A Role of a Lifetime
By Delia Flores
The word "pampers' took on a whole new meaning when former Facts
of Life star, Lisa Whelchel, traded in her acting
career to devote full time to her most challenging role-motherhood.
In her new book, Creative Correction , she shares
with humor, understanding, and great warmth what she's
learned from this rigorous, though rewarding, part.
Lisa Whelchel doesn't doubt that if Blair Warner could
live Lisa's life as a stay-at-home mom of three children
for a day, she'd turn tail and run. "Blair would think
it's so incredibly boring," says Lisa, who played the stuck-up
Blair on the long-running NBC sitcom The Facts of Life .
Blair's idea of motherhood would be "a couple of trophy
kids to dress up like dolls and then have a nanny raise
them." Blair would also find it hard to keep up her perfect
dress and hair. "It's kind of hard to think of yourself
and still be a mom," she says dryly, her native Texan accent
still apparent after years in California.
From 1979-1988, Lisa vividly brought Blair, the spoiled,
snooty rich girl, who only occasionally grew in compassion
and understanding, to life. But for the past 12 years,
Lisa has lived the reality of wife and mother-a role of
a lifetime-which she handles with grace, creativity, and
self-deprecating wit. And she's the first to point out-without
These traits are apparent in her book, Creative Correction:
Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, published
by Tyndale House Publishers and Focus on the Family.
The book, written from a Christian perspective, is an
often humorous and always encouraging look at family
life. Whether or not your family adheres to similar religious
beliefs, the book is helpful.
In Creative Correction, Lisa knows-and tells-what
it's really like to be a mom on the front lines. She's
married to Steve Cauble, an associate pastor for a church
in southern California. She drives a minivan, never has
enough time to exercise, and sometimes serves her children
cereal for dinner. Her life is far from glamorous.
She relates how after the birth of daughter Clancy, her
third baby in as many years, an actress friend sighed that
after years of taping television shows, it must be wonderful
for Lisa to be able to relax and not work for a while. "I
was tempted to slap her with a wet wipe," Lisa recalls.
Like many a harried mother, she's often told to enjoy her
children now because they'll be grown before she knows
it. "I personally have not found that to be the case. It
feels as if they've been small forever," she writes ruefully.
Creative Correction , the reality came into being
when Lisa and Steve's son, Tucker, now 11, was a toddler.
Once stable and happy, he soon exhibited the classic signs
was diagnosed twice with ADHD, attention deficit and hyperactivity
From the start, Lisa and Steve had parented by the book.
Since she was first pregnant with Tucker, they took classes,
bought books, dutifully jotted down notes and tips and
fully expected time-tested strategies, like spanking, time-outs,
and grounding, to work. Tucker, on the other hand, had
a different agenda.
Lisa vividly recalls the day she acknowledged none of
their best-laid patenting plans were working. "A plus B
isn't equal to C!" she recalls writing to a friend in frustration.
It wasn't until much later that the couple realized that
Tucker's troubles were linked to severe allergies and health
problems caused by the erratic and unusual weather pattern
known as El Nino. By then, the couple had incorporated
new strategies into their parenting arsenal against lying,
whining, leaving a mess, and sibling mayhem, the gist of
which can be summer up in the phrase Creative Correction .
How does Creative Correction work? By using
your imagination and inherent knowledge of your own children
instead of hard and fast rules. For example, when her daughter
got up on the wrong side of the bed one morning, Lisa was
faced with a crying, cranky girl who was already frazzling
Mom's nerves at 7:15 a.m. Instead of ordering her to just
stop crying or punishing her for dawdling, Lisa instead
voiced the words to anyone, child or adult, wishes could
come true: "Let's start the day over." She asked her daughter
to climb back into bed, set the alarm to ring again, and
literally start over with a new attitude. It worked.
Another way of creatively addressing a family problem
is through telling stories, Lisa says. Storytelling comes
naturally to this actress, but if it doesn't to you, she
suggest reading aloud to your children from books like
the Chicken Soup for the Soul series or other
short, inspirational, and clever works.
Even with all her good advice and experience, Lisa makes
mistakes. She still finds herself giving long-winded lectures
to eyes-glazed-over kids. And she knows her incentives
have gone awry and turned into bribes as when Tucker crows, "I
know this game!"
Of the three, Tucker is indeed bold, full of life, and
funny. Haven, 9, the elder daughter, is deep, complicated,
and longs to be an actress. She is also a tomboy. Clancy,
8, the youngest, is charming, calm, and "does the right
things for the right reasons," says Lisa. A "girly-girl," she
loves gymnastics largely for the great costumes.
Lisa and Steve give the three the time and freedom to
be children. "My kids are loud in the backyard all the
time," Lisa says. A rainy day might find her kids screaming
in delight while they jump on the trampoline. And team
sports, while terrific for learning many valuable lessons,
just aren't in the cards right now for the family; They
would just be too rushed.
In fact, the key word to parenting her brood is flexibility.
Lisa began their education by homeschooling. But this past
school year, the children all attended a private Christian
school since Lisa's writing schedule just became too much
of a distraction from the teaching.
She knows that there are sessions to everything. This
summer the family begins a new adventure in learning: a
yearlong trip across America in an RV> Steve is taking
a year's leave of absence from his pastoral duties and
will concentrate on his meeting planning business via the
Internet and cell phones. Lisa will homeschool the children,
take them on tours of historical sites and workplaces,
give talks in various cities, and gather research for her
next book, Finding God in America . But "I want
to keep it loose enough so that if we want to just go fishing
we can," she adds.
Heading off for thousands of miles and hundreds of days
with her children in close quarters doesn't faze her. But
she predicts Steve, like many other dads, will take a bit
more time to adapt. When they're noisy late a night he
asks. "Isn't it their bedtime yet?" she laughs.
It's this understanding of their different personalities
that helps ground her as a wife and mother. Lisa is the
main disciplinarian, and says that in the past "whenever
Steve did step in, I would knock his feet out from under
him." Moments like the "Carpet Episode" helped her see
his point of view and widen her own. The children were
regularly spilling things on the carpet, which made Steve
crazy. Lisa admits her attitude was "like who cars?" But
by listening closely to Steve's objections, she realized
that his goal was not that the children never spill things
but "that they learn to care for property."
Her honest descriptions of disagreement and reconciliation
are what cause Lisa to connect with everyday families.
Indeed, she proposes a bumper sticker: "My children aren't
perfect, but neither are yours."
Lisa is the first to admit that the onset of adolescence,
life's own El Nino, will likely change everything in her
parental arsenal. But then she'll be ready to write: "Creative
Chaos Raising Teens." Who know? It may even include a chapter
on creatively dealing with "the facts of life."