All posts in Everyday Challenges & Trip Ups

The Gift of Duct Tape

Ok, wait! Before that thought goes anywhere it shouldn’t, I’m going to get you thinking about what ONE roll of duct tape can do for your parenting experience.

First, let’s take a second to think about you and your kids. I (probably) don’t know your children, but you do so go ahead, think about them in action. Now think about you in action as a parent. What seems to go smoothly (bedtime routine?) and what seems to fall apart every single time (morning routine?). Now, think about your favorite parenting strategy. Do you have one? I bet you do but you might not even know it. You might think, well, I don’t use anything consistently – but remember yelling, nagging, reminding, lecturing, and so on (and all those reactive habits) are strategies. Now, here’s where the duct tape is handy.

Imagine (and some of you have actually done this. I have.) taking a piece of duct tape and putting it right over your mouth. What would happen? You physically would not be able to remind them what to be doing, thinking, or saying all day long. Now sit in a chair. Imagine you’re duct taped there – guess what? You cannot run into the living room with every little spat. You can’t carry every backpack, or bring shoes for kids who left them at home. You can’t clean the entire house. In fact, all you can do is learn to sit there and accept what’s happening around you.

This, my friends, is the best gift you can give yourself, and it’s the gift that you can give your children. For 2015, I challenge you to learn to “duct tape” yourself out of all the nonsense that goes along with raising children. With this one gift of duct tape, you can give them the golden experience of independence, problem solving, failure, forgetting, learning, asking, remembering, discovering, unfolding, realizing, trying something new and creating a life that is their own. In one year, imagine the difference.

So parents, get out the roll of duct tape and have a Joyous Holiday and start thinking about next year right now!

For instructions on how to use the duct tape, grab a copy of Vicki’s book here. 

For Auld Lang Syne

SnowflakesI hear those sleigh bells ringing… It’s that time of year again and everyone here would like to extend to all of you our best wishes for a happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, this month is sure to be filled with parties, excitement, presents and, truth be told, stress!

During these trying times, It’s easy to overlook the very thing that we are supposed to be celebrating – our relationships with family. It’s easy to be short-tempered when your To-Do List requires more hours in the day than you have or your kids are bouncing off the walls from excitement or sugar.

Whatever the case try to remember a few simple tips:

  • Be easy on yourself and your kids.
  • Don’t worry if each moment isn’t picture perfect.
  • Don’t worry if those cookies didn’t get made because you preferred to listen quietly by the fire to the snow falling with your little one (or big one) curled up next to you.

So whether you’re riding in a wonderland of snow, or drinking a cup of kindness, we hope you all enjoy this holiday season and wish you all the best in the New Year.


Self Control. Who has it?


If 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.

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 their voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate their 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 life, while their parents do it for them.

Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, 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 from the most important people in their life. Is it any wonder the kids begin to assert their own kind of control of their parents. But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it leads to 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:

• Start paying attention  to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before they have paused long enough to “THINK” about what it is they are going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship they have with their child.

Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on its 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 on your thoughts 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.

Remember, your body works for your thoughts.  As your thinking and speaking shifts from directing and reactive to thoughtful and intentional responses, your actions will follow. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. 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.

Guest Post: Another Setback

MillieOnce again Millie’s raw account and honest reflection of her day with her daughter inspires.

We all make mistakes along our parenting journey. Our job is not to be a perfect parent or raise perfect children. Our job is to be the best that we can be and times like this, it means digging deep, taking responsibility for what is ours, and doing it differently the next time. Apologizing and making amends goes a long way to raising a compassionate and empathetic human being. Thank you Millie by sharing your experience you are helping others!  Enjoy! – Vicki

I failed at parenting today.

It was supposed to be great! We changed up Olive’s school schedule so that she can now attend on Fun Fridays and, also so that she and I can have a whole day each week to ourselves. I was really excited to spend some time with Olive. She’s been so, well, great, lately. She’s been quick to help out when we’re picking up, she has cleaned up her messes after she makes them, and she’s been helping me in the kitchen. And, I mean really helping. I can put a pound of hamburger meat in a skillet and she can chunk it up and stir it and make sure it cooks evenly. There have been several moments when I’ve just stood still and marveled at how cooperative she’s been. (Every time she responds to my requests for help or to pick up with, “sure, mom,” I’m blown away.)

Based on all of these changes, I anticipated a day of good times and laughing and fun with my girl. Olive loves to go, go, go, so I figured she would have a great time running some errands, eating out, and doing a little shopping with me. Our first stop was the gym, Kids Club for Olive, which she LOVES. She was so excited, apparently, that she couldn’t stop making really loud and silly sounds and talking like a baby when we got there. Okay. Fine. She’s excited. Whatever.

Read the entire post on Millie’s Blog.

Guest Post: I Bully My Daughter.

The blog post was republished with permission from the author, Millie Shaw. Her courage and honesty continue to inspire.

I bully my daughter.

Oh, and I humiliate her in public, too.

I didn’t realize that was what I was doing. I thought what I was doing was called “parenting.” It wasn’t until I had a difficult coaching session with Vicki that I figured it out. Well, actually, I didn’t figure it out until she told me that’s what I was doing.
Why it was so hard to see that behavior that I would consider to be abominable if it was directed toward any other person in the world, I viewed as perfectly acceptable when it was directed toward my own children, I do not know. I only know that now that I’m aware of what I’ve been doing to my daughter, I am ashamed of myself.
It all started so innocently — as it always does!

You can finish reading the original post here.

What’s the Trouble with Kids Swearing?

In one day, I saw two posts on the topic of kids growing up in homes where it was okay for them to swear. The most recent on the website of Michelle Icard (who just authored a fantastic book for any parent who will ever be living with a kid in middle school. – Middle School Makeover (Bibliomotion 2014) 

I was inspired to share my thoughts on this topic.

excited-kidw explative

As a mom who raised 5 kids – all young adults living on their own  now with their own unique relationship with swearing,  I appreciate this dad’s ability to change some of his core beliefs about swearing and land squarely on what is most important to him, his relationship with his daughter.  

I felt the same way with my kids. I was good about keeping the swearing out of the house when they were young, but once I found myself living with three young kids, on twenty uncleared acres and three temperamental horses, whose stalls needed to be cleaned daily and their frozen water buckets emptied and refilled, I resumed my relationship with swearing and started letting the bombs fly.

I heard my first swear come out of my two-and-a-half-year-old son’s mouth one morning when he was trying to drag a hay bale across a three foot sheet of ice.

“What the f… is up with all this d.. snow and ice?”

His two older sisters and I stopped dead in our tracks.  Not because of the swear, but because he sounded exactly like his mother.  Uh Oh. The girls giggled and I gave them the, this is NOT funny look, but they knew that inside I was busting a gut.

Over the course of the next two years, I became more relaxed with my swearing and the kids began to pick up bits and pieces of it.  The story continues this way for years and it never really occurred to me to address the ease in which they integrated a few swear words into their everyday conversations at home until an acquaintance stopped by and she was appalled at what she heard.

Like the father in the article above, I began to question my own beliefs about swearing, the correlation between swearing and respect and my beliefs around the idea that I would raise truck-stop-swearing kids who would never be able to hold down a job because every other word out of their mouth would be an expletive.

But that’s not what happened.  My kids, having learned swearing from their mother, also learned when to use it and when to keep it tucked away out of sight.  They navigated this tricky landscape with ease and confidence.  They swore with their friends, and they swore at home. But rarely did they swear anywhere else.

 I know now, looking back, that my kids also felt my unwavering support for them as growing, maturing, learning human beings and that my goal in life was to continue to receive invitations into their lives.  Because swearing wasn’t something we fought about, they were able to share openly and honestly about really difficult topics.

Every parent, at some point, must wrestle with the beliefs we have about things like swearing, dating, drinking, lying, smoking, cheating, and so on and decide not only how we want to address these challenges, but what, at the end of the day we want most in terms of our relationships with our kids.  The answer won’t be the same for any two parents, but I have learned, that swearing is not a good indicator of what kind of human being I was raising.

Less is More does not mean Permissive

For more information on parenting visit

Duct Tape Parenting; A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids (Bibliomotion 2012) has been published for almost two years and we have had the great fortune to introduce this philosophy to over 10,000 parents through our book sales.

A common question that we have received from parents who are interested in reading the book, but not yet ready to step back and let go of the helicopter hover, has been how is “less is more” different from Permissive Parenting? First I would suggest reading the book and the answer will be clear, however in simple terms – Permissive Parenting is no boundaries while Less is More is boundaries (order) with the freedom to make mistakes and learn from experience.

Children raised in a permissive household tend to have real difficulty with any kind of boundary or structure outside of the home. Typically they’ve been indulged and mom and dad have done everything they can to avoid any kind of meltdown, temper tantrum, disruption, sadness, or anger. So the children really never gets the chance to develop the kinds of resources that will help them deal with a much different world, one that doesn’t really take into account that they’ve been pampered and spoiled and not expected to take care of themselves or recover from any kind of upsets.

As these kids begin to grow, their anxiety increases because there’s a sense that they’re not navigating the world around them as well as their peer group. They don’t have the resources. They don’t have the confidence. They don’t have the experience. They’re used to just asking and receiving. Or having someone save them from a difficult situation. Or even making those situations go away altogether.

So consider stepping back, letting go and inviting your children into the process of living, making decisions, making mistakes, developing necessary life skills and resources. Remember we are raising 27-year-olds, not seven-year-olds and they need loads of time to practice – within a designated set of boundaries, that grow as they do – to come out on the other side with the mental muscle, courage, and resilience it takes to navigate life as a healthy adult.

Children and Food. Another Relationship to Consider.

kids-lunch“You know, all those kids whose parents were sending them to school with carrot sticks and avocados and 3 oz of lean turkey 5 years ago are now showing up in my office as pre-teens with serious eating issues.  They are starving and now they have this wonky idea about the role food plays in their lives.  I wish I could record some of the conversations I have with these kids, so their parents could hear how messed up their views on food and nutrition are. I spend half my time trying to re-educate them, but many of the kids say they have to sneak to eat anything that isn’t sanctioned by mom or dad.”

I almost fell out of my chair when my friend who is a nutritionist and pediatrician shared this with me.  I asked her to share three tips she would give parents that would help correct this dangerous trend.

I have listed her suggestions for creating a more balanced approach to nutrition.

1.  Keep your own eating issues out of the equation. When talking to the parents whose kids communicate unhealthy ideas around food, eating and nutrition, it is immediately understood that it is the parents’ issue that is driving the decisions around their child’s nutrition. Either parents are afraid kids will struggle with weight issues and start focusing too heavily on calorie counting at a very young age or they are hyper vigilant about disease and limit any and all processed food. Parents must first examine their own relationship with food, health, nutrition, and disease and deal with those issues personally.  Then, seek out a nutritionist who can help address concerns and assist in helping the parents create a more balanced approach to nutrition.  With all this focus on obesity, it’s easy to understand how we can let fear drive our decision making process around nutrition, but it’s important that we recognize that swinging the pendulum too far the other way is just as dangerous.

2.  It’s tempting to connect nutrition, food, and fuel for the body, to body size, body type or body weight in order to “motivate” kids to eat in healthier ways. Unfortunately, the minute parents begin making those connections is the minute many kids start thinking there is something wrong with their bodies.  Teaching kids about healthy nutrition starts by inviting them to look at cookbooks to find tasty meals, weighing fruit and veggies at the grocery store, selecting healthy snacks and sometimes, not so healthy snacks, and then being invited into the kitchen where they have the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with food.

3. Everything in Moderation. Whether you are Vegan, Paleo, or somewhere in between, your kids need a variety of food to not only stay healthy, but to develop that healthy relationship with food. Limiting certain foods or denying them all together will only create power struggles and eating problems. When kids see their friends eating those tasty treats and they know what the “food policy” is in their homes, the more tempted they are to sneak which leaves them feeling badly about who they are and nervous about talking to their folks.


Denial and Addiction are Co-conspirators

courage-to-doI was part of a collective conversation several months ago that focused on addiction in teens and young adults specifically as it pertains to a parent’s denial of the situation and the effect this denial has on younger children in the home.  It was a brainstorming, sharing, flushing out conversation more than it was a – let’s find a solution to this problem conversation.  Some of us had personal stories to share, others of us were in the addiction profession, others were in the medical and mental health profession and brought a perspective that shed light on the long term implications that accompany denial and the impact on siblings.

As stimulating and important as the conversation was, it soon moved to the back recesses of my mind as other more pressing matters took center stage.  And then I got a call from a friend.  It seems her eldest son is an addict.  Something the family is just now coming to terms with and admitting openly.  Something her friends have known for years.

She talked about the process of moving from denial to acceptance and although this step was easier than she had expected, the fall out of living in denial for so long had taken a toll, actually wreaked havoc on her family.  You see, she has a younger son.  A son who has been watching from the sidelines, from the time he was nine, as his older brother, his idol, fell further into the grip of addiction with parents who refused to respond.  A son who was forced to form his own conclusions about drugs and alcohol and their effectiveness as solutions for life.  He was left alone to contemplate a parent’s role in addressing a difficult situation or refusing to address it for a reason that he could not fathom.  He questioned whether he should be following in his brother’s footsteps or running in the opposite direction – but having no experience in what the opposite direction looked like, he stayed put, in the familiar.  He was alone. And in his loneliness, he turned to denial and a sense of powerlessness toward addiction.  His addiction was more subtle, more conspiratorial that his brothers.  Unlike his older sibling who came home intoxicated throughout middle and high school, he was sober whenever there was even the slightest chance his parents or their friends might encounter him.  He became an expert at covert anesthetizing. And, most troubling, he had more than just booze and drugs to numb his pain.  He found other addictions.  His family remained in denial.  Until, like most addiction stories, someone fell to their knees and hit rock bottom.

The family is finally in full recovery mode, and by that I mean, they are ALL enrolled in a 12 step program, working with family counselors and seeking guidance from clergy, but my friend knows that it will be years before her family is whole again.  Denial will only get you so far.  And then the truth descends like an angry hammer and wipes out all the lies and betrayals and the work of rebuilding begins.

This painful story is worth sharing for only one reason.  I know parents who are, at this very moment in denial.  They deny that their child is a bully.  They deny that their teenage daughter is cutting.  They deny that their seven-year-old is stealing.  They deny that they don’t have a plan for raising their kids in this fast paced world we live in. They deny that their adolescent son is addicted to porn. They deny that their recently pubescent daughter has already had oral sex. They deny that there is booze missing from the liquor cabinet and they refuse to acknowledge the smell of marijuana emanating from the downstairs basement.  They deny they are over their heads and need help, direction and support.

Denial and addiction are co-conspirators.  Our best chance in helping our kids navigate the world of addiction and the world of risky choices is to deny denial a place at the table. Finding the courage to admit and then deal with, whatever challenge is set before us as parents, is sometimes enough to influence the direction our children will move when they are confronted by the sometimes confusing and demanding world they live in.

So take off your goggles.  Find the courage to accept what is really going on in your home.  Take a risk and start a conversation with a child who seems more distant with each passing day.  Trust your gut.  Throw back the drapes and let in the light.  Talk to your kids, challenge yourself, and ask for help.

We are all in this together.  Whether we want to be or not is immaterial.  What happens in your home affects me, affects my community and it ultimately affects the world we live in and above all else, your kids are counting on you.

Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Parents

Treating Human BeingsOne day last week, Jen and I worked for 15 hours and were feeling a bit giddy by the end of it. During one stream of consciousness conversation we transformed the highly acclaimed Seven Habits of Highly Effective People into something relevant to us. We came up with a list of less than stellar parenting moments, that we’re all guilty of from time to time and thought – what the heck – let’s share a post that is both lighthearted and enlightening. Please, if you find yourself engaging too often in these ineffective parenting acts, know that we don’t mean any offense by this list. We know from experience that if we all can take a moment and laugh at ourselves, that sometimes through humor, we are inspired to shift our thinking.

    1. Claiming your 7 seconds of fame – by shaming and humiliating your child and capturing it on video for a desperate news reporter to pick up.

    2. Parenting for the moment instead of the future – you say you want independent kids, but then you nag, remind, lecture, bribe and do for your kids to get out of the house in the morning.

    3. Making parenting decisions based on fear or personal prestige – you know that giving in to your child’s temper tantrum in the grocery store will only precipitate more temper tantrums, but you say “what the heck” because that woman from yoga class is watching you and you are certain she is going to tweet about what a crappy parent you are.

    4. Finishing every statement to your child by asking, Okay? – “It’s time for bed – OKAY.” It’s time to put the toy down – OKAY?” “You have to finish your lunch before you can have the treat – OKAY?” Stop asking rhetorical questions. What’s up your sleeve, when your child answers, No?

    5. Filling out your child’s job application – this habit started when you made your first call to the mother of your child’s preschool friend who did not invite him to the birthday party. Hey don’t laugh, both of those scenarios are happening right now!

    6. Pushing your child to follow in the footsteps of Honey Boo Boo – even if he’s told you 100 times he prefers soccer.

    7. Ordering for your child and cutting his meat when you go out to dinner and then asking him to drive you home from the restaurant because you had too much wine.

Okay, like I said, we were punch drunk by the time we compiled this list. But looking at it later, we realized that there is a fine line between the absurd and the acceptable. So check yourself real quick and see if you are guilty of any of these parenting faux pas.

Rude & Disrespectful Behavior? How Does Your Child Say Hello?

misbehavingQuestion: I have a nine-year-old who is so rude to people when they come over that they are completely taken aback. I, of course am embarrassed and angry that after 9 years this child still refuses to say hello when we have guests and goes out of her way to spew as much snark as she can. We have talked about this over and over again and she doesn’t see that she is doing anything wrong. Even people who ignore the snarky attitude and try to be polite, or ask her questions about school or show an interest in her are shot down. What is going on with her?

Answer: Adler’s teaching suggest that you meet a child’s kick with a kick and a smile with a smile, since that is how the child is saying, hello. Initially, it was difficult for me to “meet the child” where he was, but after many failed attempts at winning children over who were so clearly uninterested in me, I gave up and tried his approach. Here is a story to illustrate.

Recently I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I was visiting and we were so excited to spend time together. Her children are 13, 9 and 4. When I arrived I was greeted at the door by her 9 year old.

“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m Vicki. I am a friend of your moms. She is expecting me. May I come in?”

She looked at me and said “No, wait here and I will see if you really are a friend and if my mom wants to see you.”

Alrighty then. So there I stood till my friend opened the door and started apologizing. I gave her a hug and told her to relax. Everything would be fine. Nine-year-olds don’t scare me. She cautioned me that it would be like this for our entire visit and I assured her it would not.

Here is the thing, when a child says hello by kicking you, the only respectful thing to do is to meet her where she is and kick back (metaphorically speaking of course, not literally.) Not hard, but enough for the child to know you understand the rules of the game and you are willing to play.

The bantering began. Back and forth we went with snarky comments that just missed being downright rude and qualifying as disrespectful behavior. I didn’t try and win her over. I didn’t show any real interest in making conversation. I answered her questions with disinterested shortness and waited.

Here is what I know about kids, if you give them what they think they want, they will generally change their minds and in changing their minds will change the way they interact with you.

At one point she looked at me and said, “you are sort of mean.” I said, “I am not the least bit mean, you started the game so I am playing along. If you don’t like it, then change the game.”
She looked at me. I said it again. “Listen, this is how you like to get to know people and that’s fine with me. But it’s not my game, it’s yours. If you want to play a new game, start a new one.” She thought about this for quite some time and then asked me, from the other room, if I wanted to come in and look at her….whatever it was. Contact. A new connection. Start the game over.

I said, “sure, I’d love to. I’ll be there as soon as I finish this conversation with your mom. About five minutes. Can you wait that long?” She said, “sure.”

And so, we said hello again.

As parents, we tend to jump on our kids if they say “hello” in anything other than Emily Post politeness. I have lived by the following motto for the last 25 years and it has served me well. Try it and see if making contact with kids of any age doesn’t become more interesting and rewarding.

I do not care if a child says hello to me upon meeting me. I care that when I leave they consider me a friend and give me a hug goodbye. It is not the child’s job to reach out and make contact. It is my job to ensure in the child’s mind that it is safe to connect to me and that I might just be a fun person to hang out with. The job is mine. Not the child’s.

Social Interest – A guide for choosing your kids over your image

social interestAdler said, the healthiest human beings are those with the highest social interest. If we want to ensure our children are emotionally healthy, we must ensure that we raise them in a home where their parents are demonstrating social interest as a way of life.

Social Interest is not the same as social action. Social Interest is defined as “Meeting the needs of the situation.”

Here is how a parent would demonstrate high Social Interest in daily life with kids.

Situation: Your toddler has been fighting you all morning and demanding that she goes to Day Care in her pajamas.

Self Interest: What will the Day Care Providers think of me as a mother if I allowed my child to arrive in their PJ’s? With that thought you begin to muscle the child out of the PJ’s and into what you consider appropriate clothing for the occasion – whether she likes it or not.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I support my child’s budding independence and interest in making choices, that I am not overly concerned with what other people think of me as a mother, remember that I am raising a thinking child and at times it can be messy and that I believe that mistakes are opportunities to learn. I believe tomorrow I will offer two choices that are reasonable for the weather and see if we can’t work more cooperatively together.

Situation: Your 5th grader has left his science project till the last minute and he wants you to run out to buy supplies at 9:00 pm so he can finish up and turn it in on time.

Self Interest: What will the teachers think of me as a mother if my son goes to school without his science project? With that thought you begin to lecture about time management and procrastination and being better organized. Eventually, you head to the store to pick up the supplies and then continue with the lecture while the child tries frantically to finish the project. In the morning you are still resentful and may throw in a few more lectures – but at least no one at school will judge you for sending your child to school unprepared.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I allow my child to learn a valuable lesson about time management, following through, the discipline it takes to turn off the television and get down to work and allow him to go to school unprepared and face the consequences. In doing so I am helping him build the courage to accept his mistakes, to learn from them and the ability to make another choice next time he is in a similar situation. I will talk with my son about how confident he feels in setting deadlines and managing his time and if he needs my support we will think of a solution together.

Situation: Your teenage daughter arrives home from school and begins picking on a sibling, refusing to answer your requests that she help with dinner, and then turns the music on to the point that no one can hear themselves think let alone carry on a conversation.

Self Interest: I don’t have to put up with this nonsense. I am the adult, I am the parent and I will put an end to this and let my daughter know just who is in charge.

Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I assess what is really going on with my daughter who is normally good-natured, polite and loving. It requires that I not take what is happening personally and remember that she is struggling with something and needs some encouragement. I will walk away until I am calm, and look for a moment to make a connection, and find out what is behind all this disruptive behavior.

When we teach ourselves so slow down and answer this one question – “the needs of the situation require that I do what?”, we tend to make thoughtful, respectful and wise parenting decision. Try it and see if life doesn’t improve for both you and your kids.

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.

Happy Holidays: Lower Your Expectations and Relax!

holiday travel with kidsHappy Holidays to You and Yours

For some of us, just the thought of the Holiday hustle and bustle can cause anxiety. For most of us, Holiday related stress or anxiety kicks in when it’s time to pile into the car, take that long drive or pack our bags for the airport. We begin to worry, asking and wondering questions like:

  • “Will the kids behave?”
  • “How do we discipline them in front of our friends/relatives?”
  • “What do we do if they can’t sit still for the long car, train or plane ride?”

Search the web and you’ll find plenty of advice on what to bring, how to pack and all that “practical” jazz. What you won’t find are quality tips for handling the hair-raising moments while you’re IN THE MOMENT. You know these moments when:

  • Your child is running up and down the aisles or screaming non-stop on a crowded airplane (and everyone is giving you the hairy eyeball); or
  • When your child is melting down at Grandma’s house because it just isn’t the right cheese and cracker; or when
  • Your child takes the present from Uncle Joe and instead of saying thank you, says “Is that all I’m getting?” or “I don’t like it.”

Moments like these are going to happen because, frankly, our children aren’t perfect. And it’s time that we stop expecting them to perform perfectly during the holiday season, when we are more stressed than usual, kids are tired and excited all at the same time, and we are pushing the limits of their coping skills with all of the shopping, traveling and visiting we’re doing.

What matters most is not if our children behave perfectly, it’s how we respond to them when they don’t.

It is often overlooked that our response to our children’s behavior is so often the thing that makes it either go away or causes us to slide further down that slippery slope into the rabbit hole. If we give in to the whining, try to yell or bribe them back to good behavior, or embarrass them with a forced thank you, it will surely backfire either then and there or at some later point. So what is a parent to do?

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Lower your expectations. It’s ok if the children aren’t perfect. Give yourself some space to relax.
  • Have conversations ahead of time about what it means to behave well at a party, on a plane, or wherever you will be. Ask the kids to help generate a list of expectations for their behavior.
  • Give them examples of kindness and gratitude every day with appreciations—you’ll be surprised at how much they learn by modeling, and it’s never too late to start.
  • Take your cues from the kids: Are they tired? Then leave the party early. Are they bored? Then find out how they would like to spend the hour layover in the airport.
  • When you find yourself in one of those “moments,” confronted with a child who is acting other than you would like, try distraction. Do whatever it takes to move them away from the moment or the thing they are melting down about, and worry about what caused it later.
  • Invite children to decorate, pick “fancy outfits” or dresses, frost cookies and so forth. Get them invested in the Holiday events! But remember, if they don’t want to be, don’t force it. It’s not the end of the world if your child isn’t willing to pose with the cat for a Holiday card.

If you invite your children into the process of deciding for themselves how they want to behave, how they would like to spend the long hours in the car, or what it means to be grateful for something, then you will find that those tough moments become fewer and farther between. Similarly, when you show respect whenever it’s clear they’ve hit their limits, they will calm down and reel it in much faster. So, when you are in the moment—do your best to relax and try to get out of the situation with distraction and re-direction, so that you can enjoy yourself and leave the 2013 holiday season with good memories.

Podcast: Natural Consequences

natural consequencesIn this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about natural consequences.

The purpose of using natural consequences is to encourage children to make responsible decisions, not to force their submission. When a child makes a poor decision and the parents stay out of it, the child learns from the consequence, gains new information, and is in a position to choose differently the next time.

Listen in and let us know how natural consequences have been your child’s best teacher.

10 Ways to Connect with Your Spouse

Connect with your spouse. Connect with Your Spouse Over the Busy Holiday Season

Let’s face it, the relationships with our spouses and significant others tend to slide to the backburner during this time of year simply because our agendas have us attending to many other commitments. Although it’s easy to disconnect and plow through the day, making our lists and checking them twice, we should always remember to tend the key adult relationships in our life.

Sure, as adults, we can handle a stretch of less attentiveness or focus, but it sure doesn’t hurt – no matter how busy we get- to stop, look around and make the effort to be “nice” to each other. Even if it’s goofy, it’s an attempt to say, HI OVER THERE, I KNOW YOU…LOVE YA!

Try these simple (but effective!) ways to connect with your spouse that will keep the friendship aflame:

  1. In the middle of a TV show, blurt something kind out so that everyone looks at you in a slightly questioning way.
  2. Shout across the room – Hey, ya know what I love about you……
  3. Or walk out of the kitchen and whisper something sweet into your spouses ear. The smile on their face will convey to the kids that whatever you said, made the other person feel good inside.
  4. Sing a love song on your way out the door so all the kids can hear you.
  5. Leave flowers by the stairs.
  6. Write a LOVE note and tape it to the mirror or coffee maker.
  7. Send a text that says “I love you because you….”
  8. Keep appreciations going all November and December on ONE whiteboard. FILL IT UP
  9. Give an early gift when you know your loved one will be extra busy
  10. Bring home a favorite dinner or treat just because.

You get the idea- what ideas do YOU have? Please share!

Holiday Parties and Picky Eaters

holidays with picky eatersThe Holidays can wreak nutritional havoc on any child’s eating habits- and picky eaters can contribute much undue stress and conflict if we choose to let their preferences take center spotlight.  You may be at a family feast or friendly festivity when you’ll hear those words you’ve been dreading, like: “I don’t like chicken cordon bleu; I only eat chicken nuggets!” or “I don’t want those vegetables—I see cookies!”

When you  hear words like this, you’ll probably feel flush and yes, it can be challenging, to say the least, to feel good about the food our children choose to eat—or not eat—at parties. But how we respond determines how long this will drag out, how upset everyone will end up or how much time energy will get sucked into a fight over food. Because so much relies on our reactions, it’s helpful to keep these in mind:

  • Feed her first, then let it go. If you are really worried about it, make sure your child has a healthy snack or meal before going to the party.
  • Participate in the potluck! Offer to bring something, and then bring a healthy meal or side dish that you know your children like and will eat.
  • Be proactive vs. reactive as sugar mania sets in. Talk with your children ahead of time about all the goodies they’ll see and make an agreement on how many sweets they should have, over the course of the party. Just don’t get too distressed if the temptations override the commitment. Afterall, it’s not everyday you have 8 pies and 35 cookie trays to choose from!
  • Let it go.  The bottom line is —one day of bad eating will not ruin your child’s health, and most likely they will remember the party as a whole lot of fun!

The most important thing we can do is help our children develop healthy eating habits during the rest of the year, so that eating well becomes part of who they are. When this happens, children will be more likely to find the balance between eating good and bad items—even at a party. Besides, if you’ve every had too much of a good thing, then well, you know there are lessons to be learned that you’ll only discover for yourself via indulgence.

Happy Holidays!

Share your photos of kids and cookies, HERE.

4 Tips for Peaceful Holidays

holidayOh holiday joy and splendor and…yes, hustle and bustle. Thanksgiving is upon us and while this next month is, for many, the most cherished time of year, we all feel some level of extra anxiety, stress and aggravation because we know the Holidays and all their tinseled commitments, are charging toward us, whether or not we’re ready.

As we become excited to see loved ones and look forward to sharing delicious food and fun traditions, we also feel the pressure to prepare, serve, find, give, make, decorate and  attempt far too many tasks our calendars can comfortably accommodate. When the to-dos eclipse the be-happys, it becomes far too easy to overlook the very thing that we are supposed to be celebrating: our relationships with our family members.

Reasonably, everyone can become a little, shall we say, short-fused, when tired from travel or hopped up on sugar! We can say things we don’t mean or snap in frustration at those who simply ask a question. Harmony during the Holidays isn’t always 100% and that’s ok. If you’re willing to let the little stuff go and focus on what matters – the relationships and making memories- then you’ll feel more relaxed and happy in times of chaos.

4 Tips for Peaceful Holidays:

  1. Be easy on yourself and your kids. Messes and mistakes are bound to happen. Expect them and move it along quickly!

  2. Don’t worry if each moment isn’t picture perfect. So what the sweaters don’t match? Oh well, life goes on.

  3. Choose what matters and don’t feel guilty! Yep, those cookies didn’t get made but you sure did enjoy snuggling on the couch, beside the fire, watching the snow fall in peace and quiet.

  4. Give what you can. If the budget’s tight, then the budget’s tight. Do not add extra pressure to give perfect gifts if the stress of paying for them (and the shipping too!) will cause a ripple effect on your family’s holiday harmony.

Enjoy that cup of cheer, and smile. This is the good stuff.

Whining & Willpower

Q&A with Vicki Hoefle

weedWhat can I about all this whining!?

Scenario: I’m trying to deal with a whining 2.5 year old. I’ve tried ignoring her, but it only gets stronger and my daughter will keep at it for up to 30 minutes. I believe you suggest not giving prompts like “Use big girls words”.   So the battle just continues. She is stronger than me at times. Yowza the willpower.

Answer:  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if your 3 year old has more willpower then you do now, you are in for a hell of time when she hits 13.  I don’t believe a parent can throw their hands in the air and claim a small child can out maneuver them in life.  There is more going on here so lets examine a few things that might be contributing to your dilemma.

  1. I would be interested to hear how this interaction ends.  Do you give in at the end of the 30 minutes because you are worn out?  If so, then you have taught her tenacity and she is using that tenacity to wear you down.  If she finally stops on her own, then you would see an improvement in the whining.

  2. I am going to guess that you don’t want to be the bad guy, that you may want your daughter to like you, which is reasonable.  But in wanting her to like you or not be upset with you or call you a mean mommy, you are giving in and creating a whining monster that other people will not find so endearing.  So you will have to decide at some point, that other people liking her is more important then her liking you – at least initially.

  3. You aren’t comfortable showing respect for yourself so it’s hard when a 3 year old challenges an already shaky area for you.

  4. You haven’t really committed to tackling the problem and you give up and give in when you run out of steam.  The only solution for this is to fully commit to your strategy.  Your energy will convey to her that you are serious and when she sees it in your eyes, hears it in your voice, she will know it’s time for a change.

QUESTION: Is whining a problem in your house? How is ignoring and/ or another strategy working out?


6 Tips: How to Navigate the Holiday Season with Grace

holiday season with graceWhether we’re ready or not–the holiday season has officially arrived. Aisles are decorated, treats are piled high, and parents are beginning to brace for an inevitable increase in stress, excitement, fatigue and anxiety (for themselves and their children) during the upcoming months.

Let’s face it, “difficult” if not downright “horrid” moments are going to arise. As we get ready for the festivities, we must remember it is unrealistic to expect our children to perform perfectly during the holiday season, when everyone, especially our kids, are more stressed than usual and their coping skills become maxxed out with the  shopping, traveling and visiting associated with our traditions. What matters most is not that our children behave perfectly, but that we dedicate the time necessary to prepare (and practice) for the holidays, as well as, establish a plan for how we will respond when things don’t go as planned.

Here are 6 Sure Fired Tips to Navigate the Holiday Season with Grace:

1. Identify your Starting Point

If you are under the impression that your little munchkins will magically turn into darlings because you bring them out in public, do everyone a favor and evaluate your situation without the rose colored glasses. If you indulge your children at home by giving in to their demands, they will expect the same treatment when you travel with them—and more. If you control them by yelling and using threats, they are smart enough, even at three, to figure out that you can’t and you won’t control them using those same strategies while you are in public, so this is their chance to exact revenge on you.

2. Plan Ahead and Practice (Based on your starting point, plan accordingly) 

Here is an example: If your kids have less than stellar dinner manners, (they leave the table multiple times, they play with their food, they complain about what is served, they yell at their siblings) start a new routine before you arrive at Aunt Gertrude’s for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Have a conversation with the kids about what they think proper table manners are.

Choose one area to reform – “From now on, if you leave the table, it means that you are done eating and your plate will be removed.  You will have another chance to eat at our next meal.”  Follow through is crucial. Likewise, if children begin playing with food or yelling at their siblings, it indicates they are done nourishing their bodies and they may leave the table. Acknowledge the children when they begin incorporating these new skills into daily life – “I really look forward to dinner with you and catching up on your day.”

By working together now, creating new habits when the stress level is low and allowing the kids time to practice you increase the odds that your family will be working together all through the holiday season.

3. Model and Acknowledge

Model kindness and gratitude each day and show appreciation when your kids demonstrate kindness and gratitude.  I call this “shining a spotlight” on the moments our children are revealing their best selves.

4. Keep Expectations Realistic

It’s likely your kids will misbehave at some point and it’s just as likely that you will handle it in a less than stellar way.  It’s okay.  This year, give yourself and your children the GIFT of being mere mortals, who from time to time act more like three-year-olds than their chronological age suggests.  Trust me, a year from now it will either be a funny story or completely forgotten.

5. Take Cues from the Kids

Are they tired? Then leave the party early. Are they bored? Then find out how they would like to spend the hour layover in the airport.  It is unrealistic to expect that kids can demonstrate self control and restraint for hours at a time, so be flexible, keep an open mind and support them by listening to them.

6. Identify Teachable Moments and Take the Time to Teach

When you find yourself in one of those “moments,” confronted with a child who is acting in a way other than you would like, try distraction. Do whatever it takes to move him away from the moment or the thing he is melting down about and worry about what caused it later. (The moment of chaos is not the time to teach your child.) This isn’t the same as giving in. This is about capturing the moment, recognizing that your child doesn’t have the skills or the maturity to deal with the situation calmly and understanding that when January arrives, you have a new area to work on with your child.  After all, isn’t this what parenting is all about, anyway.

If you invite your children into the process and ask them to participate in identifying the expectations and offer them time to practice, you will find that those tough moments become fewer and farther between. And when you are in the moment, do your best to relax and do whatever it takes to move through that tough time with distraction and re-direction, so that you can enjoy yourself and leave the 2013 holiday season with good memories and good information.