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Total Transformation Program, By Request
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(It's long. Don't feel obligated.)

I have four kids, three of which I mention often. The fourth one, not so much. Kim-12yr is a topic i tend to leave off-blog. You may have noticed i don't put much effort into pretending things are rosier than they are. That isn't it. It's more that I  thought her privacy should be given more consideration than my blogging might provide. And I did think that.

I've reconsidered.

Why?  She could read all of this one day, years from now. Yes. She could. And still, I don't mind sharing details of our lives I haven't before shared. The main reason for this is that parents are coming from all over the internet to find this blog because just once - ages ago - I mentioned the Total Transformation Program by Dr. James Lehman. Parents are troubled by their kids, looking for answers, and then looking to me for a second opinion on the program before shelling out the big bucks. This post gets a minimum of 150 hits a DAY from those searching "Total Transformation." My heart goes out to those parents, because I've been there. It stinks. It especially stinks when the kids are out of school, and the web search hits multiply exponentially then.

So here is a little of my experience. This is for those who wonder why i only talk about 3 of my kids. It's for me. It's for those other parents, performing search after search for answers and for help. (Hang in there, you guys.)

Ten years ago, I married a wonderful man with a two year old. He had sole custody. His first wife had made some unfortunate parenting choices, including neglect. Mike was working lots of hours, trying to keep up with his wife's out of control spending. He took his daughter and left, taking only her belongings. I met the two of them when Kim was almost 2. We married right away. She stole my heart before he did. Her big brown eyes and easygoing nature won me over completely. She laughed often. Her smile was sweet, and frequent, and she was charming and endearing in ways I can recall but am having trouble naming. When I married her dad, she walked me down the aisle. I was the only Mom she ever remembered. I adopted her as soon as we could afford it.

Before I came along there should have been some critical mom-baby developmental milestones. Basic bonding. In the absence of that, attachment issues can develop. Without a strong mom-baby bond, the child can become developmentally stunted in ways that don't necessarily show up right away. This was the case with Kim. She's so smart, and a quick study. She had no trouble developing the skills to appear just as the other kids her age. And yet, she wasn't. There was a total lack of empathy. Later, there was stealing, defiance, lying, and a delight in other people's (and animals') pain. Her fantasies were graphic, numerous, and violent. She convinced herself that if I were not in her life, her 'real' mom would miraculously return. She had somehow decided she was Mike's true - first - love, since I came along later...  and wanted to take over my role. She tried to get me to leave. Lots of energy and thought went into the best way to 'eliminate' me. When I didn't leave, those thoughts and fantasies went to a more violent nature.  I needed to be gone. In her mind, there was nothing wrong with this. She'd been so mistreated by the world, and life was so unfair, that it was all right for her to be so extreme. Killing me would solve a lot of problems.

I know what some of you are thinking. She wasn't raised 'right.' She wasn't raised with enough God, or enough church, or enough scripture in her. And you'd be wrong. She can probably quote circles around you, and yet it didn't matter. Kim got her school to believe WE were the problem. She's really good at that, as are a lot of attachment disordered kids. 

We've prayed. We've done counseling with lots of professionals of who didn't have a clue what was wrong. And a few did. And it didn't matter. There's a spiritual side to what is going on with her, a side that must be approached from a spiritual perspective. And then there's the psychological, and emotional sides that can be approached from professionals who know how to do that best. (that last part is a quote from my pastor - nicely put, huh?)

There isn't a whole lot that can be done - spiritually or otherwise - as long as HER attitude is 'i'm fine this way and you're wrong for asking me to change.' She very much believes she is entitled to lie, to steal, to kill, to do whatever to whomever as long as it suits her. She is 'above' rules and laws.

We placed her in residential treatment six months ago. The staff there are wonderful people who specialize in this particular disorder. They are the best at what they do, and I am forever grateful to these professionals for even understanding my child, and for caring about her anyway. For understanding me, and the utter hell that was our family life before she went away. Their experience and training lends them an ability to see our family for how it is - and not how she pretends it is. I'm most grateful for them, for they are truly God-sent.

It's an 18 month program. No progress.

All of this to say that ours is an extreme case. Total Transformation wasn't going to 'work' for us, and for this one child. I still believe in it wholly, though. Dr Lehman shows you how and why your kids misbehave. He tells you quite specifically why it works on you, and how your kid uses different methods with you and with your spouse. The program is the Parenting Instruction Manual that all parents should get when they leave the hospital with their newborn. Yes. Really. It helped us understand Kim's manipulations greatly, and see them more clearly. It was eye opening.  It will be invaluable as we parent our three other children. You should buy it. One drawback: It takes time and commitment to do the workbook, watch the dvds, and listen to the cds. Quite a bit of time, really. Don't buy it if you aren't willing to put in the time.

It will NOT touch the big issues - if any - beneath the behavior. You can treat the symptoms of your kid with this program VERY effectively. However, if your kid has deep problems that are the root of the problems, have those addressed by someone else AND try the program. Does your kid have ADHD, ODD, or other stuff? Give it a try.

I'm talking about this now, because it's apparently not a shortlived phase one of our kids is going through. It's a huge part of our life. And this is my blog, and I talk about my life. We go visit her once a month, stay a few days or a week and have big, stressful therapy. We spent a week there for Thanksgiving, and will again for Christmas.

Life is better now. My mom has noticed that Ethan-6yr is much calmer than he's ever been. He isn't constantly wondering where his sister is, what she's doing, and how to behave accordingly. Neither am I. We're learning how to be safe in our home, and all that that means. How to have fun, be spontaneous, and relate to each other without all of the unhealthy undercurrents.

We're trying to be a normal family, and enjoying it. 

If you're one of the parents who found this blog by searching for information, i hope you'll bookmark and stay awhile. (I'm normally much more fun. Swear.) It can be rare to find people who understand what it's like to have your family and home terrorized by a child who appears perfect to the rest of the world. If you're one of those, I'm especially glad of your perspective on this and other posts, so feel free to comment. No - not one of those blogs where everyone has to 'agree' or be super nice in the comments section.

(Merry Christmas. Sorry so... um. not merry.)

Updates can be found here!

*These posts were written long before a day when the Total Transformation people contacted me and said they wanted to offer me payment for endorsing their program. This seemed odd, since those posts were already written and certainly weren't done then (or at any later time) at their request. But I agreed. In the interest of full disclosure, they DO send me money from time to time and I do not generally return it. I might lose it, but that's just because my kitchen is a mess and that's another story altogether. Of all the companies that have requested me to endorse them, buy ad space, or send me a year's supply of their product in return for reviews... this is the only one I ever agreed to. Partly because I don't WANT a year's supply of mayonnaise and all that other stuff, and partly because these are unsolicited, heartfelt posts that mention a program I strongly believe in. If they want to throw money at me for it, I'm okay with that. If you're not, I can respect that, too.


Your Comments

Cmommy Said:


I lived for a number of years in an unsafe environment with a sibling. You are brave; I will pray for your family. hugs, Chrissy

on Dec 21, 2006 11:20:09 PM

Kelsey, I've told you privately, but I'll say it again here--your courage to speak up and tell your family's story will be SUCH a blessing to so many families.

Chin up, my friend--there are many of us praying for Kim, and for all of you...

on Dec 21, 2006 11:43:14 PM
owlhaven Said:

Hugs, sweetie! Have a blessed, peaceful Christmas.

Mary, mom to many

on Dec 22, 2006 12:08:19 AM
momrn2 Said:

I've told you before and will again confirm it... my prayers continue. I can relate to not feeling safe in your very own home. Thank you for sharing your story and the openness and honesty you bring with it!

My prayer is that other's currently in similar situations see they are not alone... and there is hope.


on Dec 22, 2006 12:24:21 AM

Hi Kelsey, I'm sad that the conditions haven't changed for you all, but you know what? I can tell that you've changed. I didn't go back and read your old post, but I recall all the pain, guilt and frustration. You sound stronger somehow, and I'm so glad for you. Thanks for reminding us about this situation again, so that we can remember to pray--and also to pray for the so many who are seeking you out because of their own experiences. I'm praying 'extra hard' for your family as you visit your daughter this Christmas. Hugs!

on Dec 22, 2006 1:11:48 AM
colicmommy Said:

Prayers for strength for your family.

May I ask...what happens at the end of 18 months if she's not healing? It sounds like it would be foolish to have her home again if she might injure or kill you or the other children.

I totally believe your situation. A good friend of mine (adopted) had a brother (adopted as well), both raised as Christian as could be. The second brother had AD and would kill animals, steal, lie, etc. He burned down the church that the family went to. He took the altar candles and lit the curtains on fire, then left. Yet everyone thought he was just so CHARMING.

Many prayers...

on Dec 22, 2006 7:35:11 AM
corinabowen Said:

Hi girl~
I too noticed a big change.... in you. You may not "see" any change in Kim yet.... but thankfully we walk by faith not by sight.
I never thought about others finding you reguarding this... I will be in prayer not only for you and yours now, but all whom search and find "someone who understands". You are such a wonderful woman, I am glad that other parents have found you. :-) HE is gonna use this blog in a mighty way girl!

on Dec 22, 2006 7:38:48 AM
Big Mama Said:

Kelsey, you're openness and honesty is incredible. Thanks for sharing your story. I'll be keeping your family in my prayers.

on Dec 22, 2006 8:18:30 AM
Karla Said:

It just irritates me when people see a troubled child/person and automatically assume the parents were heathen, godless abusers. Your story is a reminder not to judge a book by its cover. Not to judge at all.

My prayers are with you, I'm praying for a spiritual cleansing in Kim, a healing beyond measure.

Thanks for sharing your story. You are a remarkable family serving a remarkable God.

on Dec 22, 2006 8:19:32 AM
Diane Said:


I echo the comments already posted....thank you for sharing this journey. Yours is a shining example of giving God your burden and trusting Him for the answer....and the opportunity to minister to many others who are silently walking in your shoes. While my own families journey does not include attachment disorder.....it is a constant struggle to keep our heads above water. What I, and other hurting parents, find here is HOPE: hope for our children's well-being and success, hope for their future, and hope that we, as parents will have the strength and courage to endure.

Please know that you are covered in prayers--we long for the day that Kim will break through her damaged emotions and find peace....we look to the day when God will restore the spiritual, emotional, and psychological pieces of her heart....and each of our hurting lives.

Your willingness to share this with others is admirable and I pray that God will bless you today as He blesses those of us who come here and feel energized by your story. Yes, "misery loves company" but it is so much more than that. Knowing that someone else is willing to take the mask of perfection off.....and share the reality of their life is so much more valuable than a good laugh: this type of authenticity is, in fact, life sustaining for many parents.

God Bless you as you gift many with the HOPE of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!


on Dec 22, 2006 8:33:12 AM
jeana Said:

Still praying for you. Love you.

on Dec 22, 2006 8:35:44 AM
Susan Said:


I grew up in an abusive enviroment. My step-dad was NOT a nice person. The blessing was I was never abused physically but carried the burden of watching my mom struggle to survive. God protected us-it could of been worse-his first wife he almost killed. I don't often tell people this part of my life because it takes you to the core of me and i like to keep somethings to myself. But I tell you and your readers this because I have been there-where people tell you you are not spiritual enough that you should just pray more and everything all will work out. People in our church community did not believe my mom-b/c my stepdad was such a charmer and a "godly" man. But behind closed doors-it was a totally different enviroment. I learned to listen to their "church talk" without getting too offended. Plus anyone who reads my journals during that time would see pages and pages of prayers and scripture and I was only a freshman in high school. Anyways...

I just wanted to let you know how proud I am that you are doing the best you can. Sometimes God only calls us to do so much and then for us to allow His strength to carry us further. Many women would of walked out with no regrets. I am proud of you for sticking it through. I am proud of you for not giving up. I pray for Kim but more than that I pray for your other boys who are deeply affected by Kim's behavoir. From someone who has been sitting on the sidelines-I know that one day their pain will come to the surface and when that does they too will need prayer.

You are a great wife and mother. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently. Keep taking it one day at a time since tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.

God bless your journey!

on Dec 22, 2006 8:57:43 AM
Mary Said:

You and your family will be in my prayers. Thank you for sharing this - transparency is important. Satan very often wins by isolating us and then we think we're the only one with problems. It takes brave people like yourself for us all to realize that everyone has their "stuff". Yours might be different from mine, but the truth is we're all in the same boat because we're all living in an imperfect world with imperfect people (including ourselves)! All I can say is thank the Lord that He is good and his mercies are new every morning.

on Dec 22, 2006 9:25:55 AM
Joy Said:

Thank you for sharing. Your courage in sharing such an intimate part of your life is inspiring. You and your family are in my prayers. Merry Christmas.

on Dec 22, 2006 10:39:36 AM
Sarah Said:

Thank you for sharing all of this with us. Through reading your story, I've developed a deeper understanding for what my aunt and uncle have gone through with their 17 yo adopted daughter. She has AD and from the sounds of it was (is?) behaving very similar to Kim. My prayers are with you and all families who are experiencing such trying issues.

And I agree with other who have mentioned that you've changed over the past few months. Stronger, more sure of yourself... can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm glad that things have looked up a bit for you and yours.

Merry and blessed Christmas to you.

on Dec 22, 2006 11:09:34 AM
Amy Said:

Thank you for sharing your struggles. You are choosing to walk a hard road. I pray that God will always be near to you, reminding you how much He loves you, your husband, and ALL your children.

Blessings on this difficult holiday season!

on Dec 22, 2006 11:57:13 AM

Thanks for sharing your story here, Kelsey. God is using you to reach the many people who will search the internet in desperation and come to your story.

I agree with others who sense new strength in you that comes through your writing.

May God bless you with PEACE in Him this Christmas.

on Dec 22, 2006 12:39:28 PM
GP Said:

As we are lighting the eighth candle on our channukah menorah, this came to mind and I'll share it.
umbers 6:24-26

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you shalom."

In times like these, the scriptures resonate with renewed vigor. Clearly the issue of shalom - peace, harmony within is on our hearts, minds and national agendas. Shalom - the blessing of God, will of God for our children - is our desire too. May shalom may come to and through us in the New Year.

GP in Montana

on Dec 22, 2006 1:16:56 PM
Joanne Said:

There is so much more built into a child than how they are raised. There is so much more in the spirit realm, emotional mental than we can ever imagine. I am thankful that there is help available when we are stretched beyond what we are capable of.

I appreciate your honesty.

on Dec 22, 2006 6:22:59 PM

God bless you and your family. Thank you for your honesty. I'm certain that your story will be a blessing to other families dealing with similar issues. You have a lot of courage.

I couldn't help but think about a book I'm in the middle of called "Come Back" by Claire and Mia Fontaine. It's powerful. About a mothers heart wrenching journey to save her daughter, from herself. And she does. Only another mother can know that kind of pain. A pain that I'm sure you're feeling.

I'll be praying for you and your family.

on Dec 22, 2006 8:16:15 PM
Blaine Said:

Thank You!

on Dec 22, 2006 11:27:32 PM
joannmski Said:

I grew up with a mentally ill mom, and the daily stress of it all was really tough. I feel for you and your family, and pray that the therapy and treatment start making life easier for all.

on Dec 22, 2006 11:40:50 PM

I didn't start reading your blog because of that post, but I kept coming back because of it.
Our situations are vastly different and yet very much the same in some ways.
You are a strong person. A role model for this old mom ... and a blessing to many, many parents.
Don't change a thing! Please.

on Dec 23, 2006 12:44:36 AM
Nicole Said:

I can't really add anymore to what has already been said, except thank you for sharing. Your blog is a shining light on the internet. You are a brave and wonderful soul.

on Dec 23, 2006 1:19:31 PM

PS - Merry Christmas friend.. hope you have a great holiday!

on Dec 23, 2006 11:28:56 PM