You’ll need an extra place setting at the dinner table on Wednesdays at 10:00pm ET/PT this year because America’s Supernanny Deborah Tillman is moving in! In the second season of Lifetime’s hit unscripted series, now titled America’s Supernanny: Family Lockdown, Deborah will live with families for one week.
Deborah opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about going into ‘lockdown’ with the Wilson-Speer family. The Virginia-based wife, mother and author, who boasts more than 20 years experience in early childhood education opens up about working with this blended family on house rules, and consistency with discipline.
CBS: Tell us about working with the Wilson-Speer family. We hear they are a blended family coming apart at the seams. Tell us a little bit about the family dynamics in their household and the strategies you put into place.
DT: “When I arrived at the Wilson-Speer house, I met Mom Shari, Dad Sean and the five children: Shari’s girls from her first marriage, Kaylie (16), Kira (13), and Kami K (11), as well as Sean’s daughter Karlee (11), and their son Teagen (6).
This is blended family that has been together for eight years, but not eight good years. Unfortunately, Shari had an affair four years ago that lead to not only Sean and Shari splitting up for a year, but also leaving them with an incredible amount of trust and commitment issues. It was easy to see that there was a lot of stress in this house, and frankly a lot of division between the kids based on biological parent lines.
Shari also fancies herself as the “cool mom” by letting her 16-year-old drink and live with few rules. The other kids have no real responsibility around the house and Shari was happy to live with that and a whole lot of teen/tween attitude and back-talk to her and Sean. These were parents who were clearly not stepping up, providing authority or taking charge.
Both Shari and Sean also confided in me separately that their marriage may be at an end if they cannot get the house under control and their marriage on the same page.
I saw how tween Karlee was treated very poorly by her step sisters, and by Shari, and how Sean butted heads constantly with 11-year-old Kami K. There was no peace, and no love that I could see. Now what I could see was a lot of avoiding the real issues, and a lot of drinking by the parents to numb themselves from the chaos and stress. Not a good sign.
I could not put the family under lockdown until I first determined if Shari and Sean were prepared to let go of the baggage of their past and fix their marriage. And at the end of my first technique with them I saw the glimmer of hope that they were ready to make things change for the better.
As expected, the text-addicted girls were not happy about losing their cell phones, and Shari took it pretty hard as well. But not as hard as when I took all their beer and liquor out of the house. This family needed focus and clear heads to work with me. There would be no more crutches or distractions.
One of the techniques I used was getting Shari and Sean to develop a United Vision of how they wanted the family to be (including them) as well as House Rules they were both prepared to enforce and back each other up on. They were presented to the kids with the age-appropriate consequences and I could see that this was a first for these children.
I also tackled a big problem Mom and Dad had fostered – the fact that Teagen still slept in their bed and was almost 7-years-old! After putting the three “B”’s for bedtime in place, Teagan went to sleep without a problem. He also indicated during observation that “his” bed was not comfortable so I bought him a new mattress, which made him feel really good about sleeping in his own bed.
Next, I used the “busy bins” technique to get all the kids to separate and fold the mountain of laundry in their parent’s room – and pretty soon they will be learning to do their own chores. When you teach children that they are an integral part of the household and they have to help keep the house clean. The result is more accountable, responsible children.
Teagen and Kami K were the first to be on the receiving end of consequences for breaking House Rules and while Teagen’s CDC was tough on the parents, particularly mom, I think they saw that being strong and supporting each other will work in the long run.
Normally I like to keep families at home during teaching, but this family needed a few field trips to get it. I took Dad and the girls to a local food bank to help them understand the importance of helping others and not expecting things to be handed to them. I also took Kami and Karlee to a rock climbing gym to help them rebuild the bond and trust between them that had been lost over the years.
I also worked on a sensitivity technique between Sean and Shari such that they would begin to recognize how to speak to each other in a calm, respectable manner. Remember that if you are putting your spouse down, the children will begin to mirror you and do the same.
In the end, I see hope for this family. I see potential for mutual support and love between the parents that were lost, and I see the children embracing life as a blended family and not a household of just Wilsons versus the Speers. It’s going to take work, but I am hopeful that they will make it.”
CBS: What are some of your best tips for blended families? How can the adults make the transition easy and comfortable for the kids in a blended family?
DT: “The following tips can help make this difficult transition a bit smoother:
- Establish the stepparent as more of a counselor rather than a disciplinarian.
- Let the biological parent remain primarily responsible for discipline until the stepparent has developed solid bonds with the kids.
- Create a list of family rules. Discuss the rules with the children and post them in a prominent place. Try to understand what the rules and boundaries are for the kids in their other residence, and, if possible, be consistent.
- Let the kids know that you and your ex-spouse will continue to love them and be there for them throughout their lives.
- Tell the kids that your new spouse will not be a ‘replacement’ mom or dad, but another person to love and support them.
- Communicate often and openly in blended families.
- Never ever, speak poorly of the ex spouse.
- Children will adjust better to the blended family if they have access to both biological parents. It is important if all parents are involved and work toward a parenting partnership.”