Kathy Ireland: You know her as a former supermodel, as well as an entrepreneur & CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, and author (Real Solutions for Busy Moms: Your Guide to Success and Sanity). But we’d like to introduce you to another Kathy Ireland: a wife, devout Christian, and mom of three. We chatted with her about parents who are too lenient, the value of the golden rule, and why she’s not afraid to publicly discipline her kids on a busy sidewalk in New York City.
Who’s the good cop – you or your husband?
We try to stay on the same page and not have a good cop/bad cop relationship. Kids are so smart. If mom says no, they’ll go to dad. So the first thing my husband and I ask our kids is, “Did you talk to Dad?” Because if he says no, why are you even asking me? We try to stay consistent so our kids cannot work us.
What’s your parenting philosophy?
I can’t think of anything more exciting, challenging, or important than raising kids. All moms work whether they’re paid or not – it’s the toughest career there is with so many skill sets required. I tell my kids, you’re going to see qualities in your parents that you like and might want to emulate, but you’re also going to see some qualities that are funky. Reject the qualities you don’t like. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal and try to emulate everything they do. Be discerning. It’s just really important for kids to face life with their eyes wide open, so they’re focused, alert, and making wise choices.
If you could teach your kids one life lesson, what would it be?
Treat others as you would have them treat you.
How do you manage a public tantrum?
With public discipline. If [my kids] want to have a tantrum in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City, then they’re going to have a time-out on the sidewalk of New York City. Kids need to learn that there are consequences to their actions, whether they’re positive or negative.
Have you found public discipline is effective?
Yes. I’ve had to pull the car over because my kid were screaming and I couldn’t focus and give my child a time-out on the curb. And even though we’re going to be late to work or school, it’s more important that they just get the message that [screaming in the car] is not ok.
Too often, this generation of parents are too lenient. We want to be our kids’ friends. Some people think of “discipline” as a bad word, and it’s not. It actually comes from the word “disciple,” and in my faith, Jesus’ disciples were his friends. He had a little window of time to influence them, and then they were sent out. That’s how it is with our kids. We have a window of time to impact them and equip them for life, gradually teaching them to become independent and grow away from us. I always ask my kids, “Do you want to talk about it? What can we learn from this?” And I let them know I love them. My goal is not to publicly humiliate them, but they do need to learn that their actions bring consequences.
What shocked you the most about parenting?
I was shell-shocked when I became a parent. It was so scary and hard and overwhelming. My hormones were all over the place. I was an emotional mess who broke down sobbing over nothing, like I’d be at the grocery store and get overwhelmed by the choices. And I’m not a crier, so it was just so out of character for me. Lack of sleep was another thing.
Raising kids is an amazing gift and a tremendous responsibility, and I take it more seriously than anything else. If you’re [sewing] a sweater and get the sleeve wrong, it’s going to be okay, but like like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis said, if you bungle your kid, nothing else matters.
What’s off-limits in your house?
Treating anybody with nasty behavior. It’s unacceptable. Going back to that golden rule and behaving like a kind, respectful person. I’m also working with my kids on making eye contact when they say hello to somebody. I’ll ask, “What color were their eyes?” I want my kids to be strong. If you look at child predators, they go after [people] who have their heads down, those who are kind of alone. But you want your kids to be strong, assured and discerning, they have to look adults in the eye and to speak to them.
You’ve struggled with your weight in the past. How do you talk to your daughters about body image?
There’s really no shame in a weight gain – beautiful people come in all sizes, colors, and ages. When I saw an extremely unflattering photo that my son took of me, it wasn’t so much the weight that startled me. But I looked at my face and I saw someone who was overstressed and overwhelmed and someone who wasn’t taking her own advice. I wanted to delete the photo. But I had just finished a book where I was encouraging women to be real and take care of themselves, so I couldn’t be a hypocrite. The photo my son took is real, and I had to take my own advice. It’s not easy, but as I tell my kids, you’ve got to be alert and pay attention. I wasn’t paying attention to my own health. A lot of people focused on when I was going to climb back into a bikini, but it’s not about that. It’s about, what are the triglyceride levels, the cholesterol levels? An extra 25 pounds can take 10 years off your life, and heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America. I want to be at my kids’ weddings and see my great grandkids. Elizabeth Taylor spent her 75th birthday going shark diving for the 1st time. I love that. I want to go surfing on my 100th birthday!
If you could be any TV or movie parent who would you be?
Carol Brady was a cool mom, and I liked the dad on Father Knows Best. He was always so calming.
What’s been your biggest parenting challenge?
I wish there were more hours in the day! With three kids at very different ages with very different interests, I try to meet their needs without making them needy. I’m loving the teenage years and seeing their personalities develop with their own set of values and opinions about things. They’ve started to think critically about why they believe the way they do.
Any teenage rebellion?
We’re working on making the rebellion healthy rebellion. Rebelling against negative stuff. I recommend finding mentors for your kids, people who are 5, 7, 10 years older who are good role models, especially as your kids get to an age where mom and dad know nothing and may not listen to what you have to say. But if they have someone who they look up to, who they think is cool, who is a good influence, it can be powerful.
What do you do for “me” time?
I love when I can get outside and be active – it helps me both mentally and physically. Hiking and riding my bike – as long as I’m not getting yelled at or cut off or run over it’s really fun!