All posts in Independence, Character Traits & Values

Rick Ackerly Resources

11 reasons- ackerly (This post in reference to last weekend’s Rick Ackerly workshop. You can find great links to articles and posts, below).

Teachers, educators at any level, caregivers, education majors, counselors and parents are invited to come together for a life changing workshop that will help build a better home-school connection.

Here are 11 reasons why you should attend THIS WEEKEND’s event in Burlington, VT.

  1. You want to build a strong, trusting relationship with your child’s teacher.
  2. You want to foster life long learning (via internal motivation).
  3. You want to avoid over commitment to external motivators.
  4. You want to have the courage to say “my kid can handle this.”
  5. You want to encourage mistakes and failures and learn how to fold them into your child’s educational experience.
  6. You want to learn the best way to SUPPORT your child with homework and schoolwork without hovering or interfering.
  7. You want to understand to goal of education and where to focus.
  8. You want to recognize the joy of education.
  9. You want to understand the role of teacher, parent and school in an effective education environment.
  10. You want to support the genius in your own child.
  11. You want  to show your child you trust him or her to become an independent, motivated, cooperative learner.

Bonus: It’s AUTUMN in VT.





Average Kids Kick Ass

kickass1Because they freakin’ do!

I’ve been taking a lot of heat lately for suggesting that for the most part, we are all raising “average” kids.  That it is unlikely there will be 100’s of Vermont kids (or kids from any other state) that go on to live exceptional lives doing exceptionally satisfying work that is sure to impact the world in some significant way.  It is far more likely, that the vast majority of kids will grow up to be average, everyday individuals who construct lives that they either find satisfying or lives that leave them feeling resentful that they aren’t satisfied with the life they were expecting to live.

I know what parents are thinking when I tell them they will probably raise average kids — “She doesn’t know MY child.  MY child is, in fact, exceptional, special, better than….”.  Maybe, but I doubt it.

After I ruffle feathers, I go on to ask “So what’s wrong with average?  When did being average become a bad thing?”  I’m average, my kids are average, most of my friends are average, most of my family members are average.  And we seem to be doing okay.

I’ll go on record now as saying that when I was pregnant with Hannah, 25 years ago, I prayed for an average child.  Not too cute, not too smart, not too athletic.  Just average.  Do you know why?  Because I think average kids have a better shot at creating a meaningful life for themselves.  After all, no one is paying attention to them.  No one has unrealistic expectations for them.  I think kids who really are exceptional in some way, may have challenges that few of us recognize, because, well, we are average.

I believe that average people, who work their fannies off, and accept that life is full of ups and down and believe that the universe is conspiring for (ALL of) our happiness, have a leg up on those who think they are exceptional.  Imagine the pressure to maintain your exceptional status.  Yikers.

Maybe besides being average, we are simple.  The truth is, I am happy a good portion of my life.  Even when things suck, I can be happy. My kids are happy. Believe me there have been times in their lives when things sucked.  But in spite of that, they were happy growing up and still are happy as twenty-somethings out there navigating the world on their own.

Happiness, connection to self and others, a strong work ethic, enjoyment in the simple things is far more important to me then being exceptional, special or as a my friend Cindy Pierce says “precious”.  I want average kids who kick ass.

My grandfather used to say, “Work harder than everyone else for less pay.”

I like that.  It fits with my idea of life.  I taught my kids this value.  From the time they applied for their first jobs, most of them at age 10 and certainly when they hit the job market at 14-years-old, they were taught to work harder than anyone else and never to expect anything more than the guy working beside them. When they got older I included these pearls of wisdom “from 18-years-old to 28-years-old you will, in all likelihood be eating Top Ramen, living in ratty apartments, shared with people who are complete slobs, commuting for 90 minutes one way, to jobs that are less than fulfilling.  This is the path you must travel so at 29-years-old you have the skills and experience, wisdom and patience, tenacity and insight to actually create a life that has meaning to you and for you in a job you find exciting, stimulating and satisfying.  It isn’t going to happen any other way, kids.  So buckle up and get ready for the ride.”

And all five of them will tell you that this is the truth.  And yet, for all that “tough love” talk, they are thriving and truly enjoying this rough part of the journey.  As they say, it builds character.

So when I got the 35th email with the link to this article sent to me, I decided maybe it was the universe suggesting I write about it and share a few of my thoughts. I don’t care so much about special or exceptional.

  •  I care that my kids love their lives as young adults when so many other young adults are really struggling to make sense of the world.
  • I love that my kids love each other, take care of each other and include each other in their lives.
  • I love that my kids call, text, skype, IM me when there is something exciting to share both good and bad.
  • I have a front row seat to their lives, because I can be counted on to sit quietly until I am asked to become an active participant.

So I guess what I am saying is this: I will take average any day of the week.  Anybody else out there feeling okay about average?

Thinking Kids > Zombie Kids

thinking kids can do for themselvesWe’ve all encountered a zombie kid—you know, that do-as-you’re-told fellow with textbook manners, neat clothing, exquisite restraint, sticky sweet personality with entirely nothing to say for himself.

Sure, he’s compliant, he’ll follow orders, never talk back but he’s definitely not learning to challenge the world around him. Of course, it’s not his fault, he’s been trained to be a “great” kid (and yes, we all want great kids) but there’s something missing in this child’s life:

the ability to think, to choose and to do for himself.

Bottom line? A zombie kid will do as he’s told. At first thought, that seems great! Why encourage your child to think for himself (we already know how messy thinking kids can be) when you already know what’s best?

Here’s why: Because, eventually, that little zombie will have to either make his own choice, or go along with the crowd and although this may not be concerning when you’re living with a 2, 5, or 7 year old, it can be damn alarming when you’re living with a 13 year old.

Raising a thinking child takes effort and when you consider the alternative, it’s worth doing whatever it takes to ensure your child is navigating their own life according to their values, their preferences and their interests.

In other words a kid who practices making choices when they are little, will be strong enough to make smart, thoughtful, and skillful choices later. They will also know how to take responsibility for those choices, good, bad, or indifferent. And when amends are in order they’ll be willing to make them.

So, the next time your child is willing to make a choice around clothing, shoes, food, baseball, piano lessons, ballet, or anything else for that matter, stop and ask yourself, “Is this a chance for me to let my child choose?” Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure is worth a moment of reflection.

How to Raise Independent Children

thinking-kids-messyParents are so immersed in the day-to-day challenge of juggling work, family and kids – they can (often unknowingly) find themselves doing great disservice to their children in an honest attempt to simply make things easier and more efficient – for everyone. While this might be easier in the moment, it is undeniably detrimental to the emotional health of our children – not to mention the relationship we are building with them.

If we want to raise independent children – thinking kids- who are resilient decision-makers, we must:

  • provide them with abundant opportunities to practice making decisions
  • allow them to make mistakes
  • step back and let them solve problems
  • recognize progress, celebrate success

If we want to raise independent children – thinking kids- who have a strong sense of belonging within the family and a deep sense of self worth out in the world, we must:

  • maintain an environment that is respectful and inclusive
  • trust children as they learn how to manage their lives
  • invite them to be part of the entire process- from planning to practice to celebration to discovery

If we want to raise independent children – thinking kids- who learn through challenges- then we cannot:

  • micro-manage every aspect of their life – after all, kids learn by experience
  • decide what’s best for them all the time
  • save them from all heartache, discomfort and embarrassment
  • force, steer, beg and coerce them into compliance
  • tie our value (as parents) to the decisions our children make (in otherwords, we cannot make parenting decisions that are rooted in how we look and have nothing to do with our children at all! Example: If he doesn’t do the homework, the teacher thinks I don’t care. Therefore, I nag, remind, lecture and put it in his backpack for him.)

Share your thinking kid stories on our facebook wall!

Using Natural Consequences…

natural consequences To Teach Life Lessons

Parents often say, I understand what natural consequences are (by definition), but it’s unclear how to use them as a parenting strategy.

Let’s start here: The Definition of Natural Consequences:

Natural Consequences are the natural responses to a child’s choice with NO parental involvement.

What Natural Consequences Look Like:

Natural consequences can be feedback of any kind (positive or negative) from the environment, peers, learning materials, physical activities, etc. These can be anything from physical discomforts to challenging situations to problematic scenarios to surprise outcomes that naturally steer a child toward making more informed choices and identifying personal preferences.

What is the Purpose in Allowing for Natural Consequences? 

The ultimate purpose is to encourage children to make choices/decisions (responsible or not) without forcing, guiding, steering, correcting, influencing or coaxing a child into submission. When a child makes a poor decision (and the parents stay out of it), the child has the OPPORTUNITY to learn from the consequence, gain new information and is in a position to choose differently the next time. Likewise, when they make choices that work for them, they are in a position to learn and to make the same choice again.

natural consequences

The Outcome:

Children practice and become efficient at assessing situations, making choices, learning through the consequence, reevaluating, planning for the next time and ultimately, making choices that move them closer to their goals in life.

The Barriers:

One of the biggest barriers is a parent who is unwilling to allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their choices because:

1. She is  worried what other people will think
2. He does not want his children to “feel bad,” or “be disappointed”
3. She believes it is HER job to make sure that her children are properly clothed, fed, prepared (school, sports, sleepovers, tests, homework, etc) and organized so they never forget anything.

If you are one of the parents caught behind such a barrier, I challenge you to evaluate this faulty belief system and recognize the effects this thinking can have on your child’s self esteem. Natural consequences build resiliency, confidence, decision-making skills and prepare children to handle what life throws their way.

A motto to keep in mind: Believe in your children before they believe in themselves.

The Benefits:

  • Long-term learning that leaves the child with a sense of fairness and empathy
  • Less fighting and power struggling
  • Meaningful discovery of how the world works and your child’s role in that world
  • A growing sense of confidence and self-assured-ness in your child with each challenge / achievement



Sh*t Thinking Kids Can Do

shitThinking kids bring problem solving, skill practice, ingenuity and enthusiasm to the table when it comes to contributions, chores, work, cooperation and preparation. But hey, why tell you when we can show you? (Thank you to all the parents who have sent these in and/or shared them with us! We love sharing them with other families as a source of inspiration). Note: all of these tasks are safe and age appropriate after  the child shown has been trained and proven proper use and handling! You can always show your thinking kid photos on our Facebook wall.

Click to view our Thinking Kids Pinterest Board!

The Messiest Week of Your Life

On Tuesday March 19th, you’re invited to ask Vicki Hoefle YOUR questions about surviving and thriving through

the Messiest Week of Your Life: Do Nothing Say Nothing.


In Vicki Hoefle’s book, Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising Responsible, Respectful and Resilient Kids, parents are encouraged to participate in an activity in which they DO NOTHING & SAY NOTHING (literally) for 5 days. During this time period, parents are asked to observe what their children can, can’t or will not do on their own. Not surprisingly, most parents discover the house turns to a pigsty, kids lose and forget a variety of items, stress increases and the general feelings of chaos set in quickly.

On the other hand, many parents (once they let go and commit) pleasantly find themselves on a vacation from power struggles, arguments, micromanaging, nagging and so forth. Despite the mess- this is usually a very nice feeling for parents once they have permission to just ZIP IT . Similarly, parents uncover something else: natural consequences, children’s undiscovered abilities, and conflict resolutions suddenly appear in the absence of a micrmanaging mom or dad. This surprising shift provides the welcomed beacon of hope that this may, after all be worth it! And it is. But first you have to survive it, right? That’s why you want to REGISTER FOR THE WEB EVENT!

The “Less is More” Approach Takes Work!

Many parents have discovered that this experiment is far more difficult than envisioned. In theory, it sounds easy to Do Nothing, Say Nothing–but is it? Heck NO. That’s why we’re here for YOU. This is your journey and Vicki will provide answers to your QUESTIONS.

Hang in there if you’re stuck. Listen and ask your questions. At the end of this, you’ll have a better understanding of what to do next, why it’s ok that the house looks like a bomb went off (see below) and how this is GOOD for you and your family.


AFTER Brother Shaved Her Head…



Highlight for mom:  Because she chose to “duct tape” her reactions, she enhanced the relationship with her child. She let the lesson run its course, and her daughter accepted the “natural consequences” of shaving her head!

Highlight for Lily:  Well, it was “fun” having her brother buzz it, but “it didn’t turn out how she expected.” She then discovered hair grows back in “sprouts” and she had the chance to ponder what she would do differently next time.

Here’s the original #ducttapemoment:

Allowance: 15 Ways Kids Can Rock…

a Healthy Relationship with Money

kids and allowance: 15 ways to build a relationship with moneyOver the last few posts, we covered reasons and helpful basics on giving kids allowance and money. In our final post on this topic (for awhile anyway!), we wanted to give a few helpful tips to make the process smooth and steady so that you can stay consistent, organized and help your kids grow ever more confident and comfortable with managing their funds. Some of these recap what we’ve already mentioned, while others are logistical “tips” to stay on track!

Giving Kids an Allowance: Relation$hip Builders

  1. Give them an allowance ($1 per year)
  2. When they ask you for something simply reply, “Yes, did you bring your money?”
  3. Open up a bank account when they are old enough
  4. Give your tween / teen a bank / debit card and teach them online banking.
  5. Have your children help you balance your checkbook.
  6. Discuss purchases and ask questions about do you think it’s worth this amount? Get them thinking!
  7. Stay calm and collected if your child wants to buy an outrageous item.
  8. Encourage vs. lecturing or steering. For example, “Hey, in just a few weeks you’ll have enough if you decide you want it.” (vs. You don’t have enough money- remember you bought that toy and spent it all?).
  9. Talk to your children about what charities you give to or help them give to charity.
  10. Encourage selling their old toys or working “jobs” if they want to put more money in their wallet. Once they realize how much an extra $10 will help them, they get creative.
  11. Hold family meetings at the same time each week- be consistent!
  12. In order to stay on schedule, get 100 $1 bills, keep them in a family meeting box for “more convenient” handing out.
  13. Plan for trip ups- ask the kids to list things that might happen to derail family meetings/ $hand out (soccer games, parties, etc) and have a plan b – let them develop it!
  14. Let the kids choose where to keep their money “safe” – some might discover that trash bag was a bad idea- it’s ok.
  15. Don’t worry about it once it’s in their hands. Trust the learning

Got Kids and Money PICS? Show us on our Facebook wall!


11 Benefits of Giving Allowance

allowanceThere’s little argument at this point that handling money as a child will prepare you for handling money as a young adult and eventually, as an adult. Great. But what exactly- as in literally- do the benefits of giving allowance look like? Why is it such a valuable commitment?
Well, imagine for a moment, that you have been giving your children money each week from the time they were four years old and each week they were encouraged to make decisions about the money. Imagine if you handed over the gift buying power, the junk food buying power, the cheap “crap” purchasing power, and so forth. Imagine if you allowed your child to experience the frustration when she didn’t have enough money to go out with friends, buy the perfect jeans or pay for her car payments. If you can imagine these lessons during childhood, you can imagine her respect for money heading into the real world.

The Benefits of Giving Allowance (Why it’s worth the inconvenience of getting cash and handing it out!)

  1. Kids, at an early age learn the true value of money. As in, what can I buy for one dollar? $100?
  2. They discover what money can and can not do (happiness is not in the box you waited all month to buy, only to forget about a week later).
  3. They learn the “real” way how hard it is to save money and how easy it is to spend money.
  4. Kids develop a keen ability to assess what purchases are really important to them and which they can do without. (They’ll eventually say things like, NO. NOT WORTH IT… and walk away).
  5. Kids discover things about themselves- Am I a saver? Am I a spender? When will that benefit me? When will it not?
  6. Kids who buy their own things, DO NOT expect the adults around them to buy them stuff. In fact, they stop asking.
  7. Kids learn to negotiate, barter and work together. (i.e. If one kid only has 15 bucks and his brother pitches in five, you bet they come up with creative reimbursement plans!).
  8. Kids who carry their cash grow independent. There is no need to ask mom or wonder what she’ll say or how to sweet talk her (note: no fits because the answer is yes if the child has money). The child simply walks over, and decides if he wants to purchase or not.
  9. Kids who make mistakes with their money have learned the good old fashioned hard way money has value, it can go away and with time, you can earn it back– financial resiliency is valuable.
  10. Kids who spend enough time practicing also have time to understand- and make a judgement that sometimes, it’s ok to say– it’s only money– and there are things more important than a wad full of ones.
  11. And finally, as a result of their experience with money, kids develop a strong work ethic and an appreciation for everything you provide.

Also, it’s Good to Note

Kids learn to keep their money safe, lend it to those they trust and how to make interest in inventive ways. (As in, hey, I’ll buy you a donut if you pay me back – plus extra).


Allowance: Don’t Wing It

kids, money and allowanceKids and money are often a confusing combination. Ask any parent their “allowance” process and I bet you’ll find one of two responses:

  1. They don’t have a solid system and they’re wildly inconsistent and/or winging it. (Is this you? You’re not alone!)
  2. They have a system that “works” and  they’ll happily give you all the inside info on how to give your kids an allowance.In either case, it doesn’t matter.

Why? Because in order for you to implement a successful system, you must first ask YOURSELF key questions about your family’s relationship with money. You can’t find the guidance you seek until you understand how money plays out in YOUR family’s day to day routine. (Plus, just because a system technically “works” it doesn’t mean it will transfer over to YOUR family and it may not be teaching the healthiest relationship with money.)

Start Fresh

If you’re a parent without a system and your brain is filled with confusion, I give you unsolicited permission to TOSS all the advice you’ve been given and start from ground zero.

If you have a system, I’d ask you to look at the lessons it’s teaching and see if there are changes you can make to further develop a healthy relationship with money. (If you’re on track, then continue on!).

The Point?

Each family (including YOURS) will have a unique relationship with money. This basic information is often overlooked but it is valuable! Knowing your family’s relationship to money tells you where you’re starting from, what your values are, and will give you the means to measure progress. In order to pick up and start from where you are, it’s important to stop and ask yourself These 4 Valuable Questions:

  1. “What kind of relationship do my children have with money right now?”
  2. “Do my children expect me to buy them everything they want?”
  3. “What’s stopping me from allowing them to take over responsibility for their own money?”
  4. “How many years do I have left to help guide my children towards a healthy relationship with money before they leave my house?”

Once you answer these, you’ll begin to see how an allowance process can benefit your family, how much time you’ll need to get in the routine and most importantly how to ID YOUR role in the experience.

Parents, how are you feeling about your allowance routine? Have you stopped to ask these questions? Leave a comment or discuss it on our Facebook wall


Podcast: Kids, Money & Ron Lieber

lieber-podcast-300x222Today’s blog post features a practical, insightful podcast with Ron Lieber, “Your Money” columnist for The New York Times.

In this conversation, we talk about his new book, due out in 2014 titled The Opposite of Spoiled.Ron shared the premise of the book and his unique take on how parents can combine teaching kids about finances with the development of strong character traits ensuring they don’t end up in the spoiled category. His ideas were fascinating and I walked away with an arsenal of ideas I’ll be sharing with parents with young kids.I encourage you to not only listen to the podcast, but to follow Ron on Facebook where he will be sharing this adventures in writing his book with his readers.

You can also follow him on twitter  or visit his website. Add this to another resource in the case for training kids to be independent!

Click to Listen–> Parenting Strategy: Give your Kids Money & Cultivate Values with Ron Lieber


Go to the Principal’s Office

go to the principal officeThis time of year, parents are always chatting about “how to talk to teachers” and “what to do” about communication between the home, the school and the child.

Having been in the trenches myself with five kids, I understand that moms and dads alike worry about how to make the school year a success for everyone – and that means sometimes focusing on keeping things neat and tidy and ensuring the kids don’t draw too far outside the lines, so to speak. Other times, however, it doesn’t really matter if they stay in the lines or go waaaay off the paper. This is their time to let the colors fly. So…

When parents ask for my advice on this topic, I say:

Here’s what I did…take it or leave it, but it’s not about getting through safe, clean and unruffled.

Are you ready for this?

I told each of the kids that if they didn’t get sent to the principal’s office at least once each year, they weren’t living dangerously enough. I said, go ahead-it’s your life and I trust you’ll figure it out. I gave them the green light to try something that rocked the boat just a little. And then I stepped back. (Yes! I said that.)

Why Would I Do This?

Here is why. I wanted them to take a chance, voice their opinion, stick up for a kid being embarrassed by a teacher, skip a class to help a friend, stay at play practice late in lieu of of completing the science project perfectly. In other words, I wanted them to do something outside the lines and rock the boat just a bit. So my kids weren’t afraid of making mistakes, getting in trouble and they were familiar with the folks in the office and had empathy for the tikes who were sent there on a regular basis.

What Happened?

Big surprise that as we entered the last month of school, not a one (well maybe one) hadn’t seen the inside of the principals office and were feeling a bit panicked about it. Good problem to have, right?

So, What Do YOU Do with This Information?

Whatever you want. You can say, gee…I’m so glad you said this- if Vicki can do it, so can I. Or, if it’s too extreme, you can say well, gee no thanks BUT I’d be willing to tell the teachers a few basic bits to help foster independence, choice and mistakes without encouraging a trip to the principal! *Gasp* …

And the Point?

The point is, it doesn’t matter what you decide, as long as you have a plan that works for your child and the only way you can make a plan is to know who you are as a parent (print the Duct Tape Parent Pledge- hand it to the teacher if it helps!) and what it will take for your child to learn (and by learn, not just “submitting work on time, doing homework and sitting quietly). The truth is, when you set out on school adventures, you don’t really know what it will take for your child to develop a true sense of self so why not let the messes fly (if you keep it too tidy, they’ll miss out on their own problem solving!).

Big Picture Thinking, AKA The 10,000 Foot View

With all the fuss over hover parents and school safety (yes, safety is important but I’m talking excess precaution, like no more cartwheels!? too dangerous?– sheesh) – anyway- with this “panic button” thinking permeating our schools, teachers are up against no discomfort for my kid mentality but if they know where you stand on these issues, and that you are likely to support them (and that in fact, you are encouraging your kids to take a few reasonable risks) you will have created an alliance with the teacher. And, it’s likely that the teacher will begin to see your child with new eyes. Eyes that reflect your goals for your child – independence, curiosity, engagement, social justice, etc.

If you’re clear up front in the first meeting with the teacher, you will all be able to relax a bit more.  It’s a win/win.

8 Thoughts, “Nuggets” or Un-Advice

1. Keep in mind, you are both in this together.

2. Define what you both want for your child at the end of the school year.

3. Pick / encourage things other than academic success as measurement for learning.

4. Talk specifically about some other participation angle like citizenship, or an area your child struggles in like organization. Stay on SOLUTIONS vs. problems.

5. Tell the teacher what your goals are for your child – to raise a thinking, engaged, curious, empathetic, courageous child. Don’t get crazy. Keep it simple.

6. Design a plan for talking with the teacher about the progress and improvement you would want to see during the year and how you will support the child.

7. Get clear about how each of you will deal with the child’s mistakes, forgotten homework etc., so there are no misunderstanding and expectations are clear.

8. Send notes of appreciation to the teacher at least once a month or at the end of a specific “unit”.

Let us know what you think or keep us updated on YOUR teacher-parent communications!

Got Kids? Free Range ’em!

lenore-podcastMany of you know Lenore Skenazy because of the story she wrote about her 9 year old son riding the subway and the firestorm that resulted. Now, after writing the book, Free Range Kids and beginning a movement to help restore balance and order to this thing we call child-rearing, Lenore is the star of her own TV series (not shown in the US unfortunately). In each episode, Lenore helps parents reframe their ideas on what their kids can do, and then helps alleviate some of their anxieties and fears when it comes to letting their kids participate more fully in their own lives.

The interview with Lenore was a treat. She is quick, funny and she provided listeners with 3 powerful tips on how to make the shift from a hovering and controlling style to a more Free Range or Less is More Approach to parenting and brings the joy back into your life with kids.

I won’t spoil the fun by sharing the tips and truthfully, no one says it as well as Lenore. Enjoy this robust conversation with one of my hero’s – Lenore Skenazy (sounds like crazy – her word, not mine).

Listen to Podcast here.

Zip it. For the Kids’ Sake

mom-and-dad2Ahoy parents! The tides are changing. Parents, educators, experts and obviously, the kids, have finally come to accept that the entire “over-parenting” approach to raising kids, just isn’t working out. All that structured time? All those heroic homework rescues? All that frenzied energy spent mapping the perfect childhood? Well, it’s all a waste of valuable time and energy. As a mom of five, who didn’t have the luxury to waste time or energy, I was committed to finding an approach to parenting that made more sense for myself and for the kids I was responsible for raising.

Madeline Levine and Faulty Logic

Among experts who are beginning to challenge the over-parenting, over involved approach is expert, Madeline Levine. Levine uses the term faulty logic and states, over-parenting isnt doing what we think it’s doing” and I couldn’t agree more. The question then becomes, so why the heck are so many parents STILL hovering, over protecting, micro-managing, controlling and over stepping their boundaries as parents? And even more curious and relevant than that question is, What the heck can a parent do instead?

Lenore Skenazy on WHY Are Parents Still Hovering

As Lenore Skenazy shares with her readers week after week, fear is being pushed at parents from all sides.

  • Let them play outside? Social services.
  • Let them draw with chalk? Fined.
  • Let them ride their bikes? Jail.

This fear-based thinking which leads to over-protection and micro-managing is easy to adopt (often unintentionally), when parents find they are floating in a current that sweeps them into a sea of worst case scenarios.

The other fear that plays into this hovering approach weighs on parents who are afraid that if they let go, just a little, the family and their kids will fall apart. These parents worry that they’ll look like “bad parents” or they’ll get the hairy eyeball from strangers for the decision to step back a bit and give the kids some breathing room.

In spite of these fears, and many others, parents are re-thinking their approach to parenting and finding ways to show more trust in their kids’ abilities to navigate their lives and rebound from disappointments, frustrations and failures completing a very valuable learning process. For helicopter types though, admitting and working through their own fears takes courage. Those ”what-ifs” and worst cases can pile high and push even the most committed parent back to safer ground.

Like any change, stepping back and taking a less is more approach to parenting takes time, patience and support, so offer a hand and a bit of encouragement when you see someone ready to abandon the hyper-parenting ship for a more satisfying approach to raising great kids!

What Can Mom and Dad Do Instead of Hovering?

If you’re still tempted to hover and you’re looking for a replacement response, you can, for your kids’ sake do one thing: train yourself to refrain. 

Literally, do less. Say less. Interfere less. Thats it!

Stepping back and giving your kids some breathing room isn’t the same as not caring about their safety.  It is a matter of balancing your concern with the reality that in most cases, your kids will be fine.  Instead of worrying about the worst case outcomes, take some time , and give your children the chance to show up and practice (and fail) at their own lives. I used Duct Tape (hence the name of my book!) to keep my mouth shut and my bossy, dictating ways at bay.

  • You may be a saver, so next time, sit.
  • You may be a comforter, so next time, stay.
  • You might be a nagger, so next time, zip it.

It’s not always a valiant course toward independence, but kids learn their own lessons every time we allow natural consequences to do the teaching for us and we refrain from saying “I told you so”.

Remember, our kids don’t need us nearly as much as we think they do (or want them to) and we don’t need to teach every lesson. Our job is to guide without control and to respond to them as the world would. Remember, bribing, begging and giving-in won’t train kids to become resilient adults. Keep this in mind and your decision to sit, stay & zip it will be much easier (even if it comes with the occasional hairy eyeball!)

Spoiled Child? Quit as the Maid

Today’s parents are not just “helicopter parents…They are a jet-powered turbo attack model.-Hara Estroff Marano- Author, Nation of Wimps

By now, you’ve probably heard of “helicopter parenting” and all its over-protective qualities like: hovering, correcting,doing-for, helping, etc.

For the sake of this post, let’s not end the list there- let’s be thorough and include a lot of chopper noise, see the pic below!

The classic ‘helicopter parent’ is far more than a hoverer – a helicopter parent is the maid, the chef, the chauffeur, the agent, the coach — all of it wrapped in the guise of one overprotective, loving parent.


The Good News: We Know it’s a Problem and We’re Looking for Change

Luckily, there IS good news: slowly and steadily, we are recognizing this is not turning out well for our kids OR the future of our society. In the recent article, Spoiled Rotten Why do kids rule the roost? by Elizabeth Kolbert, Kolbert looks at several books, authors and research that support this point: kids who aren’t contributing to their own lives, let alone the community, are turning out ill prepared for the real world (and in short:spoiled). Translation to well meaning parents everywhere: you’re NOT really doing anything for your child when you literally “do everything” for your child!

I Get the Problem, What is the Solution?

Those of us who are stepping back see this problem written in in bright lights across the sky. What’s not so easy to see? The solution! Parents may know with every ounce of reason that they SHOULD not raise a spoiled child but they run into this:

So then what? What do I do? How DO I let go? Where do I start? Or what might I already be doing that I want to keep doing to increase my child’s independence?

Once the wheels start spinning, it’s often, to the frustration of the parent, nowhere fast.


Yep, that’s it. Just quit. But before you toss the apron on the ground, you have to mentally be ready:

  1. to see messes,
  2. to watch the kids meltdown w/ new routine
  3. to stay patient and
  4. to teach them how to do their own stuff.

Once you’re ready mentally, then you can totally and completely quit being the maid. Instead, you’ll be one of many “contributors” to the family vs. the one running around keeping everything together, neat, orderly and within reach.

As you get started, remember:

  • Start early (ideally)
  • Invite vs. demand
  • Take time for training
  • Be consistent!

(Stay tuned for more HOW TO and WHY BOTHER resources to keep it moving forward.)

If It’s That Easy, Why Am I STILL EMPLOYED?

Ha! There are two things that keep even the most well-intentioned parents wearing that perfect little apron:

ONE: We make little excuses, which are really just myths (we’ll get deep into this habit in Duct Tape Parenting)

TWO: We don’t take the time. It’s not a quick fix so yes, it takes a bit of time to get into the groove. But nobody really says, gee, it’s worth it. So, I’m telling you now: GEEEEE, it’s worth it!

Vicki Hoefle on WCAX, BTV — Quit your job as the maid!

Sold, So What Will IT Look Like?

Once you quit being the maid- the one who cleans, preps, sweeps, stuffs, packs, checks on, and keeps the house moving (think Alice from the Brady Bunch!), you’ll be able to do this:

  • have coffee in bed while the kids get themselves out the door, leaving you more mental space for what matters
  • chat casually (and stay emotionally available) while your six year old unloads the dishes
  • not sweat when guests come over because the kids know what to do (if they haven’t done it yet, you won’t feel guilty!)
  • encourage the kids to find solutions vs. YOU finding all the solutions (and running in circles to keep people happy)
  • celebrate the progress as your kids gain independence and confidence with each task
  • see connections to the contributions IN the family to their success OUTSIDE the family
  • notice resiliency, respect and responsibility grow as you remain consistent, calm and cool about quitting!

Remind Me Why I Should Do This Again

Happily. Here’s the situation: parents who over protect and pad their children from hard work, consequences, the judgement of others, and physical bumps and bruises are ultimately interfering with their child’s independence. I’m not making this up: the books, articles and research on this fact is astounding– and it’s everywhere. We have to…HAVE TO get “new thinking” about what it means to raise our children as a society!

If these children are to be future leaders, sheep howdy, they should learn to wash their socks, clean their own toilets and own their own messes. If they don’t get the gift of trial and error, oopsies and what ifs while they are young, the real world – you know the one WE live in– will not be a very welcoming place. It will be a harsh reality check, and quite frankly, any child who has not developed resiliency, independence and personal judgment, will not enjoy the experience very much. Our job is to get them prepared for the world, not protect them from the world until the day we throw them into it!

5 Ways to End Public Shaming

No matter what you believe, or what style of parenting you are using to raise your kids — Attachment, Tiger, Free Range, Feminist, or anything else — now is the time for each of us, as parents, grandparents and educated adults – to come together against one big parenting trend that has no philosophical relevance or psychological benefit. It’s time to take a simple, straight forward stance on this latest shaming and humiliating children trend.

End The Trend Campaign

As I mentioned in the last post on this topic, it’s clear why this trend is not only a lousy idea, but harmful to children as individuals, harmful to the family as a whole and damaging to our communities. The goal here is to educate and provide a safe space for those who DO choose to abandon their support for this trend in search of a healthier discipline option.

Here are 5 things you can do today, to help bring awareness to this issue and to take an active role in changing it – and perhaps save one child from experiencing the devastating effects of humiliation at the hands of a parent.

It’s time for those of us who are appalled at these incidents, to do more than merely complain or judge. It’s time to take a stand.


If you’re going to blog about it or chat it out publicly, focus on what can be done to change the trend, not a running list of why these parents are “doing it wrong” or are “bad parents” Remember, parents are doing the best they can with the information they have. An attack on a parent will do two things:

a) Create a defensive parent who isn’t open to considering a new approach to parenting
b) Engage us in acts of cyberbullying against them, perpetuating the cycle.

Let’s stay away from play by play editorializing and instead, bring awareness to the unintended realities and effects of their actions. Remember, there is NO GOOD in making the parents feel guilty by SHAMING THEM for their choices and subsequent actions. Many will realize that their support for this trend was not in the child’s best interest. We want to encourage the NEW thinking not “punish” or “humiliate” them for their old thinking. Otherwise, we’d perpetuate the same cycle!


If you have the time, jump in with a comment that refers to objective, identifiable facts – that public shaming can rally up a mob mentality (one video mentions people were swearing at a child forced to wear a sign), affect the child’s dignity, leave an undesired effect on a child’s legacy, fracture the parent/child relationship, teach submission to a bully, degrade human spirit, and so on. Feel free to link back to valuable quotes on this thinking or our END THE TREND board on Pinterest.


Encourage people to take the Parenting On Track “End the Trend” pledge (or any other Pledge)! Tag yourself in any “END THE TREND” pic on our Facebook wall. Tell people about what’s going on and tirelessly link it back to the bullying/cyberbullying connection.

Nearly every parent on the street will say they don’t support bullying, but they haven’t made the connection that humiliating and shaming kids IS a form of bullying. Put it out there that shaming our kids is NOT “creative discipline”, it is bullying. Make the point that if teachers or employers decided to publicly shame students or employees, it would be a series of explosive, high profile HR complaints and obvious lawsuits. If we, as a society, accept one form of public shaming, we’re teaching that it is okay to bully one another! Again, make a statement, drop a link to a valuable site. (More resources coming your way).


Putting our focus and energy on learning how to develop mutually respectful relationships with our kids, instead of trying to “get the kids” to comply with our every demand, ensures that we will raise a generation of thoughtful, respectful, rational adults who will have the capacity to lead our communities and our country. The shaming trend is just another, more impulsive and detrimental version of every other “quick fix” strategy on the market meant to control kids into behaving in accordance with a parents expectations (sometimes reasonable, often times not)! Share this pin , attend a workshop, get informed.


Give people positive, thoughtful, realistic examples or insights that will shift their thinking. Share simple ideas and good information not only on the subject, but on the basic human value we all carry in this world. We’ve all been overwhelmed, we’ve all be embarrassed by something our kids did or said and we’ve all had moments of bewilderment when raising kids. That does not give us the right to shame and humiliate them and then to brag about it in cyberspace. There is a bigger picture here that get’s lost in the sensationalism of this topic. Find a way to elevate the collective thinking.

If you respect others, this is unarguably disrespectful. If you value mistakes as vehicles for growth, then you cannot value the public humiliation of those who make mistakes. If you want to teach children not to bully, then you cannot play the role of bully. Take it seriously as it’s very important as a society that we see the connection and educate those who do not.
Good luck and we’ve got your back!

Public Shaming of Kids = NOT OK

Respect will NEVER come From DisrespectThe trend that says it’s okay for parents to publicly shame and humiliate a child in order to get the desired results HAS GOT TO STOP.  Together, let’s end the trend of public humiliation, shame and humiliation parenting.

This is beyond just bad parenting. This is cruel. And I assure you, that not one of those parents out there supporting this new trend as reasonable would EVER let anyone else get away with treating them in such contemptible ways. But hey, that’s why we had kids right? …So we could take out our own personal issues on them by making them feel like nothing more than a second class citizen.

 I’m finally fired up. I don’t usually do this, and anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I steer clear of this kind of crap, but I am taking a stand.

The 10 Really Good Reasons Why Pubic Shaming (children holding signs, parents posting details on facebook walls, teachers displaying in classrooms, adults forcing kids to stand on street corners, etc). Is NEVER Ok:

1. Psychological Damage to the Child.

It is a child’s birthright to trust her parent, feel safe and to be treated with dignity and respect. For more on this topic visit

2. Long Term Effects on HER Legacy

Your child might be on honor roll or play a varsity sport- she might be a quiet artist or a big thinker, but none of that will matter when you are done shaming and humiliating her. Thanks to you and your efforts, she may forever be remembered as the girl whose mommy punished her publicly. And this is especially damaging in the middle of the socially formative years, which will no doubt affect her and her memories of childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.

Not to mention it will leave a very long lasting label that will make your child the topic of conversation and jokes LONG after you’ve taken the photo down or the sign has been tossed in the trash. (Basically, you’ll put your shadow on ALL the work she had done on her own to make her own identity). Remember, What you DO is not who you ARE. This applies to anyone age 1 – 99.

3. It’s a THUMBS UP to Bullying
If you’re about to do something that, when boiled down to it’s core, any child would be suspended for at school (ie, hijacking a facebook feed and posting in a humiliating way or forcing someone to wear a kick me I’m a stupid liar sign) then you’re about to bully. If 77% of parents think this is a good idea, you’ve just been enlightened as to why bullying is so rampant.

4. It says, “Sure, a Double Standard is reasonable.”
You’re basically endorsing the reality: I can do this to you, but nobody can do it to me. Basic golden rule here, folks- if your boss did this to you based on his personality and preference, he’d be sued in 30 seconds, fired and sent packing. You’d be devastated if you had to sit in your office lobby with a “I’m a liar” sign or “ask me about my HR case I’m working through right now.” Or what if a teacher re-introduced the dunce cap? Can we say LAW SUIT! Seriously?


Here’s the big picture: when a teenager rebels (shocker) and a parent acts far more juvenile and without any regard to how it might feel to be shamed in public, it sends a message far louder than the one intended. Most parents would say they’d like their child to have a sense of empathy, respect, and maturity as they grow- this is sure to get more of what you’re fighting against. Unless of course the child has been so defeated she yields or he checks out from the relationship entirely.

6. It’s Boot Camp Training for Submission.
Sure, your kid made YOU MAD. Now what happens when your child leaves the house and makes her boyfriend mad? Her husband mad? Would you want someone ELSE to publicly shame your child? By doing it yourself, you’re training the child to be submissive and accepting of humiliation. This can go nowhere but to a bad place. Look ahead to us as a society of second generation shamers!

7. Being a Parent does NOT mean automatic free pass to always being “Right!”
My first analytical thought when I read a headline like this, is well, what makes the parent RIGHT? There is little or no context for these headlines. Could these parents possibly have overreacted? Could they be manipulative? Fame junkies? Desperate for help and it’s about them? Willing to hurt their child over a bruised ego? Seeking childish revenge? Embarrassed that they look like a bad mother? They don’t trust their kids so the kids tried something rebellious anyway? Who KNOWS but it seems likely the motivators are parent focused (I WILL WIN, I WILL LOOK GOOD) vs. teaching the child, hey, “stealing is not acceptable.” Maybe the kid was acting out for the parent’s attention and instead, got thrown to the wolves, getting the parent off the hook from facing the bigger picture entirely. Not to mention (and trust me I see it in every workshop) parents may THINK they have the right to demand something they have not trained the child to do. This is completely unfair to the child.

8. Respect will NEVER come From Disrespect.
Most parents say their child did not “respect” them. You can’t humiliate a child to gain respect. You must RESPECT a child to gain respect. In fact, the only way to gain respect, is to give it. Otherwise, you’re gaining other forms of response like fear, submission, avoidance, compliance…but not true human respect. That’s parenting 101: you can’t yell / threaten / coerce a kid into respecting you or his siblings / teacher, etc. You have to respect the child and train children to respect each other. VERY DIFFERENT.

9. It Breeds MORE Unhealthy Five Minute Sessions of Fame
Let’s be honest, some people just want to shock and awe. And they go for it – and we feed into it. If we can stop shining a spotlight on the biggest, baddest most shocking and humiliating tactics, then we’re NOT looking out for the well being of the kids. Let’s focus back on what’s good for the kids, not fame producing for mom or dad.

10. It massively jeopardizes two BIG things: the future of the relationship and your child’s confidence to navigate the world.

If you choose to shame a child in front of peers or public, you run a very real risk of derailing the relationship you have with your child. He will replace you with others who say my way or nothing. It also hacks at the confidence your child takes into the world. If you screw up and mom takes you aside, that’s one thing. If you screw up (and kids DO screw up) and suddenly, you’re exposed to humiliation, it will shut down the drive to take a risk and make mistakes. Kids’ lives are already filled with natural consequences to teach valuable lessons via friends, teachers, coaches, etc.

If you, the key person they trust to help them navigate and learn from REAL mistakes, parades them around, it will not take long for them to take a backseat and let life steer. Shame stays with you and affects decisions down the road.

So, in all of this, I URGE you to pay attention and stand up against this socially acceptable bullying. Teens today have far too much responsibility ahead of them to be degraded to nothing and pushed down before they even leave the nest! While the logic behind it may seem reasonable, it’s NEVER okay to publicly shame a child. If we can bring this to light, we can change a major current of society, but it’s going to take a lot of conversation and common sense.

Additional information:

There is a new, troubling trend emerging in our digital world; it blends social media and parental discipline. And it’s more disturbing than one might believe at first glance. It’s even been given a name: “cyber-discipline”. Read more.

Next up: Five Things we Can Do Together to Bring Awareness to the Public Shaming of Children – and End the Trend.[hr]Pins!

Shaming Children? Shame on Us!


Without even getting into the effects (that’s for the NEXT post) and issues about the popularity of public shaming, I’m writing this post as an overview FYI for you, the Parenting On Track parents who are probably looking around, looking at each other, scratching your heads and wondering, WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON??

Is public humiliation of children happening as much as I think it is? The answer is YES.

What is public shaming?

According to Wiki, “Public humiliation was often used by local communities to punish minor and petty criminals before the age of large, modern prisons” … and “involved a variety of methods, most often placing a criminal in the center of town and having the local populace enact a form of “mob justice” on the individual.

Popular (antiquated) methods included: tarring and feathering, stocks, “chair of shame”, dunce cap, hazing, donkey ears, and so forth. (The Scarlett Letter ring a bell?). I noticed it’s lumped up with torture in some examples as the “flute of shame is on display at the torture museum…enough said). So, bottom line via the wiki page: ”humiliation can (still) be a psychologically “painful” aspect of punishment because of the presence of witnessing peers (such as fellow prisoners), relatives, staff or other onlookers, or simply because the tormentor witnesses how self-control is broken down. This is also true for punishments in class.”

What does it look like in US today?

Well, it’s on the rise folks- you probably heard of the dad who shot the laptop or the “Ohio Mom” who posted an X on her daughter’s face and shamed her on facebook. You may have heard several incidents where a mom or dad forced their children to wear a sign stating their “crimes” or more shockingly about the couple arrested for making their teen daughter wear a diaper as punishment. Even more tragic, you probably heard that a child recently died after being punished and forced to run outside for three hours – all over petty, child or teen incidents.

If this is news to you (or perhaps this was overshadowed by recent arguments of which mother is the best mother (yes, commentary on that subject en queue) here are some links ripped straight from the headlines:

You GET the Point!

Who thinks it’s a good idea?

Here’s where it seems shocking based on the trend and then we see numbers like this supporting public humiliation by parents as a punishment or discipline tactic. When the Today Show posted the “Ohio Mother” story link on their wall, the responses were overwhelmingly in support of the mother (and freakishly felt in favor of bullying and showing who’s boss- not questioning the situation, the context anything circumstantial- not that that’s even necessary). 

After the Ohio Mom’s creative punishment, “more than 7,000 readers responded to poll about the Ohio mom’s method of punishment — and 77 percent of them supported her.” 
Comments came in saying things like,

      “More parents like this one needed now!!!!
      Good job Mom, love the creativity!!!”
      “I am the mother of a twelve-year-old girl, and I think this was PERFECT.
And I don’t see it as “humiliating.”
      “No different than a kid being
called out in class by a teacher for misbehaving.”
      “I love it! My kids are little yet but I’ll tell you it’s now n (sic) my list of
punishments! Lol! The girl will live, if she’s embarrassed too bad”
    (People are really jazzed up about this “creative discipline.” Read the thread and view the overwhelming support for her actions


Why People think it’s OK:

People feel the kids are too out of control and that any way to GET THEM TO behave is acceptable. The praise for this new trend seems to applaud parents for taking back the power– however, very little is being said about the effects and the real reason kids are “misbehaving” (hint: the parents are almost 100% part of the problem to begin with if they’re getting angry at their children for their own lack of training OR for expecting them to NOT make mistakes, challenge authority or make their own decisions). Their response is sending a message, but I’m going to put a stake in the ground and say it’s the WRONG message.

The purpose of this is NOT to focus on the parents who have chosen public humiliation because in their minds, it was reasonable to shock and awe. PLUS honestly, it would only perpetuate the “public shaming” of another person. So, bottom line, the mothers and fathers are not the focus — the children and how we can change this thinking is and will be the focus. I’m not about to scold a parent but I am about to crack open the thinking behind this horrible, disgraceful trend in parenting.