From Pain to Purpose: America’s Supernanny Deborah Tillman

In Christine on The Scene by Christine McKellar

Nannies Change Destinies: One Child At A Time

Truly the best motivation in the world is when something Supernannystrikes you personally and right between the eyes. Lifetime TV’s “America’s Supernanny”, Deborah Tillman, received her calling the hard way-when she saw the repeated neglect of her infant son at a number of day care centers.

“We had seven child care providers in three months,” said Tillman. “Literally no one was taking care of this baby. One time I dropped him off and three hours later when I went to pick him up he was still sitting in his car seat with his coat on and sweating profusely. Another time, I found him in a back room in a bassinet. The wall was holding up the bottle in his mouth and he was sucking air.”

A full-time accountant, Tillman was desperate to find decent childcare. “At that point, my prayer kept being, ‘Why me? Why is this happening to me? Why can’t I find good childcare?’” According to Tillman, a still small voice spoke to her. “Because I want you to do it better.” Tillman heeded the call. She quit her job the very next day and started a child care center in her home. She followed her heart and watched children during the day and attended classes in special childhood education at night. “It got so big in my home that I had a wait list for over one hundred people. It was crazy. It all came from pain—to purpose.” 

Tillman began to look outside of her home for more space in order to expand and provide quality care for more children. It was ten months before a property manager she knew Tillman at conferenceapproached her with the news that a childcare center in a nearby complex had gone out of business after over twenty-five years. “Would you like to have the center?” he asked. Again, Tillman responded to the still small voice. “Do what you do.”

“Miss Deborah” has been doing what she does for over twenty years now. Today the Lake Ridge, Virginia, resident is the CEO of three Happy Home Child Learning Centers, Inc., a published author, and appears as America’s Supernanny on Lifetime Television.

 Tillman attributes her role on national TV to another divine intervention. “I’d just gotten back from vacation. My son, Zeplyn, checked my email and said, ‘Mom! Look at this!’ It was an invitation from Lifetime. He insisted I call them. I prayed, then called the next day. I did a phone interview, then a Skype interview, then they flew me out to California.

“They threw me in a house with a woman who had issues and told me I had two hours to solve them. I dealt with her issues and the next day I was the Supernanny. All of this happened in five days.”

What appealed the most to Tillman about the show was that she didn’t have to play a role. She could just be herself. “When I’m on camera that really is the first time I’ve met these people. I just go in and say ‘Okay, what we got going on here?’”

Anyone who has seen episodes of America’s Supernanny is well aware that generally there’s a lot going on—and most of it is majorly dysfunctional. “In the houses I go to it’s like a general break down of the family structure. I see the parents are really trying to be their child’s friend as opposed to disciplining and teaching the child.

“Parents are made to lead, guide and direct their children in the right path,” stated Tillman. “I see a lot of over indulgence. Parents giving kids what they want—not what they need. The children have a lot more things, yet they have less wisdom. They aren’t taught how to make good choices. They’re angry and out of control.”

If basic child psychology is correct in that a child’s character is formed by the age of three, one would think Tillman is fighting a losing battle in some arenas. Not so, according to this dynamic businesswoman and caregiver. “I tell parents, ‘Look, as long as you have breath in your body there is hope for your child’.

“If the child is ten years old then there is ten years of retraining they have to do. Parents have to be in it for the long haul. But, the child won’t change until the parent does. It’s all about teaching by example and setting standards.”

Nannies have standards too, says Tillman. “When you look atKeynote Speaker what defines a good nanny, the bottom line is we are caregivers. We give our hearts, our minds, our voices to make a difference in these children’s lives. We are changing destinies. We have the power to do that.” –Christine McKellar

NOTE: Deborah Tillman was the Keynote speaker at The National Nanny Training Day conference in Las Vegas, April 20. She is the author of Stepping Out In Faith and Born To Shine. To “meet” Deborah please visit: