All posts tagged education topics

The Gift of Duct Tape

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources for 2014

Oh those lazy days of summer…or maybe not. Regardless of how you are able to spend your summer days, here is a recommended reading list for all of you. There a many experts in the field of parenting and many who have specific expertise. Bookmark this blog and when you have the time you can peck away at this list of my absolute favorites. Next week I’ll post my top resources on Kids and Sex.

Protecting The Gift
by Gavin de Becker

In Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker shares with readers his remarkable insight into human behavior, providing them with a fascinating look at how human predators work and how they select their targets and most important, how parents can protect their children. He offers the comforting knowledge that, like every creature on earth, human beings can predict violent behavior. In fact, he says, parents are hardwired to do just that.
Learn more

by Carol Dweck

Every so often a truly groundbreaking idea comes along. This is one. Mindset explains:
Why brains and talent don’t bring success
How they can stand in the way of it
Why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them
How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity
What all great CEOs, parents, teachers, athletes know
Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success—a simple idea that makes all the difference.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
Learn more

Children the Challenge
by Rudolf Dreikurs

Children: The Challenge gives the key to parents who seek to build trust and love in their families, and raise happier, healthier, and better behaved children. Based on a lifetime of experience with children–their problems, their delights, their challenges–Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, one of America’s foremost child psychiatrists presents an easy to follow program that teaches parents how to cope with the common childhood problems that occur from toddler through preteen years. This warm and reassuring reference helps parents to understand their children’s actions better, giving them the guidance necessary to discipline lovingly and effectively.
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Nurture Shock
by Po Bronson

What if we told you…
that dishonesty in children is a positive trait
that arguing in front of your kids can make you a good role model
and that if you praise your children you risk making them fail
…and it was all true?

Using a cutting-edge combination of behavioural psychology and neuroscience, award-winning journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have produced an innovative, counter-intuitive read that will change the way we interact with our children forever.

They demonstrate that for years our best intentions with children have been our worst ideas, using break-through scientific studies to prove that our instincts and received wisdom are all wrong. Nurtureshock is the Freakonomics of childhood and adolescence, exploring logic-defying insights into child development that have far-reaching relevance for us all.
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Queen Bees and Wannabees
by Rosalind Wiseman

When Rosalind Wiseman first published Queen Bees & Wannabes, it fundamentally changed the way that adults looked at girls’ friendships and conflicts. From how they choose their best friends, how they express their anger, their boundaries with boys, and their relationships with parents—Wiseman showed how girls of every background are profoundly influenced by their interactions with each other.
Now, Wiseman has revised and updated her groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls, and explores:
How girls’ experiences before adolescence impact their teen years, future relationships, and overall success
The different roles girls play in and outside of cliques as Queen Bees, Targets, and Bystanders, and how this defines how they and others are treated
Girls’ power plays—from fake apologies to fights over IM and text message
Where boys fit into the equation of girl conflicts and how you can help your daughter better hold her own with the opposite sex
Checking your baggage—recognizing how your experiences impact the way you parent, and how to be sanely involved in your daughter’s difficult, yet common social conflicts
Packed with insights on technology’s impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.
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Masterminds and Wingmen
by Rosalind Wiseman

In 2002, Rosalind Wiseman wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes and established a new way to understand girls’ social dynamics. Now Wiseman has done the same for boys. Wiseman’s new book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World, shows what’s really happening in boys’ lives. It creates a new language and analytical framework to understand the power of boys’ social hierarchies and how these influence their decision-making and emotional well-being. Wiseman’s hard-hitting challenge to parents and educators establishes a road map to reach boys and help them to grow into the best brothers, friends, students, athletes, boyfriends, and sons they can be.
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The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
by Rachel Simmons

In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons argues that girls are pressured to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. Unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless, the Good Girl is an identity so narrowly defined that it’s unachievable. When girls fail to live up to these empty expectations—experiencing conflicts with peers, making mistakes in the classroom or on the playing field—they become paralyzed by self-criticism, stunting the growth of vital skills and habits. Simmons traces the poisonous impact of Good Girl pressure on development and provides a strategy to reverse the tide. At once illuminating and prescriptive, The Curse of the Good Girl is an essential guide to contemporary girl culture and a call to arms from a new front in female empowerment.
Looking to the stories shared by the women and girls who attend her workshops, Simmons shows that pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, media, and peers erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins to enforce its confines in girlhood and extends across the female lifespan. The curse erodes girls’ ability to know, express, and manage a complete range of feelings. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting the expression of their needs. It requires modesty, depriving them of permission to articulate their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quiets voices and weakens handshakes. It touches all areas of girls’ lives and follows many into adulthood, limiting their personal and professional potential.
We have long lamented the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, recognizing that while the doors of opportunity are open to twenty-first-century American girls, many lack the confidence to walk through them. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons provides the first comprehensive action plan to silence the curse and bolster the self. Her inspiring message: that the most critical freedom we can win for our daughters is the liberty not only to listen to their inner voice, but to act on it.
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It’s Okay Not To Share
by Heather Shumaker

Although it flips convention on its head, It’s OK Not to Share… is based on child development and emerging neuroscience research. Discover concrete skills to help your child prevent bullying, channel active energy, express feelings appropriately and much more. It’s designed to make you rethink what you thought you knew about parenting and give you saner days.
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Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years
by Michelle Icard


Middle School Makeover is a guide for parents and educators to help the tweens in their lives navigate the socially fraught hallways, gyms, and cafeterias of middle school. The book helps parents, teachers, and other adults in middle school settings to understand the social dilemmas and other issues that kids today face. Author Michelle Icard covers a large range of topics, beginning with helping us understand what is happening in the brains of tweens and how these neurological development affects decision-making and questions around identity. She also addresses social media, dating, and peer exclusion. Using both recent research and her personal, extensive experience working with middle-school-aged kids and their parents, Icard offers readers concrete and practical advice for guiding children through this chaotic developmental stage while also building their confidence.
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Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
by Daniel J. Siegel

In this groundbreaking book, the bestselling author of Parenting from the Inside Out and The Whole-Brain Child shows parents how to turn one of the most challenging developmental periods in their children’s lives into one of the most rewarding. Between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in important and often maddening ways. It’s no wonder that many parents approach their child’s adolescence with fear and trepidation. According to renowned neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel, however, if parents and teens can work together to form a deeper understanding of the brain science behind all the tumult, they will be able to turn conflict into connection and form a deeper understanding of one another. In Brainstorm, Siegel illuminates how brain development affects teenagers’ behaviour and relationships. Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, he explores exciting ways in which understanding how the teenage brain functions can help parents make what is in fact an incredibly positive period of growth, change, and experimentation in their children’s lives less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide.
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Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children
By Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D. and Catherine O’Neill Grace with Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.


Friends broaden our children’s horizons, share their joys and secrets, and accompany them on their journeys into ever wider worlds. But friends can also gossip and betray, tease and exclude. Children can cause untold suffering, not only for their peers but for parents as well. In this wise and insightful book, psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., and children’s book author Catherine O’Neill Grace, illuminate the crucial and often hidden role that friendship plays in the lives of children from birth through adolescence.
Drawing on fascinating new research as well as their own extensive experience in schools, Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships begin early–in infancy–and run exceptionally deep in intensity and loyalty. As children grow, their friendships become more complex and layered but also more emotionally fraught, marked by both extraordinary intimacy and bewildering cruelty. As parents, we watch, and often live through vicariously, the tumult that our children experience as they encounter the “cool” crowd, shifting alliances, bullies, and disloyal best friends.
Best Friends, Worst Enemies brings to life the drama of childhood relationships, guiding parents to a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of social behavior. Here you will find penetrating discussions of the difference between friendship and popularity, how boys and girls deal in unique ways with intimacy and commitment, whether all kids need a best friend, why cliques form and what you can do about them.
Filled with anecdotes that ring amazingly true to life, Best Friends, Worst Enemies probes the magic and the heartbreak that all children experience with their friends. Parents, teachers, counselors–indeed anyone who cares about children–will find this an eye-opening and wonderfully affirming book.
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Homework Help – How much?

rick-ackerlyEvery year the same question comes up: How much homework help do I offer my child?

What I’ve noticed is that almost all parents who ask this question have 3 things in common:

  1. They don’t have a strategy. (At least not a strategy that provides direction and a goal.)
  2. They have big fat, false fears about what will happen if their child does not turn in homework! (Stay back a grade, flunk out of college, lose scholarship opportunities, become a slacker, etc.)
  3. They sense this could be a growing problem, which is why they want to nip it in the bud. (They don’t like the idea of being the homework police and I don’t blame them).

The Truth is

The homework is not your problem and the only one who can learn to “fix” homework issues is your child. The teacher is who your child can turn to for homework help.

Rick Ackerly, a 45-year veteran and thought leader in the field of Education says (about homework help),

“When you care about it more than your child, it absolves the child of responsibility.”

In his recent post (a title inspired by the wise words of a 7 year old), Overparenting? Why Do Grownups Have to Take Over? he guides parents  through various feelings and beliefs they have about homework help. He also shares a story that I believe will hit home for the majority of our readers who are still struggling with their over-parenting tendencies. In the post, he says to a couple of well-meaning parents,

“Right now, (your son) doesn’t have to do any learning, because you are doing all the work. Your anxiety is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Up Next: What I said to my children’s teachers that made everything a win-win-win for the kids, the teachers and myself!


Kids Learn from People They Like

champion“Every child deserves a champion- an adult who will NEVER give up on them… who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson

Healthy relationships are centered on mutual respect–in education, in parenting and in life. When we focus on what is going RIGHT vs. how others are coming up short, there is power in the message and likewise, an openness to learning, cooperation, hope, optimism, capability and confidence- all pointing us in the direction of our goals.

So, as the new school year approaches, take a moment to watch this clip and then let’s take the time to ask ourselves:

  • What will it take to be a  champion for my child? For my students? For my community?
  • What will it take to focus on what is going RIGHT (the PLUS TWO) vs. the shortcomings (THE MINUS EIGHTEEN)?
  • What will it take for me to connect with my child and enhance the relationship?
  • What will it take for me to show that I am a champion who is invested in, and will NEVER give up on the success and well-being of my own child? Student? Community?

Focus on What You Want

focusIn a previous post,  we refreshed the topic of “internal” vs. “external” motivators and how they affect children’s learning and thinking process. There is plenty of research, from Ackerly and other experts, saying reward systems are not the way to go if you want self-regulated,(calculated) risk takers, and problem solving thinkers.This applies to home and school – it’s easy to toss a treat, sticker or a bribe but it’s not moving your child in the direction you’d likely prefer. Even if we know this, the question can become, well then what do we focus on?

Learning Organizations Focus on Objectives

In Rick Ackerly’s article,  1st Grade Teacher Shows How to Design an Instant Learning Organization he  showcases one classroom (Janet’s classroom!) that has adopted mission-based learning vs. rule enforcement systems. (Anyone recognize the do not feed the weed similarities here?).

The Outcome: A Problem Solving Community Where Mistakes are Part of the Process

After Ackerly highlights how to create a learning organization, he says: “…by focusing the students on educational objectives rather than rules, Janet has made herself the leader of a group of motivated learners. Now her job is helping them with their mission, rather than keeping them in line.  Furthermore, defining a social “situation” as a problem-solving opportunity, focuses energy where it ought to be—becoming smarter.”To bring this a bit more into the Duct Tape Parenting context, “water what you want to flourish” is essentially a sentiment that can be adopted into the classroom. By focusing the students on a common set of goals, the energy in working together to meet those goals increases, and likewise the “problem” behaviors – those behaviors that “rules” tend to water and bring to the forefront, have far less purpose. When a classroom accepts mistakes as problems to be solved vs. rules that have been broken, children can usefully fold this learning into their personal academic experience.

What Does it Take? Elements of a Learning Organization (Or Mission Based Leadership vs. Enforcement Leadership)

  • Mission – Decide why you want change in your home, classroom, work session.
  • Strategy- What is the thinking / knowledge behind the mission, as it relates to YOUR situation?
  • Design– How are you going to enable this mission? What tools and structures will you put in place? What do the children bring to the mission?
  • Plan– How are you and the children going to execute the mission? What are the actions that will put in motion the change you’ve designed, strategized and established as the mission?
  • Summary– Reflect and notice what you’ve created- pay attention to what is working and what isn’t.

Have you done this in your home or classroom? What does your learning organization – at school or home- look like? Let us know! 

Video: Montessori Madness – The authentic Montessori classroom operates as a learning organization because the focus is on learning through trial and error, interest, self direction and with an objective of discovering a child’s true self in relationship to the world. There is an inherent trust in the child that is found both in the Montessori classroom and in Rick Ackerly’s learning organization.

Internal Motivation Infographic

infographic, internal motivation

Click to see the INFOGRAPHIC

Children naturally enjoy doing valuable work and are not afraid to make mistakes- they learn to discover success through feedback from peers, teachers, materials and so forth (not just because they follow rules or get a sticker).

When nurtured, respected and trusted, internal, or intrinsic, motivation leads to the same desired outcome: positive or “good” behavior.

Beyond that, the child has a more enriching experience as he or she discovers the world, vs. discovering how the adult sees the child’s role in this world.

What are your thoughts?

Where have you seen intrinsic motivation in action?


External Motivation (Infographic)

infographic, external motivators When discussing both education and parenting, motivation is a recurring theme.

  • What, at its core, motivates children  to not only learn but to behave with respect and kindness?

  • How do teachers motivate learners while adhering to school rules and standardized testing?

  • How do parents motivate children to do their chores and cooperate in the family?

One way, as we’ve mentioned, is with EXTERNAL MOTIVATORS.

What are External Motivators? (A Refresher)

External Motivators are simply imposed systems (by adults) to steer children toward “desired behaviors” (see examples in the infographic).

These systems may technically and positively steer behavior, but ultimately, they lead to hidden outcomes that “steal” the internal desire to learn and explore the world.

What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!

Accolades: Thieves of Discovery

Rick Ackerly Quote on AuthorityIf you have a child in school, then you may know first-hand how schools are employing external motivators (both positive and negative) to entice our kids into doing their homework, following playground rules and behaving appropriately in the classroom. You may have seen the latest and greatest star charts, GOOD JOB stickers, goodies, currency (allowing kids to “shop” based on the tokens they receive), parties, consequences, and zero tolerance policies and so forth.

These systems may lead to “good behavior” but they are the thieves of discovery, wonder, trial, error and trust in the child. While rewards and punishments may seem fun, positive, necessary or even logical, adult imposed systems aimed at steering behavior affect both the child’s mind and the inquisitive process or “genius”.

What Goodies and Stickers and Punishments Really Do (and Say)

Motivation by goodies and rewards shifts a child’s focus from satisfying the internal “genius” to following an external, imposed authority and infrastructure.

The child’s internal voice stops saying, hmmm, I’d like to discover OR wow, I notice ____ and is replaced with the externally imposed voice asking what will I get OR how can I make this other person happy (so they like me and give me a pat on the head)?

In short, the child now is thinking: if I do this, I get that.

Likewise, using “punishments” or rigid discipline rules also steals the child’s focus. It replaces the joy of discovering through trial and error with absolute compliance. Instead of having the courage to make mistakes and a desire to gather feedback from choices, our children spend their time worrying about being sent to the time-out chair or losing recess time or not earning a bright smiley sticker.

It also sends a message: hey kid, before you even show me you can handle it, you aren’t to be trusted, so we, the adults- the authority- have put in place all kinds of ways to “get you to behave.” Of course many teachers do not overtly think this way, but if the school operates in such a manner, they are challenged with delivering choice and problem solving against a current of imposed thought.

The Messy Stuff is Where Magic Happens

When an entire learning structure is dependent on a system of do and do nots, children miss all the messy learning in the middle. They are not encouraged to ask, try, challenge or discover a new way because the “right way” is laid out for them.

They don’t practice taking risks or judging for themselves what might happen if….For example, what if a child decides to break a “rule” (we walk in the the classroom) to rush over and help a friend?

Perhaps it was worth it and he makes it safely. Perhaps he falls on his face. Perhaps the friend ignores him when he gets there. Or perhaps he gets a huge hug because he showed up. That’s the kind of learning that happens in the day of a child.

In Rick Ackerly’s article, What do Good Parents and Good Schools have in common? He addresses this issue- the confusion of adult authority in children’s lives and the energy spent “keeping things from happening” vs. “making things happen.” He says,

“The key to the door of our authority prison is this: Don’t underestimate children. Act as if this child has a genius, a teacher-within with whom we can form a partnership” and “seeing children for what they really are: creative, decision-making machines whose central purpose is to self-actualize, to become authorities.”- Rick Ackerly

In life, we all know from our own mistakes and risks, there are situations where hard and fast rules do not mean the same according to context.

Is the RIGHT choice always the one that will get you the sticker? Is a “punishment” necessary if you’ve truly learned through experience? Our children deserve the space to answer these questions for themselves, while they’re young and wildly fascinated to learn what it takes to become a competent, cooperative human being on this planet.

Does your child attend a school heavily dependent on stickers and goodies? Share your stories in the comments.

Interested in education topics? Wondering how to bridge the home-school communication? Sign up for our upcoming workshop with Rick Ackerly.



Go to the Principal’s Office

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

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

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

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

Are you ready for this?

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

Why Would I Do This?

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

What Happened?

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

So, What Do YOU Do with This Information?

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

And the Point?

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

Big Picture Thinking, AKA The 10,000 Foot View

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

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

8 Thoughts, “Nuggets” or Un-Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.

Let Go and Be Happy

If letting go is the key to happiness, why be miserable hanging on?

Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t care.
Letting go doesn’t mean we shut down.
Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave.
It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment.
It means we stop trying to do the impossible–controlling that which we cannot–and instead, focus on what is possible–which usually means taking care of ourselves.
And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible.

-Melody Beattie

As parents, many of us choose “to do things for our kids, that they could do for themselves”. We have a hard time “letting go”. Why? Because we love them? No! That’s the easy answer. It’s because it’s easier to do things for them, it’s quicker, it’s less fuss AND, we get things done the way we like them. Kitchens are cleaner, backpacks are neater, & snacks are healthier. We do things for our kids because we want to guarantee their day goes well, and that our days are not unnecessarily disrupted. Being in this “hold on to the reins” position, has little to do with real parental love.

Of course our intentions are to be “fabulously wonderful” parents, but often we don’t even realize that: we’re parenting from a place that is focused on controlling the outcome VS. encouraging the unfolding of life. Letting life unfold in front of our children takes mental muscle and plenty of practice. It also requires that we have faith that our kids won’t crash and burn if we loosen the reins. And finally, there’s the pesky voice in our heads that suggests that if we really cared about our kids, well, we would make life easier for them.

Our children are going to say and do things that embarrass us, that hurt others, that look bad to the outside world and could be categorized as lousy decisions. (Gasp, because as adults, we don’t experience this, at all, right?). And isn’t this what we really want? Kids who show up for their lives, ready to take risks, to dive deep into all that life has to offer?

If we learn to let go of our desire to control the outcome – of trying to “get them” to move in the direction we have chosen for them, we can focus more on loving them unconditionally and build on our relationship with them.

So, as this guy puts it: Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness. – Buddha

Get a life – Not your kids’

I love this post. Please read it. I share her sentiments.

Five Reasons “My Kids Are My Whole Life” is a Stupid Thing To Say

On Zoe’s first day of school, she bravely, with only one glance back at me, walked through the school doors and into her life as a student. No crying, no gnashing of teeth, no clinging to me. That was 13 years ago. She has loved almost every day of her school life. Why? Well, there are several reasons.

  • School is for her. And because school is for her, she took ownership of it and of her experience while she was there.
  • I didn’t interfere with her experience that first day.

Next to me, on Zoe’s first day of school was another mother with her daughter who was clearly distraught. The 5 year old was crying and then screaming, and then pouting. She climbed up on her mother leg and up into her arms until her mother was holding her, almost like an infant. The 5 year old began to talk baby talk and the mother cooed to her using the voice we reserved for our newborns. When it was time for the child to walk into school, she couldn’t do it. In fact, it took near 15 minutes for this child to make it through the doors (parents were not allowed in on the first day – smart thinking on someone’s part).

Later, as we gathered for our instructions on how to be good PTO mothers and Room Mothers, the woman turned to me and said, “I noticed how easily your daughter went into school.”

I nodded and smiled.

“The thing is, my daughter and I have, how do I say this, a very deep and special bond and she NEVER wants to be away from me. Our love for each other is deep. Really deep.”

I froze. Back then, I had even less tact than I have now. I turned and looked at her and said, “You have got to be kidding me? You think that drama was a testament to the love you have for each other. Ha. You might want to talk to a few folks and get a reality check.”

I stood up and walked out.

She never spoke to me again, but that’s okay. I was pissed. I got over being angry and even tried to make eye contact with her, but to no avail.

5 years later, I happen to see this woman and her child on another “first” (dance class this time) and to my astonishment, the daughter pulled the exact same stunt, only this time, mom looked embarrassed.

I felt for her. I felt for them both.

No mother, intentionally ties themselves to their kids in unhealthy ways, but it happens. So, as the article above by Leslie Irish Evans suggests, take a step back, question your motives, decide if what you are doing is more for you than the child and then take a page out of our kid’s life and “get a life.” You will be happy you did and so will your kids.

As the author suggests, replace the statement “My children are my whole life,” with “My life is deeply enriched by my children.” Feel the difference?

If you need help making this transition and noticing character traits and qualities about your children that enrich your life and you appreciate, the Marble Jar app is just the tool to help you shift your perspective and increase your awareness!

The Risk of Rewards

Here it is again. Another article trying hard to educate parents on the dangers of praise and rewards.

Read Article Here

I pulled out one of my all time favorite books today The Art of Encouragement; Human Relations Training and skimmed through several chapters. Now, of course, I have to go back and read the whole damn book. It is just so good.

Here are just a few snippets I pulled out that focus on Encouragement which of course, is the remedy for a culture addicted to praise and rewards.

  • Encouragement focuses on strengths.
  • Encouragement is believing in ourselves.
  • Encouragement conveys faith in a person no matter how well or poorly things go.
  • Encouragement focuses on effort or improvement while praise focuses on outcome.
  • Encouragement challenges us to develop our potential while praise threatens us to do what is expected.
  • Encouragement can be given anytime.
  • Encouragement frees us to be our unique selves. Praise obligates us to obey authority.

Encouragement is an art form. It is subtle and powerful. It can be present at all times and can influence the direction of any situation, as soon as, it is activated.

I know how hungry parents are for ways to show their love, support, confidence and faith in their kids. And I know, with as much information readily available, that breaking the addiction to praise and rewards is still a daily challenge.

If you haven’t already committed to creating an encouraging atmosphere in which to raise your kids, take a few minutes and examine the decision you are making about praise and rewards in your child’s life.

If you find that you are ready for more ways to introduce encouragement into your family, let me know and I will write more about it. Learn more about the Parenting On Track program.

Second Grader goes on Strike

When my middle child was in the second grade, I got a call from her teacher.

Vicki, this is Ms. S. I’m calling because Z hasn’t spoken to me all week and I am a bit concerned. I have asked her what is wrong, but she refuses to answer me. She speaks to the other students and even to the other teachers, but she will not speak to me. Do you think you might find out what is going on and let me know.

Sure.” I said, knowing full well I wasn’t about to step into this hornets’ next. Even at 7, my child had a will of her own that could not be managed by anyone.

When the time was right, I initiated a conversation with Z and tried to pull out the story. I got nothing. I mean a big fat zippo. The kid wouldn’t give anything up. Told me it was none of my business.

FREEZE: – Now, for some parents, this would have been the beginning of the power struggle. Think about a time when you have been encouraged by another adult to find out what was going on in your child’s life, they haven’t wanted to speak about it, and you turned it into – you have no choice kid, tell me or you will suffer.
I let it go, called the teacher and told her as respectfully as I could, that I had no idea and until Z was ready to talk, we would both have to wait.

Z later asked me what I said to the teacher and when I told her, her face lit up and she jumped into my arms. I am sure, beyond any doubt, that at that moment, my daughter knew that I had her back. That is a snapshot moment in both of our lives. We became co-conspirators in a way that helped shape our entire relationship.

FREEZE: – How many times, have you had a moment, where you could have stood by your kid, in no uncertain terms and claimed your rightful place as their protector and instead, turned aside to make someone else more comfortable (usually another adult)?

Several weeks passed and eventually Z asked if we could chat. She sat me down and said,
“I am ready to talk to Ms. S. I am going to tell her, that I do not think any 2nd grader should ever be worried that when they come to school, their teacher will embarrass them in front of their class mates. And I will tell her if she does it again, I will not talk to her until she apologizes.”

She said this so ‘matter-of-factly’, that I was momentary frozen. And then, the hair on my back went up, I looked at her and said,“Did Ms. S embarrass you?”

NOOO,” she exclaimed. “She embarrassed Steven and Steven already has enough trouble without worrying about being embarrassed by his teacher.”

Holy Hell. This was my kid, sticking up for Steven (who indeed had more than enough on his plate to deal with) with the courage to tell her teacher, in her own time and in her own way, just why she went on strike.

FREEZE: How many times, has your child taken a stand, did something unexpected, demonstrated a family value and was met by empty praise and lavish attention, instead of being allowed to own their accomplishment with dignity and humility?

Later that day, I got a call. “Vicki, this is Ms. S. What I am about to say is difficult for me, but if I don’t say it to at least one person, I will chicken out and I owe Z and Steven more than that. Z was right. I had embarrassed Steven and I knew it when I did it. But I didn’t have the courage to apologize in front of the class. Z caught me. We talked today and we came to an agreement. Z agreed to help me be more sensitive to Steven and some of the other kids in the class without embarrassing me.”

I thanked her for the call. And then I wept. I wept for all the lucky Stevens in the world who will have a Z strong enough to stand up for them until they can stand up for themselves. I wept because at 7, Z had more strength, integrity and courage than I did and I wept out of gratitude that I was the mother of this extraordinary child.

When Z arrived home, I met her at the door. I didn’t pry, I didn’t cry, I didn’t congratulate. I opened my arms and waited for her to fly into them. And she did. And we held each other for what seemed an eternity.

And then she said in summary, “That was the scariest thing I ever did, but I will do it again if I have to.”

FREEZE: Our children are always in the process of becoming extraordinary human beings. And so often, we can overlook this for the sake of pride or the fear of embarrassment. If we are to raise a more conscious, kind, compassionate and engaged generation, we must commit to them while they are messy and unrehearsed.

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.

Raising a Thinking Child

thinking-kidsWhen my child was in the 2nd grade, and her teacher asked me why I didn’t sign her “homework” notebook, I told her it was because I was raising a “thinking” child.

It’s the same reason I didn’t:

  • Go through my kids backpacks every day
  • Pick out my child’s clothes
  • Decide if they would bring lunch or buy lunch
  • Make their lunch if they decided to bring it
  • Sit in the classroom and “observe”
  • Make a special trip to school to drop off a forgotten instrument, pair of cleats or science project
  • Talk to the teacher about my child’s “performance” without my child present
  • And 100 other decisions I made about my role in my child’s educational experience

I believed my primary job was to prepare my kids to leave home at 18 with the confidence necessary to make hundreds of decisions each day, the ability to overcome whatever challenge or obstacle they encounter and to do so with a sense of courage, curiosity and enthusiasm. That is how I defined my job as a mother. I made that decision when my first child came home from Kindergarten with a list of “expectations” the teacher had of me.

Truth be told, when I sat down with my children’s teachers and explained my philosophy, they were, for the most part, supportive. So I have nothing to complain about.

But recently, some of my closest and smartest friends have been struggling with balancing their decision to raise thinking kids and with the school expectations that parents play an “active” role in their child’s educational experience.

Here are a few tips on how to balance your decision to raise thinking kids (who are often, late, messy and leave their stuff behind in the car) with the schools request for over-involved parents.

1. Talk to the teacher. Yes, I know it can be scary, but most teachers I know really do love kids, want to work with parents AND are often times so overwhelmed with “stuff” they have to do, that their warm and caring side gets covered up. I encourage every parent to talk with their child’s teacher at the beginning of the year if possible, when they are fresh and rested and exited and they are open to creating an exceptional educational experience for your child. And if it’s March when you’re ready to have that conversation with the teacher, do it anyway.

2. Have your child present at the meeting so you set the tone for the year and the teacher knows that your child is part of this important conversation and that they will take responsibility for the decisions they make. This helps establish a logical balance of power between all the parties. If the teacher deals with homework that isn’t turned in by having kids stay after for an hour, you can smile and support the teacher from the get go. Imagine how far this goes in establishing a respectful and open relationship. One, by the way, your child is watching and will begin to emulate over time.

3. Decide if you will sign homework, reading, math or science books and then be honest with the teacher about who will be doing the signing. My children signed every piece of paper that ever came home that required a parent’s signature. If they were struggling in math, I wanted them to tell me, not a piece of paper.

4. Decide if there are instances when you would be willing to make a special trip to school to bring an item to your child and what those instances are so everyone is clear from the beginning. This goes a long way in creating consistency as well as allowing everyone to support each other in the process of raising thinking kids.

5. Decide if you will be using the “Portal” or online options or if you will get your information directly from your child; and then let your teacher know. Here is an example of just how awful this entire Portal thing can be.

“My niece’s middle school in (state shall remain anonymous) contacted her mother and scolded her for not checking her daughter’s school portal info often enough. They said if she didn’t check the portal at least once a week, her daughter would get points off her final grade. Her daughter is a straight A student.”

–Scary isn’t it?

6. Describe for the teacher your goals in raising a thinking child and what you are willing to do to remain true to your decision. Let them know that you want to work collaboratively with them and your intent is not to make life difficult for them. And in turn, you understand that they won’t do anything to damage the relationship you are trying to build with your child by insisting that you “make” your child do their homework and turn it in on time. Unless of course, you are both going to college with said child, in which case, have at it.

As the mother of 5, it seems to me that raising a “thinking” child in the 21st century, is nothing less than a requirement for every parent, teacher, coach or anyone else working with kids. But hey, that’s just me.