All posts in Research & Parenting Resources

The Proper Way of Training Children

proper-heart-2It’s so simple isn’t it? This one quote, sums up for all of us, how to go about raising our children. And yet, any of us who are raising kids knows just how illusive this approach is.

Take a minute now, and think about one or two small shifts you could make today, that would be more in line with what Dr. Dreikurs is suggesting.

I remember posting this quote on my fridge when my oldest daughter was three. I used it as my “true north”, to guide my parenting decisions. I remember questioning myself on a daily basis for the first year or two. Was I treating her too much like an adult? Could she understand why I was making some of the decisions I was making? Didn’t she need constant direction from me?

Over time though, I found the deeper meaning of Dreikurs words and realized, at least for me, that he was talking more about adopting an attitude of respect, cooperation, and genuine interest than in applying techniques for raising compliant, well mannered kids. It was about remaining flexible, open-minded and responsive vs. reactive as a parent. It pointed the way towards a dynamic, lively way of being in relationship with the kids, not a static one that demanded only one “right” way of handling a situation or behavior.

His quote also helped me recognize that it was about becoming more aware. More aware of myself in situations that triggered strong emotions – positive or negative and how those emotions influenced the way I handled the situation. More aware of whether I was speaking and behaving in ways that suggested I was talking to a respected peer versus a small child, and more aware of how my actions and words influenced my child and the relationship we were building together. It was easy to see that when I tried to exert force over my daughter, she responded in exactly the same way an adult would. She revolted, through a temper tantrum, tried to push me away. Exactly the kind of reaction I could expect if I tried to overpower my best friend.

When I began to understand the real significance of this quote, it shaped my parenting approach and allowed me to focus more intentionally on the relationship I was building with the kids and not get distracted by pesky behaviors that cropped up from time to time. His words gave me the courage to take responsibility for my thoughts and behaviors, attitudes and beliefs and while I was busy tending to my over-active brain, I found that I interfered less with my kids and that seemed to bring out the best in them.

As I spent more time tending to my own misguided thinking I developed a deep sense of faith in myself and in my kids and the more I internalized his words, the more deeply I felt that faith grow. Faith turned into confidence and confidence allowed me to take risks, think outside the box, turn away from the “tsk-tsks” and hairy eyeballs I received from on-lookers and focus on what was most important to me. And what was most important, was raising children who would one day, make the world a better place as the result of participating in it from the time they could barely reach the counter.

I invite you to take a minute – right now, and think about one or two small shifts you could make today, that would be more in line with what Dr. Dreikurs is suggesting.

Ebook: Just Released

New Parenting Book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?

By Vanessa Van Petten, creator of and author of the parenting book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?”

When I was 16 I thought it was my Dad’s goal in life to make me miserable. I was convinced that he had a running list of all the ways he could embarrass me in front of my friends, trick me into doing more chores or make my curfew earlier.

Our relationship would have continued to devolve until one day I saw my Dad reading a parenting book. I flipped through it while my Dad was in the bathroom and realized a lot of the things he did that drove me crazy he was getting right out of this book! I looked at the other parenting books on our shelves and realized that they were all written by adults. I wondered—has anyone ever asked teens to write to their parents?

I decided to build a website where teens could answer questions and write to parents called I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew and how happy both teens were to get their voices out and parents were to have a new outlet for connecting with their kids! We now have over 120 teen writers who give advice.

Teenagers, when given a neutral space LOVE talking to parents and often offer some of the best insight because they are going through it themselves. We have also been so excited to help parents who feel like they cannot reach their kids and teens.

I think teens and parents can work together to overcome their differences and learn to work best together. We have just come out with our book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded and it is a radical approach to parenting because it is written from the kid’s perspective! We would love for you to check it out—if you are brave enough to see what kids have to say!

Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say:

“Van Petten, founder of the popular Web site, offers parents a candid view of the contemporary teen’s world in this eye-opening text. Van Petten uses actual stories about teens and their often anxious, angry, or befuddled parents to introduce each chapter. Pointing out that she is neither a parent nor a teen (nor a doctor, therapist, or counselor), the college-grad author has nevertheless earnestly investigated her subject and includes current research on teens as well as hundreds of “real quotes, interviews, e-mails and advice from actual teens.” Van Petten explores a variety of timely subjects, including peer relationships, teen/parent communication, bullying, technology, and “risky business” (smoking, drinking, sex, and more). Her outlook on technology and “Internet savvy” is particularly incisive, emphasizing not only the hazards of “time-suck” activities (i.e., Facebook, chatting on IM, and texting) but also the many social and academic benefits of the digital universe. Like a crafty spy, Van Petten comfortably segues from parent to teen perspective, and while noting that each adolescent is unique, she skillfully opens doors to the collective teen psyche. “ –Publishers Weekly

Vanessa Van Petten is one of the nation’s youngest experts, or ‘youthologists’ on parenting and adolescents. She now runs her popular parenting website,, which she writes with 120 other teenage writers to answer questions from parents and adults. Her approach has been featured by CNN, Fox News, and Wall Street Journal. She was also on the Real Housewives of Orange County helping the housewives with troubled teens. Her next book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” is being released in September 2011 with Plume Books of Penguin USA.

NHPR: Vicki Hoelfe on Word of Mouth

On Tuesday, March 1 – Virginia Prescott of New Hampshire Public Radio’s, Word of Mouth interviewed Vicki with special guest, Catha Lamm, mother of 3 and Director of Information Technology at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Catha has been blogging about her experiences using the Parenting On Track™ program with her family for the past 2 years. Her posts are insightful & inspiring. If anyone wonders how to put the concepts from Parenting On Track™ into action, just read her blog.

Vicki has been working tirelessly for over 20 years to spread the word about Adlerian Psychology and her amazing program, changing the lives of countless parents and children along the way. If you are interested in learning more, listen to the interview here.

Parenting APP: Marble Jar

About a month ago, Anna Rosenblum Palmer of contacted our office. She was in the process of developing an iphone app and wanted to talk about a few things with us.

I knew who Anna was right away. She and her husband participated in a six-week-live-class that I taught two years ago in Williston, VT. She is one of those moms who you notice in a crowd – smart & savvy – and who I immediately noticed in my class – part skeptic & part enthusiastic optimist. She asked insightful, inquisitive questions and truthfully, kept me on my toes. After the class ended, I told Jennifer, that I hoped there would be an opportunity for Anna and Parenting On Track™ to work together some day. When she invited us for coffee, we jumped at the chance to sit down with her and hear what was on her mind.

Anna is the kind of business person you want to work with; no nonsense and gets things done. She is inspiring and creative and has a sharp mind that drives projects forward. Anna, as it turns out is not only a fierce business woman, she is a techie, and for those of you who know me, I am not. Over the years, as Jen and I have heard from dozens of parents that we should develop an app, make your site mobile ready and deliver emails that parents can check on their iphones and….” , all we could do was nod politely and walk away – until now.

Anna told us that she was inspired by Parenting On Track™ to create a parenting app for the masses and would like us to work with her on this project. Clearly, this was the break we were looking for.

With this new project Anna will be leveraging my 20 years of experience as a Parent Educator and we will be leveraging Anna’s experience as a tech savvy business woman and software designer. The first app will hit the stores by Mother’s Day. We will be sure to keep you updated as the project moves forward or feel free to check back for future updates!!

From Adler’s Classroom

A student walks into my classroom, shoulders rounded, head down, gazing blankly at his feet. Kids rush by, pushing him off balance. I watch for a moment, then ask myself, “What assets is this child bringing today that will help with his transition from home to school?” The obvious answer is “courage’-he has mustered up the courage to walk into this unfamiliar and awkward social setting.

As a teacher, the most important thing for me to remember is that school is indeed a social setting – a social setting (just like a family) that demands answers to the questions “How do I know I belong here? How do I know I have a place in this group?” There are powerful actions we can take as teachers to support all students, discouraged or not, who are looking for answers to these questions:

  • Observe your students’ strengths. Spend at least two weeks observing each of your students and the strengths they bring into the classroom.
  • Give every student a job that draws out that strength-for example, getting the teacher’s mail, signaling the class’s attention, filling homework folders.
  • Convey the importance of their contribution to the daily function of the classroom-quietly!

As one of my mentors told me years ago, “The real job of a teacher is to do more than teach academics. It is to develop citizens of the world. That takes time. But what else have you got to do that is more interesting than that?”

I couldn’t agree more. Teachers (and parents), say hello to the next generation of leaders.

Pay it Forward

    “Every human being strives for significance, but people always make mistakes
    if they do not recognize that their significance lies in their contribution to the lives of others.”

    -Alfred Adler

    “Every good act is charity.
    A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellows.”


There are so many ways that we can get involved and to “Pay It Forward.” Here are a few ideas:

Donate or volunteer at a food shelf or soup kitchen; volunteer during “Green-Up” days or other local work days; become involved with the outreach programs available through your local church or schools; volunteer with Meals on Wheels; visit the elderly at a local nursing home.

Truthfully, all you have to do is look around to see someone in need. A broken heart, a discouraged spirit, a physical challenge, an emotional injury. Make a connection, reach out, share a smile, touch a shoulder, return a laugh.

Donate or raise money for Mosquito Nets, Pennies for Peace, Cancer Society, March of Dimes – and the list goes on…

The possibilities are endless, and the benefits are staggering.

In celebration of a movie that started a movement in my own family and has translated into over 1000 hours of community service visit:

Who is Alfred Adler?

On the eve of the Parenting On Track™ Weekend Retreat, I wanted to pay homage to Alfred Adler and the impact his work has on my life.

It is because of him, that I enjoy a deep connection with each one of my children, my husband and those who make up my “healthy tribe”. His work has been the catalyst for the majority of insights that have facilitated clarity, healing and comfort for me in my life.

He continues to inspire me to look deeper, to trust, to take risks, to forgive often and quickly, and to love unconditionally. I have spent the last few days preparing for the upcoming weekend, and so I offer this extraordinary interview of Henry Stein, a noted Adlerian Expert, and his thoughts on Adler and his work.

Please, if you are looking to enrich your life in any way, take 10 minutes, just 10 minutes and read this illuminating article, Was ist “das Ich”? An Interview with Henry Stein on Alfred Adler, by Susan Bridle.

I have included an excerpt below, that for me, is the most powerful statement in all of Adler’s work.

    WIE: If you approach it in this way, it can be a lifelong project to straighten all this out.

    Henry Stein: Yes. Adler says, “Wait a minute. If in fact there is a single goal and this single goal is causing the symptoms and problems and is, in a sense, orchestrating everything, you don’t work on the fifty-two different subcategories of symptoms, you work on the goal.” When you change the goal, everything else begins to shift, the symptoms begin to vanish. People get goose bumps when they come to the realization that they can change their life so dramatically and that it isn’t an overwhelming, laborious, lifelong task. That’s the good news. There’s bad news: The bad news is that you now have responsibility. And that’s a trade-off. When people are willing to accept this responsibility, they almost have a sense of being reborn, and the sense of freedom and empowerment is wonderful. And then they accept the responsibility very willingly; it’s not a burden. But other people—who don’t want the responsibility—will back off, and what they’ll do is they will either forget the insight or they will argue with it or sabotage it.

Read the entire article and enjoy!

The Evidence is In

Yes, the Parenting On Track™ program is grounded in Science. Not only is it based on the theories of Alfred Adler, from over 100 years ago, but scientific research and associated evidence, keeps piling in.

One of our all time favorite mom bloggers, who is completely committed to and passionate about her family, just posted some more — evidence. Please visit her blog for your daily dose of anecdotal inspiration, as well.

Supporting Evidence

This post is for anyone who still thinks that what’s best for our kids is to protect and rescue them from all sadness, struggle, and failure. I’m happy to report, the evidence is in!

A little adversity goes a long way

U. BUFFALO (US) — New research adds credence to the adage ‘whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,’ a well-known saying, that until now has had little scientific evidence to support it.

A national multi-year longitudinal study of the effects of adverse life events on mental health has found that adverse experiences really do in fact appear to foster subsequent adaptability and resilience, with resulting advantages for mental health and well being.

Details will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology…

The team also found that … people with a history of some lifetime adversity appeared less negatively affected by recent adverse events than other individuals … the evidence is consistent with the proposition that in moderation, experiencing lifetime adversity can contribute to the development of resilience. … [via]

So next time you feel the guilt of not rescuing your child, and strangers give you that “aren’t-you-going-to-do-something” look, remember that science has your back!

Read original blog post.

Celebrate your Mistakes!

Is there a moment that defines the power and necessity of celebrating “a willingness to participate in life” vs. a positive outcome? Yes. there is.

Shopping Trip to Hell

The day before school started, in the heat of the day, I took 5 children to the grocery store; 4 biological kids and a friend’s child who was staying with us for the day.

At the end of the trip, the youngest (6) pulled out her money and picked out a candy bar to purchase. Her older sister (9) noticed the sign that said buy one, get 2 free. Hmmm? The 9 year old did a quick calculation- that’s 3 candy bars for the price of one – and quickly & earnestly suggested that she and her older sister (age 12) be the recipients of the 2 additional candy bars. But wait — the 9 year old suddenly realizes that there weren’t enough free candy bars for the friend. Not to worry, it’s just a problem that needs a solution – right? So, she asks the 6 year old to buy another candy bar, after all they are just a buck and her sister appears loaded with ones – thus making sure everyone got a candy bar with 2 left over for good measure.

I Don’t Think So…

Unfortunately, the 6 year old didn’t see it quite this way. Instead of agreeing, she took a stand … nope, not gonna’ happen, really only wanted to spend money on one candy bar for herself. Her sisters getting candy was just a side benefit…she dug in her heels and innocently inquired why the friend did not have his own money to buy his own candy bar?

“C’mon! Please!” and the begging began. The 9 year old was even willing to PAY the $1 for the extra candy bar when we got home… but the 6 year old was not budging and proceeded through the line to buy her 3 candy bars. The 9 year old continued with the pleading and begging, which only served to inflame her younger sister until finally, the 6 year old reverted to – wait for it – punching and scratching the 9 year old. Lovely right?

Stop Looking at Me, I’ll Handle it!

At this point, people began to stare and look a bit concerned. And then it happened – I was stung; stung by the bug called, personal prestige. The transaction at the register was completed, I walked outside and in an emotionally charged state…took the candy from the child who was hitting and threw all 3 candy bars in the trash. Done. End of story. I know, very mature of me.

In my irrational and embarrassed state – I justified my actions by convincing myself in the moment, that

“A child who hits to solve a problem, does not deserve candy.”

The Fight for Justice Ensues!

As soon as the candy was confiscated and tossed, the 9 year old – recipient of the punching, defender of fairness and sharing – turned to me and protested whole-heartedly that I “could not do that because the candy did not belong to me. I did not buy that candy and did not have the right to throw it out” and the screaming fit ensued.

I kept walking until we reached the car. I climbed in and let the older 2 kids unload the grocery bags. I managed to keep my mouth shut, although I was seething inside, not so much about the hitting, as that wasn’t directed at me, but at the dressing down I had taken, in public by my 9 year old, and drove home in silence. I shudder to think of all the nasty thoughts I had during the ride home.

Celebrate the Dragon Lady?

Yes, I screwed up. Because of the Parenting On Track™ program I knew it. Because of the program, I knew not to look for a discipline strategy right in that moment.

Because of the program I knew I had “mistaken beliefs” and they had been activated. Because of the program, I had the self-restraint to keep my mouth shut on the drive home.

Because of the program, I knew how to apologize to my children. Because of the program, in the 15 minutes it took to get home, I had a genuine, sincere, heart-felt appreciation for the 9 year old whose tantrum received the brunt of my negative thoughts, feelings and energy.

A Miraculous Perspective

“E, I am sorry. I am sorry for getting involved. I am sorry that I did not show you that I trusted the two of you to handle things. I am sorry that I did not keep my focus on your younger sister and encourage the rest of you to leave the store and go to the car.”

“Do you want to know what I KNOW to be true about who you are on the planet? I know that you are the most loyal sister in the world. I know that no matter what, you will stand up for your sister until the end. I know that you are concerned with justice and fairness and no matter what it takes you will do what it takes to fight for what you believe is right. Thank you.”

Yes, I said all of that and I meant every word of it. And all it took was a mere 15 minutes to shift from blame, anger and revenge, to respect, appreciation and love – for myself and for my children.

The trip to the grocery store ended in a big fat hug and a greater awareness of myself and my daughter. A reason to celebrate – ABSOLUTELY!

What? You let her GET AWAY with it?

“Now what?” “Isn’t there a consequence for hitting?” “How does your daughter know it’s not ok to throw a temper tantrum in the store?” “You just can’t let her get away with that.” “You are the parent. YOU are in control.” “Some things are just not OK.” “Why didn’t you just loan her the money?”

I know the questions. I know the statements. I have heard them all and even have my own set of voices yelling at me from inside my head.

Be – Do – Have

I will follow up with all of my children when I am not vibrating with emotion, and I can trust myself to be reasonable, respectful and loving.

I will focus on what I can do differently the next time, and answer the question:

“What will it take for E(9) and J(6) to find their voices AND treat others with compassion, empathy, and respect?”

This question will not be answered in a trip to the grocery store, in a response to hitting that demonstrates (adult) power- over another human (child). It will be answered in small steps, individual moments every day that invite my children into the process of living, making decisions, experiencing the outcomes and moving forward.

We will have 25 more episodes in the grocery store, I am sure of that. And if every time I commit to working toward enhancing the relationship I have with my children, encouraging their budding independence and maintaining self-respect, I have reason to celebrate.

The Big Talk!

embarrassed.teenAttention – Calling all moms, dads, aunties, nannies and anyone else you consider part of the “village” that helps you raise your kids. Here’s a post based on several, recent, conversations I had and overheard while milling around my life (minding my own business thank you very much) on the subject of… AHHHH! No, not that. YES – that.

You do realize, that without “it” – sex – you wouldn’t be parents – right?

And you are also aware that you will never feel the thrill of holding your brand new grand child if at some point YOUR kids don’t have sex. So, lets keep this conversation in perspective. If you are easily offended, I am sure there are lots of other posts on the internet of interest. For those brave souls who want to know my 2 cents on the subject – read on.

More and more I hear from families who have middle-school, “tweeners” asking me- when I suggest they sit down and have “the talk” with the kids? You know- “the big sex-talk?”

Here is my concern:

What in the world have you been waiting for? By the time your kids are 12 or 13, they are way-way-WAY behind. Now, they know lots of stuff about sex. They learned some in school and some at church and some from you. But the majority of what they learned, they learned from other kids who don’t know any more than yours do. It’s crazy. One of the scariest aspects of a parent’s life is thinking about their kids having sex and they think a reasonable solution is to IGNORE IT! Wake up people. We have some education to do.

Now, I sum up sex ed in two categories.

The first are the nuts and bolts. You know, the questions the kids ask when they are small and they want to know where babies come from and all that. This leads into all the “technical” stuff the kids learn at school or at home about how, when, who, why and don’t, wait, safety, etc.

But there is another category that doesn’t often get any air time at all and I think in some ways this is the most important conversation NOT being had by parents and their kids. And that conversation is about intimacy and sensuality and passion and connection and communication. Now, I have NO idea why parents aren’t talking to their kids about this stuff, but they aren’t.

Parent’s often ask me when I had “the talk” and ya know, the truth is, I never did it in one talk. I never sat my kids down and said, “Listen honey, it’s time for me to tell you about intercourse or the birds and the bees” … or whatever it is that parents use to bring the topic up, nowadays. It was always just part of the ongoing conversation in my home with 5 very different people.

I will tell you, that not once did we use names like po-po or may-may or wee-wee. It makes the whole “body beautiful” thing completely bogus. I wanted my children to feel confident when they discussed their bodies so that meant taking the plunge and calling things what they are – Penis. Vagina. Clitoris. Erection. There you have it.

I know, I know for many of you- the conversation is not flowing and it takes some thoughtful consideration, because you as parents are not even comfortable discussing the subject. And for you, I say its time to get off it- get over it and get moving, your children are counting on you.

Here is a great resource to support you to start your own journey.

Birds and Bees and Kids

Be enlightened and get going. Its too important to wait. Your kids will get the information somewhere and even if Jane is your child’s middle-school sex-ed teacher, its up to you, the parents. Your kids are counting on you, don’t leave them in the dark.

This is a beautiful and magical and mysterious and serious part of life.

Let’s talk as much about sex and love and intimacy and commitment as we do about their damn cell phones.

Big Love everyone.

Fasten Your Seatbelts and Prepare for Departure

prepare-f-departureWhat’s the point of training our children to get themselves up in the morning, or unload the dishwasher, or organize their time? Is it because it will make our lives easier? Well no, that is an added benefit, but that’s not the real reason. The reason we train our children is to prepare them for departure.

One day our children will leave our houses; it doesn’t matter how much we make them the center of our universe—they will leave someday, and it is our job to make sure they are ready. By the time our kids turn 16 through 18, there is a lot of growth happening. They are learning to drive, opening bank accounts (if they haven’t already), applying for college or for jobs, dating, and possibly doing lots of other things like drinking, drugs…sends shivers up the spine just thinking about it.

Our children are getting ready for their lives because they know they are leaving, and they need all the support we can muster to help them jump into their lives and “out of the nest.” Last spring I heard a lot about parents of high school seniors who were having a hard time letting go. This was causing all sorts of havoc in the family and between the parents and children. Being the parent of a three- and five-year-old, I can’t say that I completely understand how those parents were feeling. But, I vividly remember the ache in my heart and stomach as I watched my “baby” walk down the hall for the first time to her kindergarten classroom, and I can only imagine what it will be like to watch her walk across the stage at 18 to receive her diploma.

So, what is a parent to do? How can we support our children as they ready themselves to depart, while we feel like falling apart? Here are a few things you can do:

  • Support them with any additional training they might need in real-world skills.
  • Loosen the boundaries around them a little without letting go; it will do wonders for your relationship.
  • Trust them.
  • Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Unfortunately, from the moment they arrive, our children are preparing to depart and live their own lives. So it is our job to give them a “map,” by training them in self and life skills, and then fasten our seatbelts, enjoy the ride, and know when to let go.

Science Supports Alfred Adler

Between 1901 and 1937, Alfred Adler espoused a new way to look at parenting and relationships. Adler understood that everything that happens in life, especially to children, is important. His theories and practice have shown to be productive when applied to the development of children and encouraging their sense of significance, competence and independence. Unfortunately, even though Adler’s theories are even more relevant today in the 21st century, his ideas have yet to become “mainstream.”

Now a new book, “NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, gives some scientific evidence for how right Adler was. NurtureShock challenges many popular, mainstream parenting ideas and techniques with scientific studies that will have, for many, very surprising findings. If you think praise is good, good children don’t lie, or that infants learn language by watching baby DVD’s, this book is for you. As the authors of NurtureShock put it, for a long time the parenting books have “mistaken good intentions with good ideas.”

As we see it:

  • Alfred Adler told parents “what”
  • NurtureShock explains “why”
  • and Parenting On Track™ tells parents “how.”

For the past twenty years, Vicki Hoefle and Parenting On Track™ have taken the theories of Adler ( recently studied and proven again by NurtureShock) and transformed them into practical strategies that before long become a way of being with your children, rather than just a way of disciplining or dealing with problems. For example, the first chapter of NurtureShock is about the reverse power of praise – sound familiar? Adler recognized the pitfalls of praise, introduced encouragement as a way to foster healthy self esteem and Parenting On Track™ takes it to the next step by showing parents not only how to replace praise with encouragement, but how create an encouraging home environment. (see Ch. 7 of the Home Program).

We recommend you get your own copy of NurtureShock. Theories and scientific information is important in understanding our children and why they do what they do. And maybe more importantly, why what we are doing doesn’t work. But, when you want more, when you want to find out how to put all of the great studies and statistics to work in the real world, look to Parenting On Track™.

We make the “how” easy – just check out the Home Program at

Read a review of the book by Pamela Paul in The New York Times.

Education Speech: Obama

schoolkidsRecently, President Obama addressed our children in a speech to students on their first day of school. While this speech was the focus of much discussion and debate preceding it, the speech itself felt more like coming home. It was not political or controversial. It was personal. It sounded very much like what he would say to his own children. It sounded very much like what Parenting On Track™ has been saying to parents and children for years.

“Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is… I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals … and to do everything you can to meet them.”

Set goals, and create a Roadmap. In order to move forward – as a student, a parent, an individual – it is important to identify where you are today and then decide: What do you want? What is important? Where do you want to go? How will you get there? If we want to parent from our best, and if we want our children to become their best selves, we will all need a map with a clearly defined starting place, carefully laid out goals, and a final destination worth fighting for.

What happens when you stumble and mess up? Because you will …

“(Y)ou can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.”

It is when faced with failure that our children need Encouragement the most. Rather than trying to save them from the failure or putting a label on it – talk to them about it. Let them tell you what went wrong, what they wish they had done, or what they are going to do next time. It was their mistake, let it be their solution.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Talk to your children about everything. Talk, ask, connect with and encourage them all the time, about everything. You will find that they, too, will become good talkers and will ask questions and will connect with others.

“I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do.”

Expect nothing but the best EFFORT from yourself and from your children. This does not mean perfection. This means having the courage to act, make mistakes, build on your strengths and find new insights along the way.

Many thanks to President Obama for his inspiring words of hope, courage and hard work to the young minds that will eventually shape our world. Click here for the full text of President Obama’s speech.

New Beginnings

Our children are getting ready! Summer is almost over and you can almost feel the excitement and nervousness in the air. Pretty soon, if they haven’t already, our children will be headed off to a new school – preschool, high school, college – or a new grade, maybe with a new teacher. It’s all very exciting as we begin to prepare ourselves for this change by buying new clothes, shoes, notebooks and backpacks.

This excitement and readiness for change is often what it feels like during the first night of my Parenting On Track™ classes. Parents have come to the class for a host of different reasons, but during that first night they all seem to have an “Ah ha” moment when the information in the class starts to click with them and they begin to feel energized and ready to face their family armed with new information and a fresh outlook.

Here’s what some Parenting On Track™ parents have said about this experience in their Blogs:

“ (A)s I watched Vicki, I started doing that thing– that head nodding-as-if-she were-in-the-room thing. Like the amen, sister, thing … Read more of the parentingontracktales blog

“We finished the all-day seminar and feel totally inspired. Finally, a structured plan to foster our children’s independence and well-being! Who knew I’ve been going about this mom thing all wrong? … in just one day, Vicki served up a big, fat awareness sandwich. For me at least, awareness grabs hold of my brain and doesn’t let go. Once I have it, I cannot ignore it. At that point, I had no choice but to follow through.” Read more of the Flockmother blog

You can check out the Parenting On Track™ Home Program, which is exactly like taking the six week class from the comfort of your own couch! Isn’t it time for a new beginning for your family too?

The Obamas Have Parenting Style

Ice cream—anytime, any flavor; own personal chef, swimming pool, movie theater and bowling alley. These things might make me relax my parenting a little—how about you?

I recently read an article about how President and Mrs. Obama plan to continue to enforce “the old rules” with their daughters despite the fact that they now live in the White House with a staff of people to cater to their smallest whims (see the Swarns article below). Without getting into the details of the article, I think what Swarns was trying to say is that the Obamas are not willing to give up their own personal Parenting Style amid the splendors of the White House. Kudos to them!

The Parenting On Track™ Program defines Parenting Styles in three ways: Authoritarian, Permissive and Democratic. Here are the definitions—see which one defines you.

Authoritarian Parenting styles can best be described as order without freedom in the house. And before I talk about what it looks like, let me first say that parents can gravitate towards this style of parenting for a couple of really good reasons.

  1. They think it is a way to keep their kids safe, and
  2. They really believe that after all these years on the planet, they have a lot of great information to share with their children.

Authoritarian parenting is usually about controlling the situation; tightening up on the boundaries around children;and oftentimes, when parents use discipline strategies, there is a real sense of punishment at the end of them because there’s this belief that if the kids don’t suffer, just a little bit, it’s not really working.

The effects of Authoritarian parenting are that you limit your children’s ability to practice, to get comfortable, to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. So, the children leave the house and go out into the world and a couple of things happen.

  1. They can start to become sneaky.
  2. They can become rebellious.
  3. They lack the confidence to do anything, and they become easy targets, in terms of being bullied, because they haven’t been allowed to develop a voice in their family.

Permissive Parenting Style is the opposite of Authoritarian and can be defined as freedom without order. For these parents, childhood is seen as something that is short and should be enjoyed. It’s very difficult for these parents to

  1. Set boundaries, and
  2. Hold their children accountable to them. They justify their actions (or inaction) with the excuse that it is “just this once.”

The effects of Permissive parenting are that it’s very stressful for children living in an environment where there are no boundaries. These kids tend to be very over-indulged and pampered and get whatever they want. Their parents will do whatever they can to avoid an upset child or a child who is distraught or crying, and this leads to children who believe that rules don’t apply to them and that the world owes them something.

We don’t anticipate that we will land in either one of these parenting styles, but oftentimes that’s where parents find themselves. And, usually, there is a moment where parents say, “This is not what I wanted. This is not what I was looking for. When I was rocking that baby, I imagined different conversations. I imagined myself supporting choices and looking forward to learning opportunities and knowing my kids were going to make mistakes. How do I get to be THAT parent?”

THAT parent is the Democratic parent. Democratic parenting is freedom with order. It is respect for me, as the adult, and respect for the child, as the child, and respect for the family as a whole. It is about creating mutually respectful dialogue, agreements, family dynamics and communication style. It is about encouraging independence in our children and also maintaining safety and honoring who we are as the parents of these children who are experiencing independence.

The effects of Democratic parenting are children who are allowed to experience their lives more fully. They are given the freedom to learn from their mistakes when mistakes are small and inconsequential, and then learn to answer the question, now what? It shows that you have faith in yourself, respect for your child’s choices, and you are able to model encouragement, support, and the attitude of—I believe in you.

Do each one of us fall into all three of these categories at some point in time? Of course. Can you learn and practice strategies that will help you to fall into the Democratic parenting style more often than not? Yes you can.

For more information on all three parenting styles and strategies that support Democratic parenting, see the Parenting On Track™ Home Program and our audio on Parenting Styles”.

[“First Chores? You Bet” By Rachel L. Swarns, New York Times Magazine, Published: February 21, 2009.]

(Authoritarian, Permissive and Democratic Parenting Styles are based on the many works of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D.).

The Foundation for Better Life

Foundation For A Better Life
Someone asked me recently, “Do you ever have a bad day?” She was curious because whenever anyone asks me how I am doing, I answer the same way, “Perfect.” The truth is, I can be perfect and still have a day from hell. I am old and I am wise (okay, not so old), and I have learned to go to my resources quickly when I feel off my game.

One of my favorite resources is the website “The Foundation for Better Life”. This site is simply inspiring. You can find everything from short videos to real stories by real people. The videos are on a range of topics from “the Power of a Dream” to “Teaching by Example.” The images are beautiful and the songs give me goosebumps. One of my favorite songs is “Hope You Dance.” The real stories, which can be read, listened to, or watched, are unique and unforgettable—you just can’t make up this stuff!

As I was perusing the site last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a close friend about creating her Family Mission Statement. Not only is the site a great resource for daily inspiration, it can quiet you in those hectic moments and help you identify what you value for yourself and your family. These values are the beginning of your Family Mission Statement.

If you are having trouble identifying what values are important to you and your family, or are having trouble creating a Mission Statement for your family, I encourage you to spend some time on the “The Foundation for Better Life” website. You are sure to come away feeling refreshed and ready to move forward with hope, clarity, and maybe a few tears, for good measure.


Straight From The Heart!

Straight From The Heart!How do you thank dozens of people who dedicated their time, energy and talents helping you realize your personal and professional DREAM? Throw a party of course! On Saturday, September 13th we gathered together the amazing individuals who helped turn the dream of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program into a reality and honored them with a Thank You party.

The evening started with beautifully clad moms and dads walking down Burlington’s South Willard Street towards the student center at Champlain College. There was no red carpet, but it sure felt like a red carpet event. The doors opened to aromatic cuisine, the sound of glasses clinking and decorations that reflected the joy I felt. My favorite touches were the beautiful pictures of many of the guests displayed throughout the room.

A good time was had by all, from start to finish. We shared laughter, poignant stories, and even a few tears. The highlight of the evening was the acknowledgment of each one of the individuals who has supported this project. At one point, I looked around the room, at all these amazing parents and was struck, literally struck, by how blessed my life is and how lucky the world is to have such wonderful people in it.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because the party was not only to thank the cast and crew of the project, but to thank all of you as well. Without the loyalty and support of everyone that has been a part of Shared Ventures and the Parenting On Track™ program, we wouldn’t be where we are today. And for that I say, “Thank You.”

Radio Show: Vicki Hoefle

Mark Johnson of Radio Vermont WDEVMark Johnson of Radio Vermont WDEV interviewed me as a guest on his morning call-in show just last week. I had done everything I could to prepare myself for the assault I thought may be coming – I would be talking about parenting on live, call-in radio folks, and this can be dangerous territory! Now I know how my kids feel as they enter new situations in their lives.

Note to Self: More compassion less boot camp.

Imagine my relief when I realized that, not only was my gracious host a truly well-informed professional, he was also a genuinely concerned parent interested in learning how he could parent from his best to build a strong healthy relationship with his daughter. At that moment, I knew that whatever crazy calls might come in, I had someone who understood what was truly important in parenting sitting right across the table from me.

From the start of the program, Mark’s thoughtful questions helped me to settle in and share with the radio audience the “magic” of the Parenting On Track™ program – the shift from seeing what we dislike, to identifying and supporting what is already within our children. And Mark’s audience generously returned the gesture, lighting up the phone lines with all sorts of wonderful questions and perspectives.

I’ve included the radio interview below so you can enjoy the show as much as we did. Please keep in mind that my job is to ask the questions that open the door to a new way of looking at a belief, a situation, a child, a moment. And, when that happens, the mind is illuminated. Everything changes. Confidence and direction return.

9/9/08 WDEV Mark Johnson Interview Part I

9/9/08 WDEV Mark Johnson Interview Part II

Thanks again Mark! Look forward to doing it again soon!

Is It Really Worth It?

worth it

As I write this article, my oldest child is transferring from a small college in upstate New York to a very large college in Flagstaff, Arizona, my 16 year old is getting ready to leave for 6 months to live in Argentina as an exchange student and my youngest son heads to boarding school in Pennsylvania.

While I watch my children slowly make their way out of my house and into their own lives, I am reminded of how often my choice of parenting principles has served not only me, but my children.

The sheer number of forms necessary for these three children to accomplish their goals is, at times, incomprehensible. This does not take into account the number of phone calls to schools, physicians, consulates, airlines, police stations and computer stores to gather information, send checks or verify shipping instructions. Fortunately, all three of them have taken the lead in every aspect of their plans.

There hasn’t been much nagging, reminding, lecturing, saving or screaming and, let me tell you something, if you think it’s tough dealing with a 3 year old at 5:00 PM who missed his/her nap… it’s NOTHING compared to how BAD it could be if these three young people were not completely competent, confident and capable!

Instead of a painful, stressful experience, this summer of planning has been filled with moments of:

  • 1 parent, 3 teens on 3 different computers at 11:00 pm, all talking and Googling at the same time while someone fills out multiple forms to save time and energy.
  • 2 parents on one speaker phone with 1 teen 600 miles away filling out forms, asking questions and setting up security codes together so we all have access.
  • Pumping fists, high fiving and chest bumping as we complete yet ANOTHER complicated packet of information together or confirm an illusive plane reservation.
  • And many, many moments of complete exhaustion and frustration shared by all of us where, just as we get ready to throw up our hands and slide not so gracefully down the rabbit hole, someone… some smart, intuitive, child suggests that it may be time for a ….. CREAMIE.

We wonder sometimes, whether every tough decision we make when our children are young to:

  • Ignore
  • Walk away
  • Allow for natural consequences
  • Hold weekly family meetings – even when nothing exciting is going on
  • Allow choices that we KNOW will make a mess for a few weeks

When I watch these 3 amazing children, take the first precarious steps into their world as adults, I am awe struck at the grace, confidence and enthusiasm they all exhibit in their own ways.


Book: For the Nightstand

This is our new monthly column aimed to inspire, connect and help you create family memories. We will be recommending books, games, activities, vacation sites and anything else we can think of to encourage parents and children to get the most out of their time together.

Enjoy our first recommendation.
Raising Kids Who Can, by Betty Lou Bettner, Ph.D., and Amy Lew, Ph.D.
This little diamond in the rough reveals the nuts and bolts of Family Meetings in under two hundred pages! I have to be honest – this is one of my favorite books and my copy will attest to that. Talk about a Roadmap to follow, this book will come in handy whether you are just starting your Family Meetings or you are already a pro. As if that weren’t enough, if you are one of the many parents still confused about HOW to incorporate the Crucial C’s (Connect, Capable, Count and Courage) into your life, you won’t be after this read.

Betty Lou and Amy do an amazing job weaving the Crucial C’s into daily life and family meetings through examples and stories. This book is easy to follow, fun to read, makes sense and will continue to be a resource for years to come.