Jo visits the Larmer family who just moved to Fort Worth, Texas from Florida. Ed (35) and Judy (37) are having trouble with their 4 children: 4-year-old John, 2-year-old fraternal twins Jessica & Justin, and 11-month-old Joey.
The 3 oldest kids are acting out. They're destructive, breaking Rules everything in their house. They also don't listen and do as they're told. Their grandma Sharon doesn't want the kids in their house because she fears they'll break something.
Jo discovers that the main problem with the family is the parents' bickering and fighting. Can Jo help the parents solve their differences and help control their out-of-control kids?
Pretty much as soon as observation begins, Ed is off to work. The children misbehave due to boredom. They take all the cushions off the couch, jump on/off the couch, and also dangle from the fireplace mantel. They do not seem to have many toys to play with inside the house.
Judy admits that she locks her kids in their bedrooms at bedtime. All the rooms have locks to keep kids where they need to be and keep them out of where they shouldn't be. They have a ton of toys in the backyard but they prefer Ed's mixer. The children are not allowed to play outside much because Judy is afraid that they might get dirty. Judy barks orders at the children (such as "Go pick up a toy and play with it!") instead of playing with them.
At Grandma's house, the kids get into everything. The kids however are not being interacted with and have no toys at Grandma's house, so they are left to their own devices. Grandma Sharon confesses that the thought of the kids coming over distresses her. She is already stressing out about what it will be like when they come over for Thanksgiving this year.
When Ed comes home, he plays with the kids for a while but then Ed and Judy get into an argument about how Ed lets Judy do all the work. Jo calls a time-out on this discussion due to all the swearing they are doing in the presence of their kids. Judy admits that they always have heated arguments that include cursing in front of the children.
At the parents meeting, Jo praises Ed and Judy for how grounded they are, but is concerned about Judy's overbearing ways and the way the kids run wild. Judy admits that she picks the kids up to be on her level to yell at them. Jo asks her to imagine how terrifying it would be to be picked up and yelled at nose-to-nose with someone much bigger than you. Jo tells her that if she were one of the kids, she'd be shaking if this was done to her. Judy bursts into tears and says she feels like a terrible mother.
Jo also scolds Judy and Ed for being overprotective. She gets them to admit that all the locks on doors are a lazy way of maintaining control. She points out that it doesn't teach the kids anything such as self-control.
When teaching begins, the family routine is introduced. It includes productive play sessions in the morning and in the afternoon. Jo lets the kids fingerpaint in the backyard. Judy is apprehensive at first, but seeing how much fun her kids have, she joins in and has fun with them.
Judy admits that her mother was always so afraid of Judy and her siblings making a mess that it wasn't fun for them. Jo points out that Judy is doing the same thing with her children. Judy admits that though she wanted to be different, it was hard to break old habits. Jo speaks to Judy about her deep, harsh, tone of voice that she constantly seems to be using on her kids, and explains there are three tones of voice: A normal, calm tone, a higher-pitched tone for giving praise, and a lower, stern tone for warnings. She has Judy practice the lighter tone and praises her for how it makes her eyes sparkle and opens up her face.
Jo brings in Naughty Blocks for the 3 oldest children. John refuses to help clean up the toy room or get off Judy's lap. Judy puts him on the Naughty Block for 4 minutes.
Jo chats with Judy and her mother Sharon. Judy breaks down in tears when her mother calls her children out of control, but she is willing to have Judy bring some of their toys over to her house. Jo takes the locks off the children's bedrooms.
Jo introduces the 3 in 30 solution: Judy and Ed reach write down 3 issues and discuss them in 30 minutes, then they shred the paper. Jo wants them to do this every night after the kids are in bed.
Teaching is now gone and Jo leaves for a few days. Judy has the kids choose toys to take to Grandma's house. Sharon now plays with the children. Everyone has fun. Judy sets up a kiddie pool for the kids, but walks away to do chores while they play. The kids constantly bang on the door to get Judy's attention, and Justin stands at the door crying. Judy uses her old, military style tone with them.
Ed is supposed to engage the kids while Judy makes dinner, but Ed makes them watch TV. Judy reminds Ed that they cannot do that. When Ed suggests painting in the backyard, Judy insists that they cannot do that either. The 3 in 30 solution turns from discussion to fight.
Jo walks them through another 3 in 30 solution. She has them write down three of their own flaws. Jo introduces a memory game where she places objects from the home on a cushion, then takes two objects away while the kids hold their eyes shut. Jo then leaves the Larmer Family, confident that they will be fine.
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