I recently heard of a survey taken in 2012 quoting that 77% of marriages
in Orange County end in divorce. To me that is a staggering statistic
and also an American tragedy. It got me thinking about our practice here
at CMD and why I even got into this facet of the law. It also forced me
to think about what I have learned from my many years of practical experience
that may be helpful to divorcing couples and possibly help others in difficult
relationships with spouse or children.
Practicing the skills and techniques I use from my experiences can help
couples in their marriages, in the divorce process and in life in general.
My overall philosophy is to be positive in all things. Develop a positive
mindset in your daily dealings with those around you. This mindset can
change your life for the better—your self-esteem and your everyday
Over the next several weeks I will do my best to share practical information
that can change your life when practiced. I’ll begin with the basics.
When my youngest daughter began high school, I decided to put my Masters
in Elementary Education to work and bought the Memphis franchise of the
then fledgling Sylvan Learning Centers. This company had a process designed
to help children learn to read and do math using measurable testing and
other specific techniques. If a child can’t read or do basic math
effectively by the end of third grade, he or she will struggle with all
of the subjects, like science and geography, which depend on the application
of these basic skills.
Learning requires trying something new, and not being afraid to fail. Most
of these kids had been told either verbally or non-verbally (the most
insidious way) that they were not good learners. After a while they began
to believe it, and began to wonder why they weren’t smart. They
often quit trying or became problem children acting out in negative ways.
Their struggles generally transition from a loss of self-confidence to
a negative feeling of self-worth. I can say from experience that this
will nearly always affect the rest of their lives in a negative way. At
Sylvan we got a lot of these children in the beginning. Parents brought
in their children who were failing or acting out in school; the parents
didn’t know what to do to help.
Sylvan had the answer for that. It was basically the power of positive
teaching and motivation. We hired teachers that were highly qualified,
but also had positive personalities. They smiled a lot and genuinely liked
helping the kids. We taught them ways to praise each little step of learning
a process with our sheet called101 Ways to Say, “You Did A Good
Job”. Real learning was taking place.
The kids who were there because they were behind were starting to have
fun and not being afraid to fail. The kids I describe above had lost the
belief or desire to achieve, since they had been told in the past, either
verbally or non-verbally that they were failures. So the process to change
begins by noticing the little things they can do and achieve, and giving
immediate, genuine compliments to them as small successes are observed.
Positive reinforcement always works.
Armed with their own natural abilities, and encouraged by us to verbally
compliment and reward the little things, our teaching staff used the rest
of the positive learning system to get children turned around and even
ahead in school. They were now learning at their own pace. Not just once
in a while, but every time! The only exceptions were children with serious
Sylvan had a reward system using plastic tokens that were given as a physical
acknowledgement of doing things right. A child could accumulate 10 to
15 tokens during a lesson, with which he or she could purchase something
small at the “Sylvan Store” for instant gratification. For
some, it was the first time in their lives that they had actually worked
toward a goal, achieved it, and were verbally and physically rewarded
for it. Some would save up their tokens for weeks to buy something they
really wanted. So it also reinforced good longer term thinking and the
feelings of positive self-worth that come from working toward and achieving
The process worked. Kids made amazing progress. Their lives were literally
changed. Parents got into it also. They were learning how to help the
child grow in a positive way. Family relationships were solidified. The
counseling sessions with these stressed-out parents were a great learning
ground for me to understand what a couple needed to best help each child.
Next week: how my husband Dick and Dale Carnegie shaped my belief in the
power of positive thinking in divorce.