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3 Tips: Creating New Parenting Habits

Tips for creating NEW parenting habits.Q & A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: My husband and I are sold on this less is more approach to parenting.  We have implemented Family Meetings, replaced praise with encouragement, are trying to foster independence and get real with our expectations.  How do I transition between my old style of parenting and my new improved style?  Habits are hard to break and I am really struggling.

Answer:  The truth is, there is no easy way to break an old habit and replace it with a newer, healthier habit.  But there are a few things you can do to make the transition a little more enjoyable for everyone.

Here are my top 3 tips for creating NEW parenting habits:

  1. Identify the old habit you want to replace (choose the easiest to break) and the new habit you will replace it with. For example:  My old habit is to give my kids to many choices for breakfast and that leads to fights and power struggles.  This week my new habit is to give my kids two choices and I will make sure they are food choices I know they will eat. Or, another example might be:  My old habit is to nag my kids to get moving in the morning.  This week my new habit will be to trust that they can take care of everything on their own if I give them a chance and to wait in the car quietly until it is time to go.

  2. Focus on that one new habit for no less than 2 weeks.  It’s easy to feel bombarded with all the changes you want to make, but take it from me, focusing on one habit and sticking with it will create crazy momentum that will make future changes easier and more enjoyable.

  3. Track and CELEBRATE your progress and improvement. We live in a world that tells us to buy the new wardrobe AFTER you drop that 60 lbs, by a new car AFTER you get the corner office (you currently work in the mail room), and take that big vacation AFTER you have $200K in your saving account. REALLY?  Instead, find an easy way to track your progress on a regular basis (I recommend either daily or ever other day) and then find simple and meaningful ways to celebrate them.  This is guaranteed to keep you inspired AND you are modeling for your children that the process is as important as the goal.

As Tony Horton from P90X would say – Do your Best and Forget the Rest.  If you set reasonable expectations for yourself, you focus on one thing at a time and you make time to celebrate – you won’t be disappointed.

Question for you:  What strategy have you employed to implement new habits?

How to Help Children Rejected by Peers

5 Ways to Help Your Child Deal with Rejection and ExclusionParents must accept that children will be rejected by peers at some point in their lives and that there may come a time when their child is the one doing the rejecting and excluding. Having a long-term plan to help kids develop social/relationship skills that are inclusive and compassionate along with communication skills that invite and show respect for all parties involved will help parents and kids work together to successfully navigate any and all relationships now and into the future.

5 Ways to Help Children Rejected by Peers

1. SHOW FAITH -It is the parents’ responsibility to show faith and to trust that their children will recover from hurt, disappointment, fear, rejection and failure and do not need to be saved from them. After all, life gets harder from 18-years to 80-years-old, not easier and the ability to develop a deep sense of courage, a bit of grit and a resilient nature comes from learning that life is an ebb-and-flow of experiences and more often than not, we land on our feet.

2. BUILD MENTAL MUSCLE – When children feel supported by parents who have faith in their ability to recover, they develop the “mental muscle” necessary to deal with life’s complexities and challenges. Talking with your children after an upsetting event, listening to their perspectives, validating their feelings or interpretations and allowing them time to process the experience with a level-headed adult, will confirm for you and your kids that they have what it takes to move beyond a negative experience and recover fully intact.

3. SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE – In order to fully develop the skills necessary to overcome upsetting and challenging situations, children must be supported in their desire to become independent and self-sufficient at every turn. The more in-control a child is of her life, the more confidence she has to successfully navigate the social stage, which will make up a good portion of her life. An overprotective and over involved parent only serves to slow this process down and raises children who are dependent on the parent rather than themselves. These children tend to lack the confidence to deal with the challenges of everyday life.

4. MODEL – The most powerful tool any parent has at their disposal is modeling. What you hear and see on the playground sounds and looks very much like what you hear and see in a typical family – yelling, demanding, shutting people down, fighting for your position or to be right or to be heard. Kids take what they hear and see at home and try it in the classroom, the playground and the sports field. If we don’t like what we hear and see from kids, changing the dynamic at home will inevitably instill a new set of social skills our kids will try out in their own microcosm of the world.

5. GO SLOW – Developing social skills and the ability to overcome disappointments, rejections, exclusion and hurts take time. If you remember to look for improvement, faster recovery times, a more resilient nature and a child who gravitates towards kind individuals and stays open to all, you can rest assured that you will have raised a well-balanced person who is both inclusive and able to rebound from any exclusion or rejection they may experience.

Question: Have you aided any children rejected by peers? How did YOU handle it?

Speed Bumps Happen: Slow Down…

slow down, slow parentiingWith all this focus on love and encouragement, it’s important that you, the parents, feel encouraged too. Sure:

  • It won’t always be easy.
  • It won’t always go smoothly.
  • It won’t always turn out how you envisioned.

But that’s OK. Mistakes are part of YOUR process, not only your child’s.

So, take this summer to go slow.

If you make a mess, no biggie. Find new ways to fix problems.

Experiment with: Solutions. Challenges. Experiences. Letting go. Having faith.

You’ll have plenty to learn from so later, you can ask yourself:

What went well? What didn’t? What would you do differently next time?


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:

Research Says Knock It Off…

Every now and then, it helps to get a little confirmation that we’re parenting in the best interest of our children.

We’ve pulled together some research and credible headlines that confirm we do not have to meddle in the affairs of our offspring nearly as much as we may THINK we do. Take it from the experts- interfering is ineffective. Many of you are recovering from Helicopter tendencies (we all have at one point or another!).

This post is to inform you and inspire a boost in motivation to continue down the Duct Tape Parenting Road.

In Short Knock it Off and Don’t Be:

The Dictator Children are less engaged when moms tell them how to play, according to a study that finds kids have more negative feelings toward “directive” moms.  Read the post, here.

What does this mean for you? It means you can butt out when kids are playing. You can let them argue, disagree, play something you don’t really like, lose at the game and so forth and NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. In fact, throw some Duct Tape on your ears (if it’s annoying to you) and go put your feet up and enjoy the freedom to stay out! Heck, have an adult conversation. Go for it.

The Homework NAG

“The practice of forcing children to begin working what amounts to a second shift after they get home from a full day of school has absolutely no proven benefits before high school, and there are increasing reasons to doubt its value even in high school.[6]  What kids need, therefore, are parents willing to question the conventional wisdom and to organize others to challenge school practices when that seems necessary.  What kids don’t need is the kind of parental involvement that consists of pestering them to make sure they do their homework –  whether or not it’s worth doing.” – Alfie Kohn

Click HERE to read the entire Washington Post Article, Is parent involvement in school really useful?

What does this mean for you? This means if your life is all about getting things done, checking work off the list, giving up free and creative time, and making sure kids are on it, on it, on it all the time, then you can let go and NOT FEEL GUILTY about it. You can challenge the fact that this might not be the right way to spend your time with your child (and know it won’t screw up his entire future if you choose say, reading or creative or quiet time over the daily nag festival). [hr]

The Helicopter Parent

Overparenting is characterized in the study as parents’ “misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.”

From: Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail: A new study explores what happens to students who aren’t allowed to suffer through setbacks.

“Year after year, my “best” students — the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives — are the students who were allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes.” – Jessica Lahey – Read the entire ATLANTIC article, here.

What Does this mean for you? It means go for it, step back. Let that kid go to school in PJs. Allow the child to forget a lunch. Oops, he forgot a mitten? Great! Think of all the little lessons your child will learn when you refrain – even if you REALLY WANT to swoop in and fix, save, help, and avoid discomfort. Let ’em ride and DON’T FEEL GUILTY about it. It’s good for these kids to fall and bounce. We call these “Duct Tape Moments” – write yours down and tell us about it.

The Power Tripper

“Assume that children naturally want to be authorities, that they want challenges (even if it hurts), that they want to take responsibility, make decisions, make mistakes, and learn from consequences—just like the rest of us. (Actually kids tend to be better at all this than adults.)” – Rick Ackerly, Author of The Genius in Every Child.

What does this mean for you? This means that you can toss the idea that power struggles must be won at all costs. You can challenge the notion that kids who don’t listen the first time are “bad” or that because you are the “adult” you must always win. Allow the kid some space to choose NOT to obey or make his own agenda, like: making his lunch, choosing the clothes he likes and so forth. It’s natural for kids to want to try things and even fail. So, again, no feeling bad if you let your child have some slack (and he screws up) or you lose a battle (keep the ego in check!). No biggie. Keep it moving. [hr]

The Punisher

Alfie Kohn: Why Punishment Doesn’t Work

“What punishments—even if they’re euphemistically called “consequences” (so we can feel better about making a child feel bad)—really do is make the child angry, teach him that you get your way in life by using your power over those who are weaker, and make it less likely that he’ll focus on how his actions affect others.”

“Kohn’s view is consistent with the perspective of restorative practices, which seeks to develop good habits in students not only when someone is watching, but more importantly when no one is looking. That means that children (and also adults) have to find their own intrinsic motivation and take responsibility for their own behavioral choices.” – Read the EdWeek article here.

What does this mean for you? It essentially says that punishment is really about power, not teaching the child a lesson- so you can ease up on the “punishment” reflex (if this is one of your parenting tripups)! He indicates having a “fixed” list of punishments for “offenses” (vs. having a flexible, case by case response) is not really in the interest of the child. He mentions when we get all rigid and don’t allow for context (zero tolerance style), it’s just a  “doing to” approach and not a “working with” approach. Children will learn so many lessons without parental interference (mom and dad driving home a superimposed lesson to prove they were right or the child was wrong) that it’s unnecessary and unhealthy for the relationship if we abandon the “working with” response. Bottom line, working with a child who makes mistakes is more effective than punishment by “doing to.” [hr]

Article via the Washington Post: Life skills all teens should have before graduating from high school– By Mari-Jane Williams


“We do all of these protective things when they are in high school, and then a lot of them end up partying more and forgetting to do laundry, forgetting to study, especially because they’re not in the habit of doing these things and no one is telling them to do it. None of these things are particularly earth-shattering, but they do add up.”

What does this mean for you? It means slowing down to realize all the ordinary (to us, not them) ways  teens can practice creating their own personal structure systems for: schedules, accounts, communication, studying, and more. This  means spending an afternoon explaining ATM deposits and withdrawals and letting him or her practice IS a good way to spend a Saturday. It means letting their laundry become their responsibility, even if they don’t get it done. It means taking the time to train them to use a calendar- or other organizational tools. It means powering off so they can practice real world conversations, planning, cooking and so forth.  The key takeaway is that kids only have a few years to practice this kind of “real life stuff”- and there’s a lot of it! If parents don’t realize the importance of this process, the kids will be out the door with an iffy sense of how to navigate the world. So, go for it- slow it down. Let the teens do all that stuff we don’t like either. It’s good practice. 🙂

Note: Start the training early so by this time, they’re ready to move on to bigger things than laundry!



3 BIG Don’ts When Giving Allowance

do-not-moneyParents, take a moment and think about a time when your kid bought something less than awesome (in your opinion). Perhaps it was a plastic junk toy or a ridiculous bow and arrow (and he already had one at home, remember?) or she bought an entire bag of candy instead of saving it like she said she would.No matter what it was, you had an opinion about it, right? Or perhaps, on the way out the door you thought, gee, if only she’d remember her wallet this time.

The question then is this:

Did you open your mouth? Did you grab the wallet for her? Did you loan the child money? If you did, that’s ok – it’s not like you did anything “wrong” – it’s a place to start. If you didn’t, then you know you made a conscious decision to let it run its course.

If you’ve ever had any type of mental, emotional or even physical reaction to your child’s choices with their money, it’s very important to remember this: When parents get involved they disrupt the learning process. In order to support your child’s growing independence remember the following three things:

  1.  DO NOT remind them to bring their money
  2.  DO NOT loan them any money and
  3. DO NOT lecture them on their purchases

So, I hope this just made your midweek a little easier! No need to lecture, buy crap you don’t feel like buying or nagging the kids! You can just keep it quiet and take it as it comes. That money is given freely to let the kiddos fail and figure it out.

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.

Is Discipline the new Punishment?

Monday night I was on WCAX for a hot second talking about Discipline, what it is, what it isn’t, how to use it with kids and when it crosses over the line into punishment. And here is what I realized – there is a very simple way to check yourself and ascertain whether you are indeed teaching discipline or punishing for a mistake made.

Here are my thoughts on the subject, just in case you suspect you just might be parenting in the realm of punishment.

    1. Discipline is defined as systematic instruction given to train students in a craft or trade, or any other activity which they are supposed to perform. That means the true definition of discipline is a way for parents to teach children and prepare them for life on their own. The confusion comes in the execution of the training or teaching. Many parents feel discipline means punishment or an enforcement of order and control over the child. Many parents believe a child has to feel bad in order to learn a lesson. This is not discipline this is power over the child and punishment.

    2. In order for the discipline strategy to be effective and respectful, it has to satisfy four criteria,

    • The “discipline” strategy has to work whether the kids are 2, 5, 7, 9, 15 or 25.
    • The “discipline” strategy has to teach kids self discipline self control, self evaluation, how to make skillful choices and how to take responsibility for those choices – not just to “obey” those in authority.
    • The “discipline” strategy can not jeopardize the child’s sense of dignity and self worth.
    • The “discipline” strategy can not fracture the relationship between parent and child.

    These criteria rule out time-outs, counting, punishing, lecturing, taking away privileges, grounding and so on. These tactics rarely teach a lesson, if they did, parents would only have to use Time-Outs twice and the child would get it.

      Here are a few examples:

    • You want to teach your child to hold your hand while crossing the street – would you say to your 3 year old “Darling, I want to ensure you will hold my hand when we cross the parking lot, so I want you to go to timeout and think about this?” Of course not. A parent uses time-out to punish a child for making a mistake and running across the parking lot.
    • Or, how about this one – “Anna, I don’t want you to hit your little brother when he comes into your play space and knocks over your blocks, so I am going to count to three and I want you to calm down and keep your hands to yourself.” Nope. You would start counting once Anna thwacked her sibling and you wanted to punish her for making a mistake – OR for not having mastered the task of staying cool under frustrating circumstances.

    3. The proper time to begin training begins as soon as the child is up and alert. Children are hungry for information. They want to master their surroundings. They needn’t be punished when they make a mistake or punished as a way for a parent to gain control over them. The process of learning, making mistakes, gentle and consistent redirection along with years of practice and teaching will ultimately prepare our kids for their roles as adults. Punishment deals with immediate problems without taking into account the long-term consequences and adverse effects on both the child and the parent child relationship.

    4. The most effective way I have found to guide my decisions as it pertains to disciplining is to reframe the “How Do I Get my child to stop….. “ to “What Will It Take for my child to. …”


    • Instead of, How do I get my child to sit still at the table, you ask yourself, What will it take for my child to LEARN to be part of the meal experience without having to be the center of attention?
    • Instead of, How do I get my child to hold my hand when we cross the parking lot consider instead, What will it take for my child to agree to hold my hand?
    • Instead of, How do I get my child to stop lying ask yourself, What will it take for my child to have the courage to tell the truth?
    • Instead of, How do I get my child to hang up her coat ask yourself, What will it take for my child to take care of her belongings?

    By reframing the question the task of disciplining takes a long-term teaching approach and helps us recognize that our job as parents is to work with the child until she reaches mastery or develops a character trait that will serve her in her adult life.

    Quality Discipline Strategies

      1. Say what you mean, mean what you say and then do it. Kids learn when things happen, not when mouths are moving. And they learn best when they can trust that what their parents say, they mean.

      2. Take time for training. Slow, thoughtful, intentional training will go a long way in creating an encouraging environment that empowers the kids and supports a friendly, relaxed family dynamic.

      3. Remain Firm & Kind. Firm is respectful to you and kind is respectful to the child. Many times discipline is turned into punishment because the parent is overly firm which can sound harsh and authoritarian in nature or overly kind which is more permissive in nature. Learning to balance a firm and kind attitude takes practice, so go slow and forgive often.

      4. Allow children to experience Natural Consequences – NC’s are the best teachers. As a parent, all you have to do is find the courage to stay out of the way and then objectively be there for the child to process the outcome of his choices. Tip: If parents are going to use NCs don’t ruin it by saying, I told you so. That just makes kids feel badly and very little learning actually happens when kids feel bad.

      5. Make agreements with kids that include realistic expectations and allow for progress and improvement. Make sure to follow through on what was previously agreed upon. This is important and builds an atmosphere of trust. Nobody has to get mad or feel bad, this is the outcome of the choice that was made.

      6. Give win/win choices that move the action forward. Blue boots or red boots, sneakers or boots, homework now or later, run or walk, brush teeth downstairs or upstairs.

      7. Ignore what isn’t morally or physically dangerous until the crisis is over and then return to the first question – What will it take for my child to…

We Must Care for Ourselves, Each Other

Moms and dads I encourage you to read this jaw dropping article from last week on Babble by Mindy Berry Walker. It’s “jaw dropping” because of the honesty in which she writes about the guilt and resentment she carries around with her from day to day. Read the comments and you’ll see she’s not alone.

I wanted to hit the pause button and look at what’s really going on here for this stay at home mom: she’s disconnected and has far too much pressure to perform with enthusiasm. She’s tired. She’s lonely. She’s overwhelmed with the cleaning. She’s resentful of her husband’s ease of his family duties. She is in a struggle between what is real and what her mind is telling her she should and could and would be like if she was a better mom.

But even in her upset, she’s onto something big and powerful and positive: she says she has to get out, she longs for adventure. She puts the effort into finding people to connect with. She shows us how we are social beings and we feel more confident and content when we are accepted and appreciated in any group or community. But every time she slips back into the shadows of her own life, the place where guilt and struggle exist, she begins to unravel and become hollow.

It’s clear how many can relate to her mixed emotions (perhaps you see a glimpse of yourself in her confession). Yes, she loves her children and loves being a mom, but part of her is cracking under the weight and stress that comes from raising kids and being consumed 24-7 with day-to-day details.

I read this last week, but felt compelled to share it after the uplifting weekend I experienced with an amazing group in our women’s renewal retreat. Why? Because we came out of that retreat refreshed, connected, alive and ready to make changes. And honestly, I think we can see the bloggers spiral and despair more clearly with a fresh head on our shoulders. We can now reflect on how we’ve all been there (in some way) and that yes, we can actually find a path to a more satisfied life with our children. How?

Every mother deserves the time to heal, reflect and share– the highs and lows can be debilitating– that’s why we HAVE to make time for ourselves so that we can keep ourselves and each other from sliding into this battle between being the perfect perky mom and the resentful, “going through the motions” mom. Neither existence is satisfying. We’ve got to help each other find that middle ground, the one where we’re real and connected and we have empathy for ourselves and those around us.

The theme of this last weekends retreat was from Judith Dweks book “A Circle of Stones” where she invites women to imagine how their life might be different if there had been a place, a sacred place for them to gather with other women, some older and some younger and share their experiences. Where their doubts and dreams, their fatigue and joy, their judgement and rejoicing was accepted and celebrated and most importantly validated by other women.

She suggests that if women had a place to gather, on a regular basis, to bare witness to each other’s lives, that we might live more balanced, accepting, joyful lives. By the end of the weekend, I believe we all left understanding that each of us could create our own special circle that would renew our spirits and heal our tired minds.

While the article, in some ways, feels like a throwback to the 50s– it’s not and we ought to pay attention to the message. It seems with more pressure to be perfect, tidy, fit, organized, in charge of our kids, make enough money and often with less family nearby, there’s a high level of constant, steady and unhealthy stress sitting on parents’ shoulders. Remember, we are social beings and if you ever get to this point- where you’re so far in the rabbit hole you can’t see the light from overhead, it’s time to pause the action and reach out to a trusted friend.

If you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, exhausted or depleted and you’re looking for a bit of encouragement and to gather with other parents for some inspiration, Parenting On Track is having another retreat in May. Join us!

Parenting Advice: Crap, Rant or Fad?

My job is to travel around from state to state, town to town, and school to school giving advice and helping families make changes in their lives. While I’d like to attribute the Parenting On Track gold to my charismatic charm, humor, wit and deep intelligence, I can’t. I have listed below exactly WHY this stuff works.

1. Philosophy – Dr. Alfred Adler. His work has been around for nearly 100 years. There are thousands of Adlerian Psychologists, therapists and parent educators who work around the world bringing Adler’s work to those looking to develop stronger relationships with spouses, children, co-workers and family members. I’ve spent 20 years studying and adapting his philosophy to meet the needs of the parents I work with. I quote people who are specialists in this field. I don’t make it up! (Yes, okay I admit, I do coin some cool phrases based on this theory).

2. No Play By Play – My approach to helping parents deal with a child’s pesky behavior is to focus on what the parents are doing, not what the kids are doing. Everything I recommend is based on improving the relationship between parent and child, not teaching parents how to dole out discipline or punishment. Everything I teach is relationship focused. Efforts that improve the relationship FIRST, lead to improvement in behavior second. It works all the time.

3. Solutions – I make it a point NOT to go on and on about problems or what a parent should have done in a given situation. I’m in this work to deliver solutions. Solutions grounded in theory that are aimed at improving the relationship. Without a solution, it’s a rant!

4. Real Life Examples – I use real life examples to help parents better understand a situation they are struggling with and believe me, after 20 years in the field, I have lots of examples at my disposal. Examples help parents connect information with action. Without the connection the information can swirl around in a parent’s head leaving them more confused than ever.

Without these to anchor my advice, insight and “wisdom” I’d be pulling tips and tricks out of thin air based on my perception at the moment, and my perception of the situation would lead parents on a wild goose chase, not closer to an understanding of what they could do differently to bring about change.

The reason for this post?

I’ve spent the past few weeks diving into what’s floating around the internet – holy guacamole folks, no wonder parents are confused! I guess this explains why parents arrive at my classes or workshops with some crazy ideas about parenting. I have discovered that advice is mislabeled from one end of the triple W to the other.

Here’s the deal, if you’re looking for “advice” on the web, you can either say forget it altogether OR you can check it against these following five points:

1. Philosophy – Does it have a legitimate, long-standing philosophy? If yes, then check that the advice is grounded in the main pillars of the belief system.

2. Expert – Is the author trained in the philosophy? You wouldn’t take money advice from a landscaper, unless the landscaper was an entrepreneur teaching you how to grow a business via his journey. See the connection? Experts come in various shapes, so this doesn’t mean you can’t seek tips from a non-traditional source. Just be sure that the source knows his/her stuff and can give insight, context and information that is accurate to the experience.

3. Check for “Get your kids” – Does the article or blog have the words “make your child” or “get your child to” do this not that or do that not this to your child? If yes, skip it! It’s about control and discipline, not the relationship. You’ll just end up further in the weeds. It might work for a minute but you’ll be right back where you started.

4. Rant, rant, rant – Just because a mommy blogger has a great story or wants to share her experience via a credible blogging site doesn’t mean it’s advice! Let’s be clear, I’m not dissing mommy bloggers, they make the web go round! They are fun and they are the best people to share ideas and tricks and tips that worked for them. Remember though, the story they are sharing worked for them and it doesn’t mean you have to run out and try their approach. However, if a mommy blogger uses a credible philosophy (see points 1 & 2), then it’s worth looking into!

5. Lovey-dovey-foo-foo-zoom-zoom – If you just read something and your first thought was, no $h^t Sherlock, then it’s just fluff and you already know it so don’t worry about the latest fad method to introduce the same old common sense!

Parents want to feel connected to or to identify with the ups and downs they experience – this is where a mommy blog or a lovey dovey article does have a purpose. It’s not that the article is crap, it just might be crappy ADVICE. See? So, read headlines that attract you but don’t buy in until you know if it’s rant, crap, fluff, or fad or if it’s grounded in a bigger picture.

So What Does a Parent Read?

Having said all that, here is some of the GOOD STUFF TO READ:

1. Opinion – Opinion articles/blogs can be great food for thought. They can be well researched and can contain facts that back a person’s opinion. (No facts or references? It’s likely a RANT).

2. Blogs by Experts/Organizations – They might not be featured on the biggest sites but you can find life changing tips, tricks, wisdom and so on.

3. Fact Articles – Top tens and other informative articles can give you some new info and let you process it – just be sure to check the credibility of source/author.

Can’t you Simplify This?

I know it’s a lot to process. That’s why I’ve decided to introduce a Parenting On Track Series:

Duct Tape Dragnet: Parenting Articles Worth Reading

Now you can have access to quality articles delivered to you and you don’t have to go wading in the mud to find good opinions, ideas, thoughts and lessons in parenting. Heads up for our first in a series of blogs, articles, sites, books we find on the web that are worth reading!

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Tending the Relationship (Spouse)


Vicki Hoefle and her Husband, Iain

Take a deep breath here if you need too. None of us means to be short, snappy, critical or disrespectful, to our spouse, but it can happen.

My husband and I work on our relationship each and every day, not only for ourselves, but for our children as well.

We want them to have strong, loving relationships with their spouses and they are learning from us what that looks like and sounds like.

I can see my kids watching us, storing information for a later date and in fact, I am beginning to witness the first signs of how they interact and communicate with the opposite sex as they enter the dating world. It is clear that they already have strong ideas about male/female relationships and it is a pleasure to hear some of the words, tones and attitudes my husband and I use with each other come from the mouths of our children.

It is a clear and present reminder to both of us that we are always teaching something, so we best be mindful of what we are teaching.

Here are a few Tips for you:

1. Listen to yourself for the next few days. Find the courage to do a true and honest evaluation of your daily communication style with your spouse.

2. Commit to using a more “appreciative communication style” for the next 21 days and then take the time to “notice” for yourself, what changes are occurring.

3. Using appreciations, especially when they are unexpected is a powerful tool in creating a kind, compassionate, understanding and accepting family dynamic.

4. Make sure that your appreciations are sincere and spontaneous. For instance:

      • In the middle of a TV show, blurt something kind out so that everyone looks at you in a slightly questioning way
      • Shout across the room – Hey, ya know what I love about you……
      • 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.

Be creative and if you tend to be uncomfortable showing emotion, take a small step out of your comfort zone and extend your heart to those you love. 


Tripped up and Off Track

We all know what it looks and feels like when the family is running smoothly and the path is clear and smooth, pointing towards our destination. People are agreeable, things are happening with little drama or resistance or argument. If feels good, people are generally happy and there’s not a whole lot of anything specific going on to get in the way of the daily grind. Life is just cruising and you can find the time to think, “I like this. This is how I imagined family life and raising kids would be.”

However, when we get tripped up as parents, or when our track of smooth daily life takes a turn—suddenly we find ourselves caught in a battle of wits, a cycle of ineffective discipline, or a rush to get out of the door—we start to do some very obvious and specific things to try to get “back on track.” We try SO hard to correct the list of bad behaviors and focus on “how it should be” that we turn on the switch for all kinds of parenting tactics that may or may not make sense, be healthy for you or your family, or get you anywhere close to “happyville”.

Still, when the family starts to veer a little left, it’s as if the driver flips the switches and it’s go time. You were cruising along and “bam”, something happens and you’re – YELLING. Bribing. Controlling. Snapping. Demanding. Rushing. Shushing. Hushing. Brushing (RIGHT NOW WE HAVE TO GO!). We just open up and let it fly. Do you have this? Don’t say that. Why did you do THAT? I told you so. We just turn the headlights onto what’s going wrong, and temporarily bypass the gut-check that says, this might not be helpful, but I’m gonna say it anyway!

Suddenly, you find yourself thirteen miles from where you started. You may have solved the problem at the moment, but you expect it might return tomorrow, or in an hour, and so you brace for it. And then, when you find yourself one hundred miles down the track, you admit. I’m headed in the wrong direction!

When you’re parenting from this place, the one where you’re act exactly like you want to (and also, the way you don’t want your kids to behave), even though you know it’s not really going to work for the long haul, it is here that you are – tripped up. You recognize that things are feeling out of control or that you aren’t connected with your kids. This is the place where you reach in your pocket and grab your go-to strategies (see your list from last post).

Instead of these go-to strategies, now is the time to hit the brakes. After all, a derailed train will likely end in some form of train wreck. That’s only exciting in Hollywood, and we all know, this ain’t the movies!

Okay, so you’ve hit the brakes right? You’re like Denzel Washington and the cute young gentleman in Unstoppable. You’ve done it. You stopped your mind and you recognize that you’re pulling ineffective tactics from your pocket. You realize the yelling or the bribing or the micro-managing or the dictating isn’t exactly working and now ask yourself;


Be totally honest. After 20 years of parent education, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the answer will be something like,

    “Because my kids need to stop what they are doing.”
    “Because we have to be on time.”
    “Because what my kids are doing is embarrassing me”
    “Because it won’t get done right or sometimes done at all.”
    “Because my kids need to learn a lesson.”
    “Because my kids can’t get away with what they are doing.”
    “Because I know best.”
    “Because that’s how it’s done. “

Great. Now take a moment to PRINT this chart. Go back and fill in the first three boxes. Leave the fourth one blank. We’ll get to that on Friday.

For today, focus on the question: HOW DO I JUSTIFY STAYING ON THIS TRACK? Is it convenience, status, order, time management, and so on. Parents everywhere know they’re using strategies they don’t like and want to change, but in the end, in the face of opposition from a youngster, they go right back to it. Write it down. Think about it. Write it down again and think about it some more. On Friday we’ll take a moment to identify long term goals for your kids and consider how doing what you are doing today is keeping your entire family “off track”.

What Trips You Up as a Parent?

As a parent, there are auto-habits that we develop in response to getting through the day. What starts as a firm voice to get the kids to do their homework leads to yelling and suddenly, oh snap, you’re a “yeller.” Or perhaps you controlled a little too much when your child was a toddler and now, oh crap, you’re a control freak. Or maybe you realized, darn it, I’m acting more like a friend than a parent but I just don’t know how to stop this cycle.

No matter who you are, you probably have one or two habits that you’ve thought to yourself, “gee, I’d really like to stop doing that” but every time the kids do X, Y or Z, I resort right back. It’s a hang up – a trip up- a screw up that you’ve seen play out over and over. If you’re ready to back away from the rope that’s strung between two trees, under the brush, just waiting for your foot to snag it and watch you fall on your face, start here. Learn to avoid those situations by following the next series of blog posts!

Today, in order for you to even begin the process, you’ll need to know what trips you up. SO, take a moment think of you when you’re parenting from your best. Write down what makes you feel like you’re on the right track.

It could be anything like:

    • Calm voice
    • Eye contact
    • Mutual respect
    • Humor
    • Affection
    • Listening
    • Back and forth conversation
    • People on task
    • No arguing
    • Minimal interference
    • No resentment etc.

Then, think of you parenting from your worst. Write down the biggest doozies you find yourself resorting to. Here are some ideas to get your mind thinking:

    • Yelling
    • Bribing
    • Perfectionism
    • Sarcasm
    • Getting Angry
    • Shutting off
    • Being inconsistent
    • Being too “nice”
    • Controlling

Great. Now keep your list nearby. The next blog will be helpful in learning what exact tactics you employ when you start to get tripped up. So, keep thinking and stay tuned!

Why Tweens Act Like a PITA

As parents, sometimes we hit a wall. We find ourselves wondering, how did I get here and who is this aggressive child that used to be so sweet and loving? After 20 years in parent education, I can give you three good reasons why your child is no longer willing to cooperate.

1. Your relationship is injured.

Somewhere in your daily dynamics, the child who once respected you or showed you affection, has been exposed to a rip, snag or tear in the fabric of its foundation. There is something far deeper than a power struggle over taking out the trash at play. How to fix and injured relationship is similar to fixing an injured leg – time and patience and relearning how to communicate. You might have to swallow some pride– somewhere along the way, the relationship got stuck– wiggle out delicately or you’ll only injure it further.

2. The Kid is Bored Out of her Gourd

And I don’t mean the kind of bored where he is idle and needs to find something to do. The kid is bored socially because she’s not involved in community, arts or something meaningful. Even if her calendar is penciled in through 2020, she could be completely disconnected to what she’s doing. Think of adults who get stuck in dead end jobs – they go stir crazy because nothing has meaning and they feel as though life is slipping by. Kids sense this as well! Keep trying to connect a child with something that has meaning, including jobs, community service, foreign language, music and more. Now think of the happy adults you know – they’re probably contributing to their community and feel largely connected to the people around them.

3. He Thinks you Don’t Trust him

Perhaps you’re meddling, doing-for, nagging and correcting how he does this, that and everything in between. If a kid is really on you at every interference, try backing off! Maybe, just maybe he wants you to expect more from him. Here’s where contributions and self regulation can help you out. He can do his own laundry and so he should. He can make his lunch, choose his clothes and decide when to get his homework finished. These are the tiny restraints we layer on our children that cause anger and rebellion. Shift away from the back and forth over tiny details and step back to see what happens.

Bottom line? Tweens are testing boundaries and making their place in the world. Their behavior is simply a reflection of how they got here and whether or not they feel confident, secure and capable. If they’re acting out, they’re telling you something loud and clear!

Start the New Year with NEW Thinking 

It’s that time of year again when everyone is ready to start fresh, clean the slate and feel passionately inspired to change their lives. People everywhere, big and small & young and old, are determined to “get it right” and lose the weight, find the time, stop the madness, make amends, be kinder, and so on. Folks are ready to conquer their fears, live their bliss and identify what keeps tripping them up in life, so they can find a new way that leads to happiness.

Usually this fire in the belly attitude is nothing more than a fresh motivation pumped into previous perception. There’s 100% genuine intent – people are committed, no doubt. But then, just as inevitably as the resolutions are made, they start to crumble. I’m not saying resolutions don’t happen – that change doesn’t come to those who try, but when change does happen, there’s something far more powerful than motivation, inspiration and drive leading the way—the change is fueled by NEW THINKING.

This year, try changing your thinking first and watch as your actions follow you in a new direction. Here is how I do it. In order for me to experience significant change (I am not going to yell at the kids any more!), I first have to identify what I’m doing that isn’t working (yelling doesn’t really work all that well or for all that long) and accept that I did the best I could (no beating myself up) and then challenge myself to look at my actions in a new way. First I identify what trips me up: I yell when I am at my wits end and I don’t think anyone is listening to me and well – in all honesty – my feelings are hurt. Yes, under all the manufactured anger, I feel hurt. Then, if I had any doubts at all, I would look at whether my yelling actually worked. It doesn’t. It never did and it never will. Oh sure, I can get my kids to hop to it when I reach 10 decibles, but that’s not the same as saying “yelling works”. It doesn’t. So if I want to change, and I know the yelling isn’t working – what’s tripping me up? Why can’t I just “let it go”?

Because somewhere in my feeble little mind, I still believe that
• I have the right to yell when I want to
• That if I keep yelling, one day it will work
• That my kids are deaf and I must yell
• That things will get worse if I start talking to them like I talk to…

Hey, wait a minute. What would happen if I started to talk to my kids the way I talk to my friends and my co-workers? What if I absolutely could not, under any circumstances start screeching at my kids any more than I could at my co-workers?

Bingo – I have begun the journey to a new way of thinking. If I spend another 24 hours thinking about this, I find that I like the idea. I’m drawn to it. It provides an improvement in my life. I haven’t done anything yet. I’ve just let my brain absorb this new way of thinking. I kick it around to make sure it can stand the test. I try out scenarios and I notice that I am open to the possibility that this might actually work. After all, I would be more inclined to cooperate with people who spoke to me respectfully, than those that yelled at me. Maybe the same is true for my kids (I know this of course, but I am letting the new thinking grab hold and sniff out anything that might get in way when I put it into action).

Can you see that what I am doing is deconstructing the way I looked at the yelling? Nothing complicated. After 24 hours, I am ready to “try” it – just once, to see how I feel when I do it. I’m not basing my decision on how the kids respond, but on how I feel about myself when I choose NOT to yell. Oh, I like this. It means that I am in control. I like control. So I pick a time or a situation, where I am usually reduced to yelling. I am aware. I have my brain on and I’m not parenting from auto-pilot. And just this small shift changes everything. Because I am thinking, because I know that I am in control, because I have allowed the thinking a chance to grow small roots in my otherwise barren brain, I am excited about doing something different. And so I do. I do something different.

What I do isn’t nearly as important as what happened before the doing. Most parents find themselves spending too much time on the “doing” and not enough time on the “change my thinking”. If you know me, you know that I am, by nature, lazy. And I do not like to waste my time on crap that doesn’t work. If this didn’t work, do you think I would be using it? Fat chance. I would continue to yell and screech.

So this year, let your thinking be your guide. Don’t like where you are headed, cop a squat, breathe a bit, and then challenge your thinking. By the time you stand up, you’ll have a new path to travel and you just might find your bliss on the road to “screech free parenting”.

Happy New Year!

5 Simple Steps to Happiness

We found a great article this week posted on Real Zest.com5 Simple Ways to Get More out of Life

It was posted for women and men everywhere, and we felt that it applied perfectly to moms and dads, too – especially those of you who use your kids as an excuse NOT to take care of yourselves. Enjoy!

1. Be more selfish about your time.

“When you take time for yourself you recharge all the things that make you wonderful. When you’re all charged up and your best self, oh how easy it is to adore you!”

To do starting this week: Identify what your kids can do for themselves, and then get out of the way and let them do it. Then, each week, identify one thing your kids can’t do, and teach them how to do it. Keep adding each week, until finally, the morning has become your coffee break and all you do is hug and kiss your kids before they head out the door.

2. Belittle more imperfections.

“If you’re like other fabulous people I know, you’re very, very good at belittling your (and other’s) finer points. Maybe the things that feel like imperfections are actually things that set you (and others!) apart from the crowd. Make a point to belittle the things that deserve belittling. The paltry, annoying, meaningless idiocies we all encounter but spend too much time on. You know what I’m talking about.”

To do starting now: Start replacing mean thoughts with nicer ones. It’s a bit like singing when your sad just to turn things around inside. Now, take a look at your kids. Is what you are getting all hot under the collar about going to make a difference in the long run. Really? Start looking at those little imperfections as strengths that your kids can develop over time.

3. Be more present whenever possible.

“We love you, we need you, we adore you, we’d like to spend more time with you! But it doesn’t feel like you’re actually with us much of the time. You’ll get more out of conversations with friends if you’re not checking on your digital posse quite so often.”

To do starting this evening: Shut your smartphone down and keep it in your purse whenever you’re with your kids. We say our kids are the most important people in the world, but damn how can that be if they come second to your facebook friends and your smart phone.

4. Be more available for friends (and family.)

“Real-life friends are a lot like Farmville in that you only gain points with lots of time and careful tending! If you make a point to add just a few more touches per week, you’ll see the love pour back in greater volume than you dished it out.”

To do starting this week: Ask your kids specific questions about their day and listen without judgment or comment. We all ask, “How was your day?” and most of the time are met with, “Fine.” This happens for two reasons, 1. Your kid knows you are not really listening OR 2. If she gives you any information, you are going to offer your unsolicited opinion. Try asking these questions instead. “What did you study today? What was one thing you learned that you did not know before? Did you make someone laugh? Did anyone make you laugh? If you could do one thing tomorrow, exactly the same as you did today, what would that be? If you could do one thing differently…?”

5. Be more willing to say not right now

“Saying no to people is never fun. It sucks to disappoint others, particularly when you really care about them. But we both know you’ll crash and burn and be of no use to anyone if you try to do too much.”

To do starting today: When your kids ask you for help, ask your kids what specifically is tripping them up. Let them show you how much they CAN do and then teach them or help them with the one aspect they are stuck on. This will lead to more confidence for them and less requests for help from you.

“Do you have any additional points to add? Share this post with a friend and let them know what you’re doing each day to be more alive!”

And go back and read the real zest post and if you have tips and pointers that apply to your life outside of your kids, post on their site, I am sure they would appreciate it.

Danger: Thin Ice

Thank you to Jamaica Jenkins for sending us this blog to post.

While on a walk, I was prompted into an “ah-ha” moment by this sign. As parents, we would never imagine lacing our kids up into a pair of shiny new skates and sending them out on a half frozen pond. It would be considered irresponsible, negligent and most obviously, dangerous. Then it occured to me – all too often, we send our kids out into the world not knowing if they will fall through the ice or make it across to the other side of the pond. We’re not really sure they’ll know how to get a job, pay their bills or understand how to take care of their most basic needs. We “think” it’ll be ok, but in all honesty, we’re just not sure. It sounds crazy when we put it that way. Why wouldn’t we make sure they know how to do the things the real world expects from them?

One reason is it’s easier, cleaner, neater and more timeline friendly to just do most everything ourselves. That is one huge contributor to autopilot parenting – we just aim to keep the house moving along without really knowing if the kids are picking up skills along the way.

Another reason is that we don’t know how to prepare them! We think they’ve learned a lesson but then again, we’re not sure if our “techniques” strategies and tactics are even sinking in. Seriously, do we know if our kids will get out of a jam, if we’ve only lectured them on how to avoid them, punished them because they got into one or saved them from heading right towards one. A real jam. With real consequences. We just don’t know until we set them loose outside of our homes and we wait to see what happens. Will they know how to communicate with professors or will they have us parents calling in to request a class schedule change? Will they rack up a credit card and start off with 10k in debt because they can’t budget? Will they understand how to get insurance? Take a risk? Stand up for themselves? All without us jumping in? These are questions that will answer themselves at one point or another.

The question is, would you rather know they can handle it or simply leave it up to chance? If you’re interested in testing the strength of their skills before they head off into the world, then you have to be ready to start training them now, when they’re 2, 5, 7, 10 – whatever age they are in this moment. That pond is waiting for them at 18. Let’s make sure they can make it across (falling down onto the ice is one thing, falling through is another).

Parenting for RIGHT NOW?

The other day I was chatting with a few moms – okay, I was listening while they were chatting – and they started to discuss how at times they found themselves “disciplining (correcting, reminding, nudging, nagging, lecturing) their kids for doing things that were just – well – annoying and probably didn’t really fit into the category of discipline problems. HMMM. Interesting. I kept listening.

One of the moms said she felt as if sometimes she hit the “automatic parenting button” without really thinking about what she was saying or what she was doing. This not only concerned her, it made her wonder, really wonder, how many times she hit the “auto” switch and how that might be effecting the kids and more importantly, her relationship with her kids.

I am loving this. I shouldn’t be, but I am. This mom is on it. Now, if she can just keep challenging herself and get to the big “aha” moment, we are in business.

Another mom chimed in, inspired by the insight and courage the first mom showed and proclaimed with the kind of clarity that gives me goosebumps “ya know – sometimes I jump in when I start thinking about everything that needs to be done. Like, the trash needs to go out NOW, and I have to get to work NOW, and they have to go to bed NOW. And I justify some stupid parenting strategy, that doesn’t even work, just so I can have something happen NOW.”

A big pause from all the moms. I could feel the intensity. I knew they were really sinking into something big.

Today is a good time to stop and think: will all that micromanagement train the child to eventually take out the trash on his own? Will that same kid ever get up and out the door on his own? Will the two rumbling brothers ever find a better way to solve the discord? Perhaps, but not before you’re wiped out from sheer exhaustion and you’ve checked out of the relationship (it’s hard work getting them to “do” all the things they should and have to “do” isn’t it?).

As parents, it’s important to regularly step outside ourselves and peer down over the railing from the stairwell and watch and ask: is this scene that plays out everyday doing any good? Does anything ever change. Do they ever wake up and say, gee, I really learned from that lecture or gee, mom’s going to yell at me to put my shoes on so I’ll get it done ahead of time? Of course not! They do the same thing, and we respond out of habit and the cycle continues.

This is why we have to climb up and observe from the perch — and spy down on our actions within our families. Yes, we’ll also see we look like dingdongs when we are driving our kids’ lives (set on comfy cruise control) to simply get through the NOW.

So when you see this happen, ask yourself , “What about later?” And figure out what YOU CAN DO NOW, that will support your kids for later.

No Good or Bad Choices

    As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it. -Buddy Hackett

Do we really trust our kids with the choices they make? I guess the answer is often sure, if I think it’s the “right choice” for my kid.

Kid’s Choice: I don’t like dinner so I’m not going to eat it.
Parent: Bad Choice – I’ll make you something else or I will nag you and bribe you till you eat. Okay.

Kid’s Choice: I don’t want to bring my lunch today.
Parent: Bad Choice – You’ll get hungry and then you can’t learn so I will pack it for you and stuff it in your backpack.

Kids Choice: I hate soccer and I don’t want to play any longer.
Parent: Bad Choice – You promised your coach and you will let the team down (2nd grader here). You will play this year even if you hate it and next year we can discuss it.

Kids Choice: I don’t want to wear pj’s to bed, I want to wear my jeans, so I am ready for school.
Parent: Bad Choice – You will uncomfortable and wrinkly in the morning and it’s just silly.

You get the picture. We say we want our kids to make choices, but as adults, we have decided what the “right” choice is for the child.

Here is the thing though – there are no good choices or bad choices, choices are just that – choices.

A choice will either move you closer to or further away from what it is you want. Parents are constantly commenting on their kid’s choices. Instead of helping the kids learn about the process of choice and the power of choice, we interrupt the learning by judging whether the choice is good or bad. Here is a story to illustrate the power of choices and how they often reveal the true goal of the person making them.

    When one of my kids was 7 she decided (her choice) to play soccer. About half way through the season, I went to a game and watched as she danced and shuffled around the field, never really running toward or going after the ball. After the game I asked her about her overall decision to play soccer (I was getting the sense that she didn’t really like soccer). She looked at me – serious as all get out, and promptly stated, “Oh mom, soccer is the best, and things are going great. I decided that this year, my goal was to keep 6 feet between me and the ball at all times. I don’t want to get hit with that thing. Have you ever been hit by a soccer ball? It hurts.” Enough said.

Choices, as I have said on numerous occasions, are about more than blue boots or red boots, coat or no coat, do it now or do it later. Choices move us forward in our lives and give us a sense that we are in charge of our lives in the most fundamental way.

Anyone, particularly a child, who is WILLING to make a choice, should be congratulated for having the courage to make it. And let’s not forget, that each time our kids make a choice, the better they get at making them, so lets give them lots of practice.