Carol “Carri” Ludwig heard it all when it comes to parenting during a government career that included nearly two decades as head of the Orleans County Department of Social Services. For even longer, she has subscribed to the parenting philosophy of John Rosemond, the syndicated columnist she has read for more than a quarter-century.
Ludwig started looking for a part-time career after she moved from Albion to Clarence and retired in 2009. She found it three years ago, when she went to see Rosemond during one of his occasional visits to Western New York. Several months later, she became a Rosemond parenting coach, using private sessions and public workshops to help parents learn “proper approaches” to misbehavior.
“Folks don’t come to me one-on-one unless they’ve got big problems,” Ludwig said, “and I’ve certainly dealt with some very big problems: teenagers drinking, smoking pot, drinking and driving, stealing money. I think we’ve had some success. But if people are leadership parents to begin with, it’s not rocket science. Don’t yell, don’t give second chances. Don’t bribe, don’t threaten. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be clear and consistent.”
Ludwig, 63, grew up in Niagara Falls and Jamestown. She is a graduate of Geneseo State College, where she got a bachelor’s in English, with a minor in drama, before landing a job in Albion in 1972 as an outreach worker for Community Action. She worked 19 years as director of the Orleans County Office for the Aging and, afterward, the same number of years as county social services director.
She has two children, Andrea Brown, 33, of Tonawanda; and Kevin Blake, 27, of Buffalo; as well as three stepchildren. She married Stephen Ludwig, then technology director in the Clarence school district, in 2005. The couple also have four grandchildren.
What does it take to become a Rosemond parenting coach?
You do an intensive workshop with him, then he sends you home with a curriculum. You have to read a lot and write a lot. I read for about four months straight. That was my job. When you’ve completed that, he evaluates your writings and if he’s on board with what you learned, he will certify you. I think there are between 40 and 50 certified coaches in the United States right now.
You don’t have to have a psychology degree or counseling degree?
You don’t. If you understand John at all, he doesn’t believe in a psychological approach to raising children. He believes in traditional values. If you can talk cognizably and explain what you’re thinking about various situations – he gives you various scenarios – those are the kinds of things he wants you to feel comfortable with. If I have someone call me and say, ‘I’m in therapy with my child,’ I wouldn’t see them because I’m not a counselor. I’m real, real clear with folks upfront. I am a parent coach certified by John Rosemond, but I’m not a social worker, I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a counselor.
Does that mean you don’t get paid like one? What are your rates?
I charge $65 for an assessment, which is an hour and a half visit, and then $50 an hour thereafter. People see me three to five times. I’m teaching this traditional way of looking at things, and trying to help them break some bad habits. I also have workshops with the schools, the Clarence Youth Bureau, at a couple of day care centers.
What is your definition of a good parent?
They are calmly, consistently and firmly in charge, and they let their children know that. When they want to give directions, they’re very consistent, very clear and use as few words as possible. A leadership parent acts like they know what they’re doing and acts like they expect to get what they want. The operative word there is ‘act,’ because sometimes you don’t really know what you want. … If you need time, take it. That’s what parents don’t do. They come up with answers right now. And if a child misbehaves, they think they have to respond to it right now. That’s when people yell and scream, and that doesn’t help at all. So a good parent is a leadership parent who learns how to step back from a situation. I’m always telling people, ‘Can you figure out a way to take three steps backward from a situation, think it through and then act?’
What are some of the most important things parents need to tell their children? How often?
I think we talk to our kids way too much. I think kids learn from experience and we’ve got to let them make their mistakes. Certainly, you can tell them the household rules, but you tell kids things in small bites, once, maybe twice. Then you let the mistakes happen and you deal with the mistakes, knowing that they’re learning. They’re just children. Over time, when the child misbehaves and if you levy consequences, they learn that the best choice to make is the one that the parent is going to like. … Now, should parents be talking to kids about everything else? Of course they should. Family things, feelings, picnic plans, what it’s like to be a member of this family. It’s ‘Team Family,’ the most important team you’ll ever belong to.
In Refresh: Read John Rosemond’s column on Page 16