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Your Picky Eater

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This is my wisdom bomb when it comes to picky eaters and small children. Feed them at home. Feed them something good before you go to the party, the event, Disneyland, or wherever it is you’re going. And then don’t worry about it. Let them eat what they want. Say yes as much as possible. Just don’t worry about it, because the truth is one day, one week, even two weeks of eating lousy is not a make or break deal. It’s far more important that you make a positive memory with your child and relinquish all the craziness about the eating. Remember, it’s about the relationship. The relationship drives everything. If you focus on that, you won’t mind so much that the kids are eating too many cookies.

When we change, the kids change. It’s that simple.

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It’s important for parents to recognize that it doesn’t matter if their children have been exhibiting pesky negative behaviors for two years, five years, seven years, or twenty years. It’s possible for change. It may take a little longer depending on the age of the child, but it’s possible. And it’s really very simple once you create a new plan in your own head as the parent. So if your connection with this child has been through power struggles, and that’s the relationship all of the time, what changes it is my response to that invitation to the power struggle. So if it’s cold out, and my child says, “I’m wearing shorts”, and what he expects is for me to say, “no you’re not”, I can say, “okay, wear shorts.” And let it go. And watch in that moment as suddenly there’s a new look on his face as he realizes something different is happening. If you did that over the course of a couple of weeks, your child would have to change because your responses to him were changing. That’s the power of this approach to parenting. We’re back in the driver’s seat as parents. When we change, the kids have to change. It’s that simple.

Five Tips to End Sibling Rivalry

It’s the Simple Things that Trip us Up

Let’s say you’re having one of those June-Cleaver-would-croak-if-she-saw-you moments. Your kids are rowdy, screeching and tearin’ the place apart. You look into the mirror and say, “If only they could get along and end this sibling rivalry my life would be bliss.” (Yeah right ☺).

Screaming and fighting happens. Sometimes it’s as simple as a child who is over tired or hungry. Maybe it’s the time of day that triggers a fisticuffs between siblings. And truth is, sometimes it’s something more. But before you spend too much time probing, rule out the simple reasons kids can go at each other without provocation.

With a little preemptive planning, you can cut off the small ‘skirmishes’ that pop-up and drain your energy leaving you feeling more like Lizzy Borden than Mrs. Cleaver.

Here’s how you find that mommy bliss and get back to your buntcake and bonbons:

  • Stop and think: Is there a simple reason the kids are fighting? Do they just need food? Offer it without engaging.
  • Notice the rhythm of your children’s behaviors. Redirect the energy BEFORE the “He hit me, no I didn’t” song starts to play on full blast (on repeat).
  • Zip your mouth, ma. The “telling them” and trying to “get them” to get along doesn’t work. Ignore it and find something productive to do instead. And if you invite them into an activity that seems more interesting that the fight, they are bound to check it out.
  • Stay Out Of It. It’s that simple. Don’t care. Don’t get annoyed. Don’t listen to the tattles. Don’t correct the kids. It’s none of your business. (Of course, if they are in harm’s way, do what you have to). Put your headphones on if need be and sing away. You’d be surprised how many kids will give up a fist fight when they hear a parents singing to Talking Heads.
  • Give them something else to do. AHHHH – There’s the rub. Most parents aren’t sure WHAT ELSE TO DO – so they return to the old ways….

Fighting can be avoided with a little investigation, a bit of redirecting and a willingness not to make things worse. Best of all, practicing these tips over time – goes a long way to eliminating sibling rivalry.

Vicki’s Golden Nugget of Parenting Advice

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Imagine that your child comes home at 25-years-old with her best friend. Everyone is sitting at the table and your child’s best friend ask your child to describe you in one word.

    What would your child say? What word would she use?
    What do you as a parent want that word to be?
    Are you the person you want your child to describe?
    How are you demonstrating this value every day?
    What actions do you take in relationship with your child that support who you want to be?

The golden nugget of parenting advice? Decide. Decide who you want to be and take the time and make a plan to be that person and practice. Run every decision through this value and practice every day.

Parenting Help is Just a Phone Call Away


If you ever find yourself wanting some parenting help, support to work through a challenge or gain clarity around a certain situation but you aren’t sure what your options are, I want to let you know (or remind you) that I am available for phone consultations. Often parents wonder if just one phone call will be enough to address a specific challenge and design a solution that will work to bring about significant change. What better way to answer that question than a testimonial from a couple I worked with recently who experienced first-hand, the power of one phone consultation with me.

    Hi, Vicki.
    I¹m still thinking about our phone call from the other day, and how incredibly helpful it was.

    My husband and I had read Duct Tape Parenting, listened to it repeatedly on audio, and now are in the midst of Parenting On Track.

    From the first moment of your teaching, we felt calmed and reassured that we would find our way. We¹d spent many years trying to make parenting choices that created a self-aware, resilient, and confident little boy. But more and more we were seeing that we were also getting in our son¹s way, with all of us getting frustrated and farther from our goal. Daily life was sometimes so difficult we felt demoralized. But in the past year there has been so much change in our house, and although it¹s still difficult, we¹ve felt so much hope. More than that, we¹ve felt we¹ve had a clear direction. We understand when our parenting behavior is effective and we¹re clear when a choice we¹ve made has brought us off track. We¹re better able to see our son¹s amazing strengths, and we¹re better able to support him where he¹s still struggling. Still, family life is fast moving and complicated, and it is sometimes hard to know exactly what to do or say in a given moment. Our phone call with you came after a very painful day, where all our attempts to get on track made things worse. You made the downward spiral of the day suddenly very clear, and we understood just what we had done to contribute, how we had muddied the water, what we had missed in our child, and exactly what we could have done differently. You helped us clarify our parenting goals and how to bring those goals into the moment, shifting where we put our attention, and offering us concrete things to do or say. Our conversation was rich, useful and surprisingly enjoyable. Even though we were talking about mistakes we had made, we felt safe, supported, and knew how closely you were listening. We even laughed! We brought you what seemed like an elaborate problem, and you immediately simplified it to basic themes. We got off the phone invigorated and ready to try again. The following morning your ideas were fresh on our minds so we were able to put them into action right away, and we had a great conversation with our son when usually it would have ended in an argument. Success!

    Vicki, it¹s a relief to know you¹re out there for support as we master these new ideas. I can¹t thank you enough for the work that you do, and for taking the time to personally guide us
    through it.


Visit our website to learn more about phone consultation options with me.

Five Ways to Preserve your Teen’s Freedom (and the Relationship)

Be a ChampionI am teaching an Adolescent Class this month, and reminded again how difficult it can be for parents to give their teens the freedom they so desperately yearn for. In the teens’ attempt to break free from their parents and create some autonomy, their parents experience increased stress and as a result, begin tugging at the little freedom their teens do have in an attempt to recreate the closeness they once felt when their teen was a toddler.

If you are the parent of a younger child, the time to start is now. Spend some time learning how you can start supporting your child’s independence in small ways over the course of many years so that when they finally reach the teen years and your instinct is to pull back the reins – you will have experience that tells you – your child can handle this exciting and exhilarating time of life.


At infancy, we are connected to our children – body, mind and soul – in a way that will never be duplicated again during their lifetime. We teach ourselves how to listen for small subtle changes in the babies’ cries, we spend hours holding, feeding, changing and just staring at these small wonders. At no other time will we be as connected to a human being as we are to our child during early infancy.

As they become toddlers, we are still close at hand, ready to swoop in at a moment’s notice if necessary. Imagine a rubber band tethered to both you and your toddler. They may travel as far as five feet away from you at any given time, but the truth is, you are close enough to scoop in, pick them up football style and remove them from any impending danger. And yet, they are beginning to experience the first thrill of freedom and independence. They are exploring, learning, and experiencing the world with just a bit of autonomy.

As they reach school age they enter what I call “The Grace Period”. They are old enough to understand certain dangers and how to avoid them, so we allow them to stretch the rubber band — and we even add a bit of extra slack, conveying to the kids that we trust them. Because we are more relaxed, and because the kids feel this loose line between themselves and their parents, they tend to check in regularly. No need to stay far away because they are certain that after a quick check in with mom or dad they will be allowed to travel back into the world and explore.

And then our kids reach the tween years and suddenly parents are acutely aware of how dangerous the world is and how one bad decision could lead to a ruined life, so they pull that rubber band in as close as they had it during the toddler years.

Because we are unable to articulate our fear in a sensible and respectful way and because our kids have no idea why we suddenly stop trusting them and begin hovering around them as if they were two-years-old, tensions rise.

Soon power struggles ensue. Our teens want parents who extend more freedom not less with even more slack so they can continue their march toward independence. What they get are parents who begin tugging and pulling on the metaphorical rubber band and with each tug the child becomes more determined NOT to turn and reconnect with their parents.
All for fear that if they dare to come close, to look for guidance from a parent, to feel a connection that reminds them they are loved and safe, their freedom will be taken from them and they will be forced to fight their way back to the independence they so desperately need.

After a few rounds of this, teens soon learn to stay away and parents. In the haste to be a part of their teens’ life, parents begin snooping, interfering, prying, and they stop honoring privacy. The relationship continues to suffer.

Here are 5 tips that will help you lengthen the cord, trust your teen and preserve your relationship.

1. Accept when your children are infants (or whatever age they are at the time you read this) that they are going to leave you and that you are charged with ensuring that when they leave they are ready to fly on their own.

2. Begin backing out of your job as your child’s “manager” the minute they arrive on the planet and by the time they are 18, you will both be ready for more physical distance without feeling emotionally distant from each other.

3. Be honest with your kids about any trepidation you have about their increased freedom. Ask them to help you be more reasonable and to accept that they can handle more responsibility for their world. If you do, you will inevitably create a bond that makes both of you feel closer and more connected to each other.

4. Make sure that you are talking with moms who have kids 3, 5 and 7 years older than your kids and ask for their perspective, their tips and what life is like when you accept that your children will move away from you and how to bridge that gap with grace and dignity.

5. Trust your kids. They love you. They want you in their lives. They do not want to be smothered or worried about or babied or saved. They want to prove to you, that they are strong, wise, and resilient. They want to prove that they can handle the next phase of life, so be their champion not their babysitter.

Control – Who has it? Who wants it?

Control_postIf I ask 100 people about their thoughts on control, 99.5 will whisper “I am a control freak”, as if this is a bad thing. Personally, I embrace and celebrate my “control freakish” nature. Why? Because the truth is, being a control freak is not the problem. The problem comes from trying to control the external world instead of developing  control of your internal world, which really means – demonstrating consistent Self-Control.

Of those same 100 people, 99.5 of them will readily admit that they spend the majority of their time trying to control everything outside of themselves. Why? Because it’s easier to try and control someone else or something else (ha) then it is to control your own thoughts, words and actions and to a certain extent, I agree. I agree that it’s easier to “try” and control other people and situations than it is to develop the discipline necessary to control yourself. But the truth is, and we all know it, is that we can’t control ANYTHING beyond our own thoughts, words and actions.

Now when we think about the many ways, we well meaning parents try and control our kids, it’s important that we also look at the consequences of our decision to try and control them.

1. Subtle Control – Subtle control can best be described as a friendly dictate from a well-meaning parent. You know, a parent who has their child’s best interest in mind. A parent who only wants their kids to experience the brighter side of life. A parent who KNOWS that if the child would just do what they say, the way they say to do, the child will most certainly turn out to be a happy, well adjusted, never sent to the principal’s office kind of kid. But alas, the child who is subjected to subtle control soon loses her voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate her way through the world with any sense of confidence and enthusiasm. In other words, we create kids who will follow along with little resistance, but who in essence are sitting on the sidelines of their lives, while their parents make decisions for them.

2. Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, “because I-said-so” kind of control. These parents don’t care to disguise their decision to control their kids and their kids’ lives. And surprisingly enough, their motivation to control is much like the subtle parents reasons, to ensure the kids make few or no mistakes, cruise through life with ease, and make their parents lives as easy as possible. There are some inherent problems in this kind of parenting, not the least of which is, that the kids begin to “push back” under all this heavy handed controlling. They quickly learn that controlling other people is a primary goal in life. After all, they are learning about controlling others from the most important and influential people in their life. Is it any wonder that eventually, these kids begin to assert their own kind of control over their parents? But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it creates between parent and child. In an overtly controlling dynamic, constant jockeying for position replaces other, healthier ways of connecting.

If you wish to model for your children the benefit of developing and maintaining self-control, start with these simple exercises:

1. Start paying attention to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before pausing long enough to “THINK” about what it is she is going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship with her child. Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on it’s axis until you have sniffed out any desire you might have to control the wee little one in front of you. As you begin to develop mental muscle, your ability to actually decide what thoughts best support a healthy relationship with your child will become easier and easier. And if we are to believe that what comes out of our mouths is based on what we are thinking, then controlling the words we use will be infinitely easier. The words we choose will be in line with our thinking and our thinking is to demonstrate self-control and enhance the relationship with our child. Fabulous.

2. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. As your thinking and speaking shifts from random, off the cuff comments to thoughtful, intentional responses, your actions will follow. Remember, your body works for your thoughts.  Picture yourself influencing your child’s life from this perspective and you can quickly see the distinct advantages of practicing self-control rather than wasting time and energy trying to control the external world.

Have fun.

Podcast: Family Meetings

In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, founder of Parenting on Track, we talk about Family Meetings. The family meeting is perhaps the most important tool in developing a healthy family. This episode explains why family meetings are so helpful and includes tips on running more effective family meetings.

Listen to learn more. Have you held Family Meetings in the past with your children? How is this version different? What do you like about this new Family Meeting style.

Register for our online Family Meetings Course here:

Working it Out

NEWQuestion: When parents are working to create a parenting plan that work for both of them is it okay to “work things through” in front of the kids

For instance, this came up w/ our six-year-old and teeth-brushing; I was saying she could do it herself, but my daughter kept insisting she needed help and melting down.  Her dad was saying he had been helping her because he thought she needed it. We started to work it out in front her and things went from bad to worse.


Answer: I recommend to every parent I work with that before they make any changes in their parenting style or introduce a new strategy, that they spend time with their spouse talking about the following:


  • What is our goal for making this change?

  • What are our expectations for ourselves and for our kids?

  • What is likely to trip us up and send us back to our old ways?

  • What resources can we use to get us through tough moments?

  • How will we know things are slowly changing and we are making progress?


If you start with this easy set of questions, you will find it easier to start out prepared and not be tempted to work out the kinks in front of your kids.  And don’t worry if you need to remove yourself for a few minutes and caucus in the other room until you both get back on the same page.  Modeling for kids how you and your spouse work together is a valuable lesson. If you can stay calm and respectful, work out your differences in front of the kids.  How else will they learn about healthy, cooperative relationships?


QUESTION: Do you and your spouse take the time to create a plan that will support the changes you are making within your family? Or do you end up winging it most of the time?

Podcast: Privileges & Responsibilities

Would you like to say yes to your kids? Would you like to raise kids who take care of their things, manage their time, and treat their siblings with respect? By implementing, a simple strategy, Privileges and Responsibilities in your family, you can with confidence.

Listen to this podcast below and learn more. Let us know what you think or if you have any questions.

Encourage instead of Save


Question: My 5 year old son has recently started having great difficulty handling things that don’t go his way with his peers that he feels really passionately about. For example, he’s really into soccer right now and if he is playing with others and they decide to stop playing, he immediately melts down, crying and looking to me to change the situation. I try to explain that sometimes this happens and I try to encourage him to play what they want for a while and maybe try again later, but he really struggles with this. What can I do to help him not feel so threatened and hurt when this happens? He is definitely an attention seeking kind of kid (and an only) and makes me feel as if the more attention I give him the more he seems to need.

Answer: It’s tough for little folks to be excited about a new sport or hobby or interest or vacation or toy and not have everyone on the planet just as excited, but that’s life.  Maybe these will help in the future:

  1. Show empathy and compassion without getting sucked into the drama.

  2. Understand that this will happen a million times in his life and as much as you want your wisdom to float from your head to his, it isn’t going to happen.  He is going to have to EXPERIENCE this in order to learn to deal with it in a healthy way.

  3. Resist the urge to make things better.  You can’t.  Only the person who is feeling the frustration or discomfort can make things better.  You can stay close at hand, but in the end, he will have to decide to move along.

  4. It can be hard for only children to connect with their classmates.  They think their peers will treat them the same way their mom and dad do.  So from time to time, try being too busy to listen and be less then completely enthusiastic about whatever it is he is passionate about.  This will help him develop skills that will assist him with his friends.

Adios! Saying Farewell to JJ

jj4Jennifer & I would like to send warm wishes to Jamaica Jenkins aka “JJ” on her next chapter!

She’s been a talented, engaging and bright part of our Parenting on Track / Duct Tape Parenting family for nearly five years! Jamaica’s helped us through many projects, including the writing of Duct Tape Parenting and the sharing of our ideas through pinterest, facebook, twitter and the blog.

Cheers to our snarky, funny friend. We’ll miss having her around our social spaces but she’ll be back to visit from time to time!

XO and Best of luck!

-Vicki & Jen

Adios JJ!

20 Awesome Flashbacks from 2013

Well folks, a new year is upon us. As an official goodbye to 2013, we thought we’d look back one last time at some of last year’s highlights! Enjoy!


Flashbacks from 2013:

20. Duct Tape Parenting was translated into Spanish!

19. Parenting On Track Officially became Vicki Hoefle – Parent Educator, Speaker, & Author on Facebook.

18. Vicki was a featured expert in September’s Better Homes and Gardens Issue in the  article, “The 4th R, Resilience!”

17. We all discovered How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps

16. We got an update on the Head Shaving Incident.

15. We discovered a hilarious moment of ZEN.

14. We witnessed more repaired relationships. “One (of the many) reasons I absolutely LOVE parent coaching is the opportunity to witness the moment when a discouraged mother realizes she and her adolescent daughter will be close again.” – Vicki

13. We had our first Skatepark Session!  Parenting Workshop at Talent Skatepark

12.  Many of us shared a few smiles at last spring’s Duct Tape Parenting Presentation in BTV:

11. This fantastic satire stuck with us:   Warped Childhood, Restoration Hardware Style.

10. Duct Tape Parents continued to be thrilled with their children’s interest and willingness to participate.

9. This mom QUIT HER JOB as the MAID in a very creative way:

8. Parents continued to invite their children to participate – see this fan’s kiddo, who is an expert shopper.

7.  Who remembers this Portlandia Parenting Advice?

6. We added more Duct Tape Moments (please share yours!)

5.  Flockmother’s Blog- we hope to see more inspiration in 2014!

4.  Did you get the chance to see this? It’s adorable! An Open Letter to Moms from Kid President

3. Ha! In 2013, it was crucial to remember to  Worry About Yourself!

2.Who didn’t LOVE LOVE these Kid Quotables via Flockmother

1. Yes, we’re biased but thinking kids are messy (and slightly weird but that’s a-ok).

Podcast: Offering Children Choices

challengeyourIn this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about offering our children choices.

Children require years of practice in making choices. Giving them the opportunity to practice early can lead to happier, more resilient and independent children.

Listen below and learn more. Let us know something new you learned about giving your children choices! We’d love to hear from you.

Let’s All Get Along with Appreciations

appreciateA Podcast with Vicki Hoefle

In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about appreciations.

Parents often ask, “How do I get my kids to be nice to each other?” or “How do I get my kids to stop fighting?”

The truth is whatever you are currently doing, probably stops the action and creates some sort of compliance – momentarily. Really parents want more than kids who just get along. Parents want kids who treat each other with respect, compassion, empathy and understanding.

Listen below and learn how to let your kids know how truly special they are to you.

To Bribe or Not to Bribe? No Question.

Treating Human BeingsIt took me three separate visits to the article in the New York Times Opinion Page, posted on October 28, 2013 in order to finish reading the article. At the end of each section, I hit the delete button and swore I wouldn’t read any more. But then I wondered – maybe there is an a-ha moment later in the article, and so I went back to read more. There was no a-ha moment, just an unabashedly boastful proclamation about one author’s use of bribes and rewards to manipulate her children.

I can’t really describe how upsetting and confusing this article is for me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this kind of article creates a real buzz out there in the world, just look at all the comments. But to paint such a disparaging picture of your own children and then share it with the world to what – boost subscriber-ship or ignite a fire storm of controversy? I have to be honest, I just do not get it. Here is what I find so distasteful about this article.

1. I am a mother who has raised 5 children. I can not for the life of me understand how a mother could show such little faith in her children’s innate desire to learn, master their environment, and contribute to the world in positive ways

Oh sure, I know kids have long moments of apathy, disinterest and being less than cooperative, but for the most part, when a supportive parent provides a nurturing environment, kids get about the business of learning, mastery and contribution with very little coaxing from anyone.

And I wonder, when her children are older, what they will think of this article and the lack of faith their mom had in them. Maybe they will understand and accept that it was her job or that she didn’t really mean what she wrote, but I have found, that you never know how a child is going to interpret a parent’s intention and I am not sure I would be willing to risk what is at stake here.

2. Does she really believe there will be a moment when her children no longer depend on bribes and rewards to do the unpleasant tasks we are all required to do as adults? Or are we, the unsuspecting public going to have to pay for her unwillingness to help her kids learn that sometimes, whether you like it or not, things need to be done and most people don’t care whether you do them with a smile or a pout on your face. That choice is entirely up to you.

It seems her kids are missing out on a few critical skills that would make their adult lives far more rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying. But again, maybe teaching those skills is someone else’s job.

3. And finally, I shudder to think how many other parents will be influenced by her position and subscribe to the idea that bribing and rewarding children in order to manipulate them and make their lives easier is a reasonable proposition, and forget, that these kids are the future leaders of the free world. Maybe she doesn’t hold high hopes that her kids will have the grit, mental muscle or interest in becoming leaders who lead by example.

I’m not really sure what the purpose of this article was – except maybe to piss a lot of us off, in which case, I think it worked brilliantly. But beyond that, I can’t see that it offers any real value to a parenting conversation that supports any of us in our effort to raise more thoughtful, resilient, responsible and respectful human beings.

Help Women at Risk

A Minimalist Parenting Fundraiser to Help Women of Ethiopia

Parents and friends, as the holiday season swiftly approaches, I ‘d like to share a gift idea that will give back:

Between October 1-31, my friends Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest — co-authors of Minimalist Parenting — are donating 100% of royalties for books purchased  to WOMEN AT RISK, an Ethiopian organization that helps women lift themselves out of prostitution.

Also Note: If you choose to blog and promote, there are 50 copies of Minimalist Parenting to share with those who share this fundraiser (you’re welcome to keep the book or give it away).
Once you blog, let the ladies know by sharing your link + shipping information using this form.  See more here.

Join us! #HelpWomenAtRisk by purchasing Minimalist Parenting using this special Amazon link:

About Women At Risk

Women At Risk is an organization that helps Ethiopian women lift themselves out of prostitution by providing them with practical support, job training, and viable employment. Mocha Club is a US-based non-profit partner of Women At Risk; the very amazing fashionABLE accessories company (which we had the honor of visiting while in Ethiopia) is the result of a collaboration between Mocha Club and Women At Risk. Mocha Club will process our donation to Women At Risk. Find out more at