Deborah Tillman is America’s Supernanny. She is currently filming her second season of the Lifetime show, which has been on the air for eight years. Tillman, the mother of one, is a former accountant who, after receiving poor child care for her son at seven different facilities decided to quit her job and open a child care center of her own. Her son is now in college and she operates three centers and has authored “Stepping Out on Faith,” a guide to opening a quality child care center. But she’s perhaps best known for tackling discipline, nutrition, and bedtime issues with unruly children in homes across America on “America’s Supernanny.” Boston.com Moms chatted with Tillman about parenting techniques and her show.
Boston.com Moms: When you were working as an accountant in Virginia, did you ever imagine that one day you would be America’s Supernanny?
A: (laughs) No. To be perfectly honest, no, no. I would never have ever considered it. We make plans but God has a purpose for our lives.
Boston.com Moms: You are being called a Michelle Obama lookalike. What’s your reaction?
A: Oh my gosh, what an honor. I think they say it because of the hair and the way I walk...Literally, I hear it five times a day when I’m walking down the street.
Boston.com Moms: Now that you are on TV, do parents stop you on the street for your advice?
A: Oh, of course. That is a common occurrence. (People say) “Listen, I’m not holding you up, am I?’ Or, my favorite, ‘Can I have your e-mail so I can write you?’ I love it though because it shows people are just thirsty for knowledge.
Boston.com Moms: Your predecessor, Jo Frost, was known for being very strict. Describe your nanny style.
A: No nonsense, definitely. But very positive.
Boston.com Moms: What is one of the most common parenting mistakes you see?
A: Every single house I’ve gone into so far, there’s a lack of structure. The kids don’t really know what’s expected so you get chaos. I tell the parents, ‘What are the expectations?’ Then once we figure that out, then we put house rules in place. Often times, the parents think they have house rules in place, but they do not. Then, of course, there has to be consequences.
Boston.com Moms: Do you use time-outs?
A: I don’t do time-outs. I use the ‘calm down corner.’ If you go into the mind of a child, they want everything to make sense. They don’t understand the concept (of time outs). Really, what do you want the child to do? You want them to calm down. I don’t walk away from them. Three minutes is plenty of time for anyone to calm down (rather than using one minute per the child’s age, which is a popular time-out rule). There’s no hugs or kisses or stuff. I’ve never understood that. Why am I hugging and kissing you after you did something inappropriate?
Boston.com Moms: Do you think American parents have become too nice?
A: Yes, I think that American parents are trying to be friends with their kids. I think they think that discipline means ‘I don’t love you’ when actually it’s the opposite. I actually had to sit a mother down and actually say to her: ‘When you do not correct your child, that means that you do not love your child. Because what you are saying is, ‘I don’t love you enough to correct you.’
Boston.com Moms: Today, parents are bombarded with so much information on the Web. Is there such a thing as too much information?
A: I think there’s too much information that doesn’t have a lot of experience to back it up. I mean, everybody has an opinion and everybody has something to say.
Boston.com Moms: What is your message to the parent who feels hopeless?
A: It’s never too late for a child. I always tell my parents that. As long as you can wake up every day and you are breathing. You have to think and know that there is hope for your child and hope for your family.
Boston.com Moms: And what’s your message to families who want help, but are camera-shy?
A: It’s about all of us sharing our stories. That’ss the only way we can help each other. So it’s not about the cameras, really. It should be more about you making your family the number one priority. If the camera is there, that’s even better because you are going to help other people. We have to let go of our pride.