All posts in Proactive Parenting Strategies

Let’s Talk About Sex

Disclaimer: This post isn’t going to be for everyone, but because I am teaching an adolescent class and because the topic of sex, sexuality, intimacy, body image, and gender roles along with plain old “So how DO you talk to kids about all of this?” comes up during every class, I wanted to provide a quick tip list that will help parents address these sensitive subjects in a reasonable, rational and respectful way.

sex-talk1. Start early. The sooner you start talking to your kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, body image, and gender identification, the better chance you have of raising a thoughtful, well informed educated teenager who understands all of these subjects and feels comfortable talking about them – openly and honestly. Take into consideration your child’s age, and take into consideration the level of curiosity your children display. Use their questions as a way to gauge how much information to share. If they seem satisfied with your answer, stop. If they ask more, keep answering. Parents wait too long to talk to their kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, responsibility and healthy relationships and miss the opportunity to establish honest conversation when kids are in the curious stage of life.

Most children are exposed to pornography by the age of 9. The sooner you start the education process, the better informed your kids will be which means they will make smarter, safer decisions when it comes time to decide whether they are ready for sex or not and with whom they want to have a sexual relationship with.

2. Use real language, not pretend words for real body parts. If you are uncomfortable using the word penis or vagina, intercourse, homosexuality, and so on there is no way you are going to be able to talk to your kids about sex and their sexuality. One of the ways you can determine whether your children are ready to explore their sexuality is by how comfortable they are talking about their bodies and how they work. After all, if they can’t say the word penis or vagina, they probably aren’t ready.

Using made up, immature names only confuses kids and lets them know that you are uncomfortable with the entire subject. This means they will rely on other people for information and their education.

3. Get educated. Chances are your parents were not a wealth of information and you grew up with some questions and faulty beliefs of your own around the subject of sexuality and sex. Blow these limiting beliefs open and do the work necessary to be a viable resource for your kids. It is our responsibility to talk to our kids about difficult subjects. Particularly subjects that will affect them their entire lives. Find experts who resonate with you. Practice talking about things that make you uncomfortable and nervous. You want your kids to come to YOU, not the other 9 year-old on the bus, with questions. Be honest and provide accurate information. Don’t confuse education with values. Being educated often makes it easier for kids to live into the value of delayed sexual intimacy.

4. Make it a regular conversation, not a conversation that happens once a year. Sex and intimacy, gender identification and body image are a big part of life as an adult. There are many aspects to a healthy sex life with a life partner. It will take dozens and dozens of conversations, some light, some serious in order to educate our children on relationships, intimacy, sexuality, pleasure, monogamy, and so on. Put it on your calendar and take advantage of every opportunity to talk about sex.

5. Education breeds confidence. Children who are confident about what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship (and that starts with the relationship they have with themselves), are better able to navigate healthy relationships when that becomes an integral part of their lives.

6. Encourage your kids to develop a healthy relationship with their own body. Yes, I know this is awkward, but studies show that people who are comfortable in their own skin, who understand their own bodies and can communicate openly about their own wants, needs and desires, are more likely to enter into healthy relationships. If you can’t bring yourself to talk to your kids, find someone you trust who feels comfortable and make that personal available to your child.

We are sexual beings. Whether you like it or not, it is your responsibility to teach your children about sexuality, sex, intimacy, healthy relationships and the time to start is when they are young and you have time to cover every aspect of what it means to be in a physical relationship with another human being.

Be Brave. Be Courageous. And have FUN.

Podcast: Contributions

In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about contributions. Learning how to contribute to the household helps children develop self-esteem and resiliency, qualities that will support them for life. This episode explains how to encourage our children to contribute, including very young children.

Listen below and learn how to invite your kids to participate in the operations of the home. Would you like to quit your job as the maid?

Control – Who has it? Who wants it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun.

Working it Out

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

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


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


  • What is our goal for making this change?

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

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

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

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


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


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

Podcast: Privileges & Responsibilities

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

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

Podcast: Offering Children Choices

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

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

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

Podcast: Natural Consequences

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

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

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

10 Ways to Connect with Your Spouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saying Thank You to Our Children

Thank you Happy Thanksgiving!

Let us look around and say thank you to our children.

  • Thank you for being who you are.
  • Thank you for trusting me as your parent.

Our thank yous can be simple and silly, because all those tiny, acknowledged efforts are the ones that bring us together.

So kiddos:

  • Thank you for helping me change the TV station (you know that remote drives me bonkers).
  • Thank you for being funny yesterday when I was grouchy because we ran out of coffee.
  • Thank you for playing along even though you don’t like yahtzee.
  • Thank you for finding my keys when I nearly short circuited.
  • Thank you for telling me to calm down when I got upset over the broken dish my neighbor had lent me.
  • Thank you for saying, “there’s nothing embarrassing about you mom” even if I know I can be kind of dorky.
  • Thank you for listening to the song I like on repeat without changing the station.
  • Thank you for caring about me. I am lucky to have you in my life.

Love you all!

Here’s a POEM I share every year.


4 Tips for Peaceful Holidays

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

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

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

4 Tips for Peaceful Holidays:

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

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

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

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

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

Encouragement Without Praise

EncouragementA Podcast with Vicki Hoefle

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

Encouragement implies faith in and respect for children.

Today many parents mistake praise for encouragement, However, praise presents numerous problems for parents and children.

Listen in and discover what you can do to encourage your child and why it is a good idea to let go of the praise.

Let’s All Get Along with Appreciations

appreciateA Podcast with Vicki Hoefle

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

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

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

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

Tips to Stop the Fighting!

Q&A with Vicki Hoefle

stop the fightingQuestion: I know many families who have kids that do not fight. Mine do. What’s the trick to stop the fighting?

Scenario: I have two kids (ages 9 and 6) who are very physical when they fight.   I’ve tried to ignore it when I can, I tell them to work it out and it still continues. They kick, scratch, squeeze and hit one another on occasion. No one has gone to the ER but they have drawn blood.

Answer: The good news is, there is no trick.  

Most families that have kids who consistently get along and do not demonstrate a high degree of physical fighting have one thing in common.  They layer their strategies and create an entire system for raising respectful kids who know how to handle frustration and how to work things out without resorting to physical fighting.  Why doesn’t every parent use this layering technique if it gets such great results?  Because like anything worth having it can be difficult in the beginning.  Here are a few tips to help you turn things around and stop the fighting.

  1. Understand that most kids fight for their parent’s attention (no not always, but enough of the time that it’s a good place to start).  What happens if you leave the room, or put headphones on?  Do they follow you?  Do they get louder?  When they tattle, what is your response?  Do you say – “Oh, wow.  That doesn’t sound fun at all?” Or, do you start playing referee and trying to help them come up with ways to solve the problem.  If you are involved in the back and forth, chances are good that some of the fighting is for your benefit.

  2. It’s easy to say to kids “work it out” but who in the world takes the time to actually teach kids how to work through conflict?  We used weekly Family Meetings to teach our kids the skill of conflict resolution, which included an emphasis on communication and it worked well.  Ask a parent you see who has kids who get along how they taught their kids to work it out.  It doesn’t mean the strategy will work in exactly the same way for you, but I bet you pick up a tip that you could try.  There are great books out there to help as well.  Start with Non-Violent Communication if you want to influence the entire family.

  3. Focus your attention on the behaviors that you want to see more of.  That doesn’t mean you praise those behaviors.  It means you notice them, acknowledge them and let the kids know, that YOU know how hard it is to walk away from a fight or to forgive a brother who is bugging you or how helpful they are and how much you enjoy their company in the kitchen, etc.  Remember that you get more of what you pay attention too, so if you want to raise kids who leverage their strengths and develop character traits that will last a lifetime, focus your attention and energy on those.

Fighting can easily become a way of life if you aren’t armed with multiple strategies for creating a peaceful and harmonious household.  It is possible though and with some thought, it can be an exciting journey.

Question:  What is your go-to strategy for teaching kids how to get along?

Choose to Focus on Positives

Q&A With Vicki Hoefle

focusQuestion:  How can I shift my attention away from negative behaviors and focus on positives?

Since subscribing to the Duct Tape Parenting  “do nothing, say nothing” philosophy (which for the most part has improved our lives), we have noticed an increase in the amount that our 8-year-old physically (hard pinching) and psychologically (hate-words galore) bullies our 5-year-old (both are girls).

Together (as a family) we wrote out a list of behaviors that we mutually deem unacceptable and posted it on the fridge, and if one of those behaviors happens, then play-date privileges for that day are revoked. This has worked to a degree, but has increased the amount of tattling, and does not work well if I am not witness to the offending behavior. I also worry that this approach falls too much into the punitive/corrective category of parenting, which we are trying in earnest to avoid. Any thoughts/suggestions will be much appreciated.


You have two things working against you here.

The first is that you are focusing on the unacceptable behavior we ensures you will see no progress at all. Switch your attention and choose to focus on positives-  all those character traits you want to see more of. For instance:

We are a family that values: Mutual Respect, Forgiveness and Being Helpful. We live these values by: Talking to each other instead of yelling, accepting that people make mistakes and forgiving them when they apologize and help each other out by taking care of ourselves and working together around the house. Then, when you “catch” each other actually living these values, you can celebrate them. By focusing on what you want, you are sure to more of it.

Second, when you instituted the: If you mess up you loose your privileges for the day, you activated a competitive dynamic. Of course the kids are going to try and catch their siblings screwing up and then tattling on them. If your instincts tell you that the strategy you have implemented is punitive – LISTEN TO IT. That’s we have instincts and gut responses.

When you choose to focus on positives, it will  end the competitive dynamic will go along way in rebooting the family and bringing out the best in everyone.

QUESTION: Do you spend more time and energy on the negatives or the positives?

Rick Ackerly Resources

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

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

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

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

Bonus: It’s AUTUMN in VT.





3 Seemingly Simple Parenting Habits

3 parenting habitsOk, now that we’ve established a back to school frame of mind (it’s your child’s school year, not yours), it’s helpful to keep these three effective parenting habits in mind when working toward cooperation, communication and mutual respect in the daily routine. (Note: they seem simple but are challenging and require practice and patience!)

These Habits Tend to the Relationship

1. Ask Don’t Tell Be sure to ask your child which clothing, food, activities they prefer and LISTEN. If they want to wear cowboy boots and shorts, so be it. Even if it makes your style senses go berzerk, ignore the alarm, change your parenting habits, and empower the child. See some awesome kid outfits from real kids here.

2. Zip the Mouth This seems so simple in theory. But if you’ve read Duct Tape Parenting you know it isn’t. But as the year kicks off remember, parenting habits like micromanaging, cajoling, lecturing, nagging and so forth does nothing. To the outside world, you may look more composed but it sure doesn’t have any long term benefit!

3. Let it Be If your child doesn’t automatically master making her lunch or getting out the door with every folder in check- let it be. Going slow is a great addition to your list of parenting habits. Pick one thing (ie, remembering the reading journal or packing the soccer bag before bed, etc) and be patient. It takes 21 days for something to become a habit! Mistakes and setbacks happen – let it be and keep moving.

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?


8 Encouraging Parenting Messages

EncouragementMore than any other tool, strategy, concept or skill I use,  encouragement has been and continues to be my strategy of choice. In fact I consider encouragement “a way of being” more than a strategy. I beleive that if parents developed and mastered the art of encouragement, they would experience dramatic and lasting changes in both their children’s behavior and the quality of the parent / child relationship.

– Vicki Hoefle

Click to see them!









12 Awesome Ways to Encourage

integrityLet’s call this, the summer of 2013, the summer of love and encouragement!

Encouragement is a key component of the Duct Tape Parenting lifestyle- we don’t ZIP IT and check out. We do ZIP IT and check in. We take one step back and one step to the side, so we can see without steering.  This summer, let’s all make a conscious effort to encourage our children as they navigate their lives.

Of course we aren’t perfect, but we can try to use the following strategies everyday, in some way to make the relationship with our kids stronger and to aid them in building resiliency, independence and confidence. When we encourage, we parent with our child’s interest and integrity in mind.

12 Awesome Ways to Encourage Your Child:

  1. Set Realistic Expectations – Value the child AS IS by saying and showing that you believe she can do this and let her try.
  2. Show Radical Faith – This summer, have confidence and avoid checking in, monitoring and questioning how things are going all the time.
  3. Build Self Respect – Avoid comparisons and proving of worth with words and actions that say, “you are capable and you are loveable for all reasons.”
  4. Recognize Effort & Improvement – Communicate clearly that she is unconditionally acceptable and avoid focus on completed tasks or “could be” “should be” statements.
  5. Focus on Strengths and Assets –Look around and proactively help your child embrace the resources and assets around him, vs. focusing on mistakes.
  6. Ask Your Child vs. Telling – This is a simple strategy we can easily forget as parents! By asking and supporting their choices, we encourage kids to try, explore and make decisions.
  7. Identify Resources – Become a talent scout and use “vision” to see a talent in its raw or under-developed stages and accept when a she says “no” to activities you may have thought she would enjoy
  8. Direct Your Child Accordingly – Using “vision” means recognizing potential outside of your preference and even still, encouraging your child to follow a natural direction (even if you previously envisioned a this path!).
  9. Use Interests to Energize – Once your child expresses an interest, run with it without steering. Start small, think creatively and strategically to create spikes of excitement in your child’s life.
  10. Listen and Make Eye Contact – If your child has the courage to tell you what he or she would like (or not like), be sure you’re focused on your connection so that you can support him or her. Bonus: You can model what a good relationship feels like – it’s profound, even for adults, when someone stops what they are doing and listens to us- so let’s pass it on! 
  11. Be There –  Let’s say your child makes a decision that doesn’t work out. Consciously refrain from commentary, judgement or I TOLD YOU SOs. Let the lessons sink in with minimal interference. This is a great way to say “I accept you as you are.”
  12. Have a Sense of Humor – What seems like a mountain today, will look like a molehill down the road. Make mistakes and laugh at them. This teaches our children that mistakes are a part of life and they do not define who we are.

Do you have any other points to add? Let us know! Want to PIN this list? CLICK HERE TO SEE THE AWESOME PIN!