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Parenting from the inside out
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So, I'm on this quest to be a better mama - right... and I enroll in a parenting class called Take Charge, Now! As the Saturday seminar approaches, I start thinking of all the other things I could do on this day: sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, spend some quality time with my boys or organize something -anything - in my house. (Did I mention sleep in and eat a leisurely breakfast?) At any rate, I did none of these. Instead, I honored my personal commitment to attend the parenting workshop led by nationally-known facilitator Bob Lancer.

During the drive over, I fantasize about all the new tools I'd learn to lord it over my kids and receive total compliance from them. I mean, Take Charge, Now! is such an enticing title. I just couldn't resist daydreaming about the results I'd get from a three-hour crash course about how to turn my boys into perfectly obedient little rascals. The cartoonish bubbles spurring from my head painted a glowing picture of mommy saying to her angels, "Oh, how nice! You've already made your bed, brushed your teeth and washed your face - and I didn't have to bark one time. Also, I'm so proud of you for not arguing and fighting and for picking up your toys before heading to bed every night this week and for being so respectful and courteous." Sounds heavenly, doesn't it? Okay, back to reality.

Once I arrive at my destination, I drape my jacket over my shoulders, settle into a hardback chair and survey the packed room and wonder who all the other attendees are. I quickly learn that about 50% of them work in child care and early learning centers and have shown up to satisfy continuing education requirements. The rest of us are parents seeking a better-or new-way. The workshop leader, Bob, is a slight, middle-aged fella with a fairly good sense of humor. He's also a parent and former educator. Bob banters with the audience for a few minutes before getting serious about the day's topic: Take Charge, Now. My ears perk up and my eyes widen-until Bob does what I interpret as bait and switch. His entire premise is that to be a more effective parent, we-the parents-must change ourselves.

Bob explains that Take Charge, Now is more about self-discipline and self-control than about disciplining our children. "Wait a minute," I murmur. This is NOT what I expected. You're telling me that better parenting starts when I decide to change me? You mean I can't continue to cuss, fuss and scream and expect my children not to mirror similar behavior. I can't leave my clothes on the floor, with shoes strewn from the front door to the edge of my closet - and expect my children to not do the same?

After a few minutes of sulking, I tuned in for what turns out to be one of the best Saturdays of my parenting life. Since the class, I've referred often to the facilitator's power triangle which asserts once we lose our peace and poise, which represent the triangle's base, we lose our power. And, I realized that, as a mother, I often lost my peace and poise. For one example, I thought elevating my voice (aka yelling) gave me power. But, I'm doing much better these days. Have I experienced an occasional relapse? Shoot yeah! But, overall, am I better mama? You betcha - wink, wink!

Kysa Daniels is a journalist, non-profit professional and mother of three boys. For more Adventures in Parenting and parenting tips, e-mail