Parenting Tips From Carol Brady!

Admit it: You sometimes wished Carol Brady was your mom when you were growing up. Or that perhaps The Brady Bunch could adopt you. Now that you’re a mom, you realize how impossibly calm Mrs. Brady always was. Happily, Florence Henderson has a whole lot of real-life mom advice to share—she’s raised four kids. She’s still one busy lady: Her bio, Life Is Not A Stage: From Broadway Baby To A Lovely Lady And Beyond recently came out. She’s the host of the RLTV Network’s acclaimed Florence Henderson Show. And now, Florence is partnering with P&G for their Thank You, Mom campaign, which celebrates moms and supports The Special Olympics; she’s already helped raise $150,000. How awesome is that? Here, Florence’s words of parenting wisdom (add your own tips at the A Word From Mom roundup):

I was thrilled to hear you were going to be part of a campaign that supports The Special Olympics. Do you have any personal connections to kids with special needs?

“When I was a young girl, my best friend had a little niece. We noticed that her legs weren’t exactly right and we used to exercise them. Not until years later did we learn she had CP. And when I had the opportunity to be involved, I did—I hosted the United Cerebral Palsy telethon for 20 years. And when we did The Brady Bunch, we went to Special Olympic meets. It was great to watch kids and adults compete. And their spirits—wow! It’s good for any kid to attend the Special Olympics. It develops compassion to see a kid who might not be like them. It’s inspiring to see these kids out there. And the Special Olympics is great for helping the kids who participate be more strong, and confident with themselves.”

I couldn’t agree more! So, you’ve played a mom of six on TV and you’re a mom of four in real life—you are one experienced mom! What are some of the most surprising lessons your own children taught you about parenthood? 

“I think being a parent is the greatest gift in the world—and sometimes the hardest job in the world! My children have taught me that if you really love them, they know that. Children are so forgiving of your mistakes. They’re really resilient. And parenting teaches you to be more resilient—and forgiving and understanding about the world in general.”

What lessons did you learn about parenthood from The Brady Bunch?

“I was the only one on the show who was actually a parent at the time, I had four small children. So I became a surrogate mom to the Brady kids and I was able to offer advice—about acting and about life! And I still try to offer them advice! Susan Olsen, who played Cindy, her son has Aspergers and just talking to her and what she’s gone through and what she has to deal with…. Special needs touches all of our live in some way.”

I’ve read that during the filming of The Brady Bunch, you came home each weekend to spend time with your kids. How did you juggle that?

“We shot most episodes in the summer—wed rent a house in Los Angeles—and the I’d then I’d commute home to New York for the remaining shows.”

What were your working-mom tricks for making the most of the time you had with the kids?

“One of the most important things, when you’re a working mom, is not to feel guilty when it comes to disciplining your kids. Working moms get exhausted, and it’s hard sometimes to say no. But you’ll regret it as the kids get older. Take the time and energy to stand firm and say ‘No, you can’t do that’ or ‘No, you can’t have that!’ If the kids got obnoxious I’d say, ‘You know, in the scheme of things you’re going to be with me a relatively short time, but you’ll be out in the world with so many different people, and if you behave that way nobody will want to be around you.’ But the most important thing is to just love them with all your heart. I’d feel guilty—my kids went to school in Beverly Hills with a lot of at-home moms, and I worked! But in the long run, my kids have turned out maybe the best! I think the quality of time and your intensions matter most.”

What were your strategies for staying sane as a working mom?

“It’s not easy, sometimes you just want to pull your hair out and go crazy! I remember one time when all my kids and husband all had the flu at once and I called my doctor and said, ‘I’m sinking here, I don’t know who to clean up next!’ Sometimes, you have to go with it. And take time for yourself, even a half hour. Shut the door and say, ‘I have to regroup.’ Moms tend to put themselves last. I tell young mothers, ‘Put yourself first! If you get sick, everybody suffers!’ They’re on their husbands to go to the doctor, they make everyone’s appointments—you have to go to the orthodontist, you have to go to the ballet…. Once in awhile, do something for you. Schedule yourself in there.”

Thanks for that encouragement, I’ll take it! Ever give your own kids advice about parenting?

“I have five grandkids. I sound like a grandma but, they’re wonderful! My daughter is a stay-at-home mom, raising two incredible human beings, and my sons are the best mothers! Honestly, they are. One thing I’ve learned as a grandmother, you don’t give advice unless you’re asked! I keep my advice to the minimum.”

OK, I have to ask: Which kid on The Brady Bunch was your favorite?

“Oh, I’ll get in trouble! Like your own kids, you have different relationships with each one. I am in touch more with Barry Williams. When I go to New York I see Eve Plumb, she lives there, and I talk with Susan Olsen and Maureen and Mike Lookinland, who’s in Utah. I love them all for different reasons. Actually, Ann B. Davis is my favorite. That’s what every mom needs: an Alice.”

From my other blog:

An interview with the author of Welcome To Holland

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  2. by Lee

    On February 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I’m sorry, but the Brady family was very far from perfect. The children bullied each other and others. They and the parents ostracised those who did not conform and any time any of the children attempted an individual achievement they were portrayed as obnoxious and obsessive, then were put back “in their place” by the rest of the family. This TV family is a good example of how not to raise children.