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Mom…I Love You. Always Have, Always Will!

Bonnie Liotta“Why does everyone tell me I’m going to have trouble with you when you’re older?”my young, beautiful and frustrated mother would ask. Essentially my mother was a little girl raising a little girl. When I was seven she was merely 23 years old.

“I don’t know…” I would respond, in confusion, as I would be left wondering what was wrong with me. I would pray to God that I would always do right by Him, if He took care of me. Every day I would look for evidence that someone loved me. Instead, I would see evidence that confirmed I was useless, not worthy…stupid! “I know you haven’t seen your dad in two years but they came into some money and took a trip to Germany this year.” Another promise broken.

I just knew, by the time I was 12 years old, that I was just a waste of space. I was never going to amount to anything. God didn’t love me. He couldn’t. I know that my mother did the best she could with what she knew at the time. Now that I’m a parent, I completely understand that you only know what you know. And being 16 when she had me, growing up in a very abusive home (which was normal back in the early to mid 1900s), I am forever grateful for her and I love her so much, always have; always will. However, like many of you, sadly, I was left with the belief that I had no value to offer the world. As a result, I devoted much of my youth to destructive behavior, including drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancy. 

At the age of 22, I read a book called Think and Grow Rich written by Napoleon Hill, published in 1937. It was this book that made me realized I could be a somebody, that I was actually worth something. I learned that some of the greatest minds who lived on our planet failed school. Some like Einstein were even considered dumb. I ran over to my father’s house. “Dad! Every child on the planet deserves to know that they’re a somebody! Somehow I’m going to tell them!”

Realizing my greatness, I made a decision that things would be different for my children. I was going to be that mom. My kids were going to know how much I loved them. They would never want for anything. I would make sure that they were happy, loving and helpful. They would know how special they were. Our relationship would be close, open and honest. They wouldn’t rebel because I was going to be just that awesome!!!

To learn parenting skills, I committed to reading books and watching Supernanny. When I was pregnant with my first son, I read Kids Are Worth It by supernannyBarbara Coloroso, in which she encourages an authoritative parenting style. Authoritarian is very strict and usually includes spankings, dictation and an attitude of “do so because I said so,” while authoritative is understanding of the child’s needs, and it focuses more on natural consequences vs. punishment. I really love Barbara Coloroso and what she has been teaching families. It has been the best choice, although I have since learned new empowering information when it comes to raising cooperative children, which I will share with you later in the story. In the meantime, I followed her the best I could. 

However, there were times when I just blew it as a mom. Those were the times when I had tried everything and nothing worked! So…I YELLED! I was taught that terrible twos, horrific threes and teenage rebellion were normal. Coloroso even talks about normal ages of rebellion in her book. So, when my toddlers would have a temper tantrum, I would choose a non-judgmental, non-violent and simple consequence like time-outs. I remember putting my two year old in a time out and having to pick him up and put him back on the stairs over and over again. Thinking back now, it was always an extremely negative experience. “I WANT TO GO!” he would be screaming. “No, you have to sit in your time-out for two minutes.” I would say as nicely as possible…sometimes. These were some of the most exhausting days as a parent. Two minutes seemed to last a lifetime! 

My family continued to grow. When my youngest son was born, I was a single mother raising four children. They were six, five, three and newborn. I am sure you can relate when I say that life was very busy. There were diapers, bottles and laundry, then, shopping, cleaning and meals. Daily. On top of all of this, I was building a very successful home based business. I was busy! But I was happy. I created a system. As long as I was consistent with my discipline strategies, life seemed to just carry on. 

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I would read articles that taught me to keep my children busy. We would go swimming, to the park and to the corner store for treats nearly every weekend. I threw my kids the best birthday parties, Christmases and Halloweens. I drove them places, bought them things and gave them the life I always wanted. When my oldest child was in first grade, I noticed something was off with him. His father and I were newly divorced and he was struggling in school. I would give all of my effort to helping him be happy, confident and motivated. But it didn’t matter what I did; nothing seemed to help him. I would volunteer at his school and take him on mom and son dates. Like you, I love my children more than life itself. It hurts my heart when they aren’t happy. 

My journey of personal development commenced in 1994. By 2004 I had become an inspirational speaker and success coach. It was my job to help people gain confidence, achievement and happiness. At the same time I was, unknowingly, going home and conditioning my own kids for mediocrity. I had no idea how to help my victim and depressed daughter be happy. Every night I would tuck her in and she would whine, “Mom, my teachers don’t like me,” or “Mom, my friends pick on me.” The more I tried to help, the more depressed, demanding and defiant my children became. 

Like many of you reading this, I was a frustrated, hopeless and stressed-out parent with kids who were disrespectful, demanding and defiant. I have made mistakes as a mother. And I’ve had my kids say things to me that I wouldn’t wish on any parent. In fact, I have to admit that there were times I couldn’t stand my life as a parent. I had reached a point where I had given up and was looking forward to grandchildren. Raising kids was too hard. Something wasn’t right. Was it the divorce? Was it the school system? Were we all created in the image of our creator? Perfect in every way. It’s just that my kids were born different! 

The day I received a phone call from my youngest boy’s elementary school principal was a sad day for me. Zachary was seven at the time. “Ms. Harrison, I need you to come and pick up Zachary. He just had a temper tantrum. He threw his desk and we needed to evacuate the classroom.” I was dumbfounded. Oh, my goodness. How bad can it get? 

As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, after years of being asked to medicate my 13 year old son, I reluctantly gave in. He had been prescribed Concerta. This was a drug prescribed to youth diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. It was supposed to enter his system in the morning and fade throughout the day, allowing him to stay focused in school. I was counseled that it would be out of his system by evening time and that it was just to help him get through school. Two months into his meds, he looked at his bottle one night and only saw two pills. “Mom, I need more pills.”

“Okay son, I’ll go get them tomorrow.”

“No Mom! I need my pills!” He began to pace around the kitchen, with his head down, and he was shaking. I thought that he was kidding at first, but quickly discovered that this was no act. This was real. A real life drug addicted fit. “I need my pills! MOM! You don’t understand! I need my pills!!!” He started to cry and bang his head down hard on the counter. My heart was shattering as I started to tremble with fear. I stood there in utter exasperation with tears strolling down my face. It was a horrifying experience that I wouldn’t wish on any parent. It was like watching Johnny Cash go through withdrawal on Walk The Line. But. This was my child. 

At this point, I had to admit it. I had lost control as a mother. I needed answers. Medication was not going to be it for my kids. Three out of four had now Pharmaceutical-Companiesbeen diagnosed with ADHD, and Zach had been diagnosed with ADHD as well as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Jennie was a depressed victim, and Kyra was a demanding and defiant adolescent. “I thought that parenting was going to be fun and rewarding. Instead, I find myself looking forward to visiting my grandchildren.” 

In January of 2011 I registered for a personal development cruise which was on Carnival Cruise Line. The cruise went from Miami Beach to the Bahamas and back. I had never been on a cruise before and was excited. Within my first hour on the ship, I met a gentleman named Luc who was from Canada like me. I saw him several times over the next four days. During the last hours, Luc came over and grabbed me. “Bonnie! There’s someone you have to meet.” He spun me around and said, “Bonnie, Tom. Tom, Bonnie.” Then, he whispered in my ear, “By the way, Tom has a radio show.”

I was ecstatic! He had his own radio show. What a great way to share my message with the world. My message was always the same. “You were born perfect in every way, but often conditioned to mediocrity by the people who love you the most.” I was interviewed to tell my story on his show. Within the next several months, we became good friends. I invited him to Canada to help me put together a personal development workshop called The Foundation for Life. When he arrived from Seattle, I had no idea that Thomas was an expert in the field of child development. But, as soon as I watched him interact with my kids, I saw something I had never seen before. 

He always knew the right thing to say to get the kids to do what they were supposed to be doing. There was never any power struggle, and the kids were doing outstanding work, happily. Now, at this point we were just friends who were creating a business together. But, he seemed to get such a good response from the kids, so I just observed. 

At bed time, I would tell Zachary, as nicely as possible, that it was time for bed. “Zachary, it’s time for bed.”

“Awe. But I don’t want to go to bed,” he would whine. And then Thomas would ask him a question.

“Zachary, would you like to go to bed now, or in 10 minutes from now?”

“In 10 minutes from now.” Ten minutes later, he would go to bed on his own, happily. Wow! Although I didn’t catch on right away as to how smart Thomas actually was with kids, I knew that he got that part right. 

Over the next few visits, I would see Thomas’ brilliance shine more and more. The kids liked to play a game on his phone. When they would ask him, he never gave them his phone right away. He would always get them to do something to earn time on his phone. 

One time, he asked, “What can you do to put a big smile on Mom’s face?” 

“Clean the Lexus.” 

And they proceeded to spend an hour cleaning my Lexus, in order to earn 15 minutes of game time on his phone. That was great! Now, not only was I getting my truck cleaned, I started getting breakfast in bed, clean rooms and gratitude from my kids! At this point, I decided to learn everything Thomas had in his head when it came to winning with kids. 

Understand, when I first met Thomas, my kids had their own cell phones, DVD players and X-box, all of which I had paid for. They also had free run of the fridge, television, my computer, and many other privileges, all provided by me. I spent most of my spare time taking them to the movies, the water park and McDonald’s. But, almost every outing was the same. They would fight with each other in the vehicle, and ask for something else the minute we were finished our outing. Without fail.

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When I began asking questions, I found out that Thomas was a 4th degree black belt martial arts instructor. He had turned his school into a before and after school program, with an all day summer camp, by earning two Child Development Associate Degrees. The thing that got my attention was that he had made a decision in 1994 (the same year I read Think and Grow Rich) to never use the word “no,” punishment or discipline to teach his students. Instead, he vowed to always guide their behavior by empowering them with the necessary life skills, and by teaching them to earn their own privileges. That was the cornerstone of his methods and the genius behind building a child’s character; self-confidence, motivation and independence. 

Thomas worked for over 15 years, investing nearly 18,000 hours working with thousands of children, without ever telling them “no,” or ever using any negative or degrading discipline or punishment techniques to teach his students. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but when you explore the Universal Laws of Success, his methods match. There is a Law of Cause and Effect which basically states that everything you do or say has an outcome or effect. Every other parent method I’ve been taught focuses on dealing with the temper tantrum or poor behavior – the effect. Thomas dealt with preventative methods. When you change the approach, you change the outcome. 

I began to phone him in Seattle from Canada, daily. “Thomas, I just went into the living room and the kids are all lying around watching television. They are supposed to be doing their chores. What was it you said to them again that worked so beautifully last time?”

“Hey guys, what should we be doing right now?” 

“Oh yeah, right. Okay, thanks!” And I would hang up the phone. So simple, but when you’re used to nagging, yelling and disciplining, it is counterintuitive, for sure. I would hang up the phone, walk into the living room and repeat what Thomas said, using his exact words. 

“Hey guys, what should we be doing right now?” Then, they all looked at me like a deer in the headlights and responded.

“Um, I don’t know…” What? It worked so perfect when Thomas would ask them. They always knew the correct answer, and I knew that they knew the answer then. But, I just left the living room and went back around the corner. I again dialed Thomas’ number. 

“What do you say when they look at you and say, “I don’t know” when you know that they do know? 

“I know you don’t know, but if you had to guess, what would the answer be?” Oh yeah! Okay. I went back to the living room and spoke.

“I know you don’t know but if you had to guess, what would the answer be?”

“Our chores.”

“Oh! Look at how smart you guys are. And when would be the best time to do them, if you were looking forward to watch a movie later?”

“Now.” And they would get up and happily do their chores. No power struggle; No yelling; No nagging! It was great. 

I called Thomas daily. “How do I get my son to go to school? He’s been skipping.” Thomas’ answer took less than a minute. It worked! I began to see a major shift in all four of my children’s behavior, attitude and confidence. After about six months of posting hundreds of sticky notes, I discovered that Thomas had developed a method for child rearing that will help every parent in the world fulfill their deepest wishes for their children and themselves. We made a commitment to share the world’s #1 child rearing methods, Creating Champions for Life, with you. 

After one and a half years of applying these methods with my kids, the school wrote me a letter asking for the release of any special needs label. My victim daughter is now a victor. My demanding daughter is now a leader. My depressed and angry son is now laughing daily. And Zachary has a chance, like all of my kids, to be a champion, now and forever. I am grateful for Thomas’ years with his students, because he saved my life as a parent, he saved my children from a lifetime of mediocrity, and he fulfilled my dream of finding a way to tell the children about their greatness and the perfect husband. Mom, thank you for giving me a life I had to work for! Mom…I love you. Always have; always will. 

Bonnie Liotta

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