CLEARWATER — Ruth Peters, a nationally acclaimed child development expert and Clearwater clinical psychologist known for her "no nonsense" approach to parenting, has died.
A frequent contributor to the Today show, Dr. Peters wrote several popular books on parenting.
Many people considered them "the bibles of disciplining children," according to Greg Savel, a Pinellas pediatrician who knew her personally and professionally for more than 20 years.
"She was widely respected by pediatricians and parents all over the world," said Savel, who also was Peters' children's pediatrician.
Dr. Peters died Saturday after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 60.
She continued to work as much as she could, Savel said.
"She was seeing families even between treatments for her cancer," Savel said.
For more than 30 years, Dr. Peters has been treating children and adolescents in private practice in Clearwater.
About 20 years ago, she self-published Who's in Charge: A Positive Parenting Approach to Disciplining Children. In 2004, she told the St. Petersburg Times she did so on the advice of the late child psychologist Lee Salk, after meeting him at a Largo seminar.
The book catapulted her onto the talk show scene. She made appearances on Oprah and TV shows hosted by Sally Jessy Raphael and Geraldo Rivera. She has appeared on the Today show since 1997.
"I'm evangelical in my quest to educate parents on how to parent effectively," she told the Times. "It's a matter of training the parents. They are the ones that need to enforce the rules."
Her other books include Overcoming Underachieving: A Simple Plan to Boost Your Kids' Grades and End the Homework Hassles, and Laying Down the Law: The 25 Laws of Parenting to Keep Your Kids on Track, Out of Trouble, and (Pretty Much) Under Control.
She also wrote columns in parenting magazines. In the 1990s, she wrote a column called Middle Ground for the Times.
Dr. Peters spent her entire career working with children in clinical psychology.
"She just had a knack for understanding children," said her husband of 36 years, Circuit Court Judge R. Timothy Peters. "She could understand the thought processes of children."
Yes, Judge Peters was always dad. But when it came to showing their children the consequences of poor behavior, his wife took charge — of course.
"It was like trying to tell Picasso how to paint or something," her husband said with a hearty laugh.
Dr. Peters was born and raised in Miami and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Florida. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of South Florida.
About three months ago, her daughter, Lindsay Sinclair, gave birth to Dr. Peters' first grandchild, Aaden Sinclair.
Both of Dr. Peters' children said she practiced the parenting skills she taught others. They had sticker charts and had to do simple chores and make good grades to earn their allowance.
"You couldn't really get away with anything because she knew all of the tricks from her clients, but she was very caring and she was always there for us," said Sinclair, 31, a clinical psychologist specializing in treating eating disorders. "She was an excellent role model."
Oddly enough, Sinclair and her brother, Chris, recall that when they were children, Dr. Peters gave them IQ tests on their birthdays.
"I never really knew why," said Chris, 27. "I didn't really know that wasn't normal."
It was kind of a family tradition, according to Sinclair. Dr. Peters' father, also a psychologist, gave Dr. Peters IQ and Rorschach inkblot tests on her childhood birthdays, Sinclair said.
Sinclair said she decided to become a psychologist when she was 19 after sitting in one of her mother's sessions.
"I was very inspired by her career," Sinclair said.