropriately.
EM: What are some of the most common scenarios that parents reach out to you about when it comes to their children and discipline?
BC: Getting their children to cooperate and listen in all sorts of situations, such as getting in and staying in bed, behaving at church, sitting still at mealtime, hitting their siblings, picking up their toys, refraining from screaming, shutting off the video games, helping around the house… I could go on. One woman asked me for help because her 5 year old daughter was barking like a dog and wouldn’t stop. When I asked her what her reaction was to the barking, she said she would scold her daughter to stop it. I told her that it was normal for children at that age to experiment with their body or voice. Mom however, was actually creating the motivation for her little girl to continue the barking because her scolding was creating reaction and attention, most likely the reward the little girl was looking for. Caregivers need to become aware that their own behavior may actually create some of the challenging behaviors they see in their children.
EM: You recently wrote, “Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide To Raising Cooperative Kids? What prompted you to write the book?
BC: I wrote and released the Love, Limits, & Lessons® book a few years after I created the parenting course by the same name. The book was originally a way for me to manage all the questions I was getting from the participants in my class and to assist them with everyday situations while they were learning the new methodology. I then realized that I could reach and help more people if it was published in a book that anyone could purchase. I recently sold copies of the Spanish language edition to parents in the country of Peru.
EM: As a baby develops into a toddler and then a preschooler, what behavioral changes should parents expect? What changes in their roles and their parenting techniques should they expect to make?
BC: There is no need for discipline in the first 12 to 18 months of a child’s development, but once he turns into a “Terrific Two” (usually the span of 18 months to 6 years), the parent adds a new responsibility to the nurturer/provider role: a teacher. It is important to keep in mind that the word discipline means “to teach,” so parents must be ready to begin teaching their children about things such as limits, boundaries, and self-regulation. A toddler quickly becomes frustrated as he experiments with the initial stages of his independence, and a preschooler grows more impatient when she makes unsuccessful attempts to imitate her parents. How the caregiver reacts to the new behaviors is so important. The adult must increase her ability to manage her own frustration and patience while her child experiments and explores. The parent’s reaction can increase or decrease the child’s behavior.
EM: If you had to look forward a decade, how do you hope your work will have influenced parents?
BC: Over the next 10 years, I dream that one million caregivers will experience my Love, Limits, & Lessons® course or will at least read the book. Those one million adults will be using modernized tools from their rebuilt discipline toolboxes to create more peace and cooperation at home or in classrooms. Each of those children influenced by that greater peace and cooperation will be creating stronger and more loving relationships in their life, keeping herself safer with personal boundaries, and getting her needs met respectfully and appropriately. The result will be a generation of adults influencing others in positive ways, discovering their individual passion, and finding their purpose to leave their own legacy for a more peaceful and loving world.
EM: Thanks for sitting down with us!
BC: My pleasure. Thanks for having me Ivanna.