All posts tagged encouragement

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.

Passing up Personal Prestige

This blog post is reprinted with permission from the author, an amazing, committed, passionate, flexible, creative mother, wife, sister and friend.

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Some people will think I’m a bad mom.

There it is. That jagged little pill. I still haven’t completely choked it down. It gives me that little pit in my stomach when I force myself to do what’s best for my kids … even in public.

“Does she have a backpack?” asked the driver of the van that Charlotte takes to camp each morning.

I knew it was still in our car that was parked about 10 yards away.

“Yes. In the car,” I said. He stared at me.

“Is she going to have it by the time I drive away?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“I don’t know,” I said as we watched Charlotte settle in to the back seat without her backpack. I smiled uncomfortably and said, “We like to say, ‘If you don’t want to do it forever, don’t do it once!’”

“Okaaay….” he said, eyebrows still raised in disbelief.

My stomach tightened slightly as we stood in silence. Ten seconds passed and then we watched as Charlotte calmly unfastened her seat belt, hopped out of the van, and ran to the car to get her backpack.

Yes, some people will think I’m a bad mom. But what’s more important, what they think? Or this:

Read some comments below:

    Great one! Thank you for including the quote, “If you don’t want to do if forever, don’t do it once.”

    Hey, we’re all getting more comfortable with sitting in uncomfortable spots with this stuff…and somehow it always pays off. Kudos to you for this one, love the idea that your trust in your kids and their ability to handle things is not willing to be rocked by other people’s preconceptions.

    Reply from Flockmother: Yes, each time it gets a little easier to ignore the skeptics. Sometimes I still have to consciously control the self-talk in my head. This time it was, “Either she’ll remember on her own, or she’ll find a way to get through her day without it. Either way, I trust that she’ll be fine, and what this guy here thinks of that just … doesn’t … matter.”

    That and shoving my hands in my pockets and pursing my lips shut helps too.

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.

From Frog Collecting to Number Crunching

Along with buying new pencils and notebooks, “back to school” also means a return to routines, alarm clocks, and the responsibilities that many of our children left behind with the last bell in June. There are all kinds of systems families can use, and Parenting On Track is about progress, change, and the long-term goal of encouraging independence and self-reliance in our children.

Here is my “top 10” list for making the transition from frog collecting to number crunching a smooth one, for kids and parents alike. With these pointers in mind, you’ll help your children begin the school year on the right foot.

1. Ask yourself, “What will it take for my children to manage their schedules independently?” Work with your kids to make a list of everything that needs to happen in order for your kids to be ready for the school day. Access what they can do already, where they need some training, and what they need to learn from scratch. Set aside time each week to practice these life skills, and be sure to acknowledge growth and progress.

2. Allow your kids to establish a routine that works for them, even if they flounder for a week or two. This means not reminding them to pack their homework or asking if they remembered their soccer gear. Having to sit out a game or miss recess is a far more effective way for youngsters to learn to be responsible than parents constantly reminding.

3. Have faith that your children can handle the natural consequences of their decisions. If your daughter refuses to do her homework, let her work it out with the teacher, even if her grades suffer. Whereas the grades will come and go over the years, the self-reliance and sense of accountability that she’ll learn by solving her own problems will serve her well for the rest of her life.

4. Show empathy and help your children work through any problems that arise, but don’t be their savior. School offers a perfect testing ground for kids to learn how to be responsible for themselves and acquire the skills they’ll need in the “real world” after graduation.

5. Set parameters about acceptable dress for school that you and your kids can agree on, and then bite your tongue. Many schools have rules about attire (such as no midriffs or undergarments showing) that can help you frame this discussion. You may not love the outfits that your children choose to wear, but showing them that you respect their choices and believe in their ability to select their own clothing is far more important in the long run.

6. Establish a framework for discussing the ups and downs that your kids are sure to encounter as the school year progresses. You want your children to know that you’re on their side, no matter what. If your son brings home an “A” or scores the lead role in the school play, encourage him by asking questions about the experience. How did he prepare? What did that accomplishment feel like? Did he need to to work hard to reach his goal, or did it come easily to him? Likewise, if your daughter comes home with a “D” or doesn’t make the hockey team, you can ask her about that experience. How did she prepare for that moment? How does she feel about her grade? Was this important to her? What could she do differently next time?

7. Create a roadmap with your children to help them set goals for the year and begin thinking about what it will take to achieve those goals. Your kids will feel a sense of empowerment as they define and take ownership over their plans for the coming year.

8. Set up a time every week to connect as a family. This could be a dinner, a family outing, or a scheduled family meeting. The gathering does not have to take place at the same time every week, but be sure that it’s on everyone’s calendar so that it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

9. Figure out what you, as a parent, can let go of to encourage your childrens’ independence. Deciding not to “remind” or “do for” your kids may be hard at first, but in doing so, you are demonstrating to your children that you have faith in their abilities.

10. Go slow. Encourage progress and recognize growth, and remember that you are the best parent for your child.

Social Interest and Healthy Families

Simply put, we are a culture preoccupied with our own Self Interest which, unfortunately is reinforced on a daily basis.

Two prevailing attitudes which emerge with regularity are:

  • What’s in it for me? OR What will I get?
  • What will people think of me?

Here are a number of questions children ask themselves every day which can be influenced by the What’s in it for me/What will I get attitude.

What will I get, if I…

  • Use the potty?
  • Sleep in my own bed?
  • Sit still for a hair cut?
  • Let the doctor give me a check up?
  • Say I am sorry?
  • Help with daily contributions?
  • Stop fighting with my siblings?
  • Apply myself at school?
  • Agree to come home on time?
  • Stop calling my family names?
  • Drop the attitude?

Scary, isn’t it? You begin to get a sense of how that attitude might affect your kids as employees, spouses and parents.

The second attitude – What will people think of me is more commonly seen in adults. It sounds something like.

What will people think of me, if…

  • My kids aren’t properly clothed, fed, washed, groomed?
  • My kids are disrespectful, rude, display bad manners, are sassy to me?
  • My kids do poorly in school or are not star athletes?
  • I can’t afford to have my kids do all the things their friends do and have what their friends have?
  • I can’t control my kids?

This attitude is disastrous for parents and children alike. As parents, it is difficult enough to make responsible and respectful decisions regarding our children. To compound the problem by adding the – What will people think of me, significantly limits our ability to parent from our best. The decisions we make about and for our children can no longer be influenced by what others will think of us.

Tips for Success

If you, as the parent, ever wonder about HOW you are making decisions, take a few seconds and answer this one question:

The needs of the situation require that I do what?

Here is what Adler had to say on the subject of Social Interest:

    “A healthy person is concerned for other people and has a sincere desire to contribute to society. So, Never do anything for a child that a child can do for herself.”

    “The first step in teaching social interest is to teach self-reliance.
    So, Never rob your children of opportunities to feel capable.”

Here are 3 examples that illustrate the power of Social Interest:

1. Imagine your child arrives at school properly trained in Social Interest. He may look around the room and say, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Choose a place to sit.
  • Have a pencil to write with and all the other supplies I will need for the day.
  • Raise my hand when I have a question.
  • Do my homework as is expected of me.
  • Allow other children to speak.
  • Follow through with the agreements I make with the teacher.

Imagine a school room with students who are ALL asking themselves this same set of questions. Powerful stuff.

2. Now imagine your children at home and asking themselves internally, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Help my brother out with homework because he is struggling and math is easy for me.
  • Say no to friends who ask me out and I know they will be drinking.
  • Practice my instrument, because I made an agreement with my parents and music teacher.
  • Miss my soccer game so I can go to an important family function.
  • Do my contributions, even though I was up late, because everyone else is expected to do theirs.

Yes, I know it seems too good to be true, but consider this for a minute, we are always in the process of choosing. That includes how we interpret situations. So either our kids are asking themselves, what will I get out of this, or they are asking themselves the needs of the situation require that I do what. Why is it so hard for parents to believe, that children, when given a chance, will act from the position of the highest social interest?

Okay, lastly –

3. Imagine yourself, as a parent who asks on a regular basis, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Allow my children to experience frustration, so they can learn more about themselves.
  • Stay cool and put this on the agenda for Family Meeting.
  • Apologize when I make a mistake.
  • Remain flexible as my children learn to navigate their way around an ever changing world.
  • Model empathy, compassion and forgiveness if I expect my children to develop these attributes.
  • Avoid comparing my children with anyone else – ever.
  • Allow my child to make a choice, even though I know it may end poorly.
  • Respect the natural consequence my child is going to experience with faith and confidence.
  • Explain to the teacher why my child is coming to school with no lunch and no homework.
  • Refrain from telling stories about my child in social situations where everyone else is complaining.

Again, you see the power this one question has in influencing every decision we make. So this week, anchor the power of developing Social Interest in yourself, your children and your family.

The Parenting On Track™ Family

Alright, so on the flip side of my last post;

You know you are a Parenting On Track™ family when….

10. Your 6 year old daughter wears her best high heel shoes in a snowstorm – and you have the confidence that she will learn a valuable lesson, as you wait patiently and support her learning.

9. You lock yourself in the bathroom during a temper tantrum – because you know all about feeding the weed and you are not about to feed this one.

8. You get a call from your child’s teacher, because he forgot his lunch for the past 3 days – and instead of apologizing, you confidently explain that you are raising a thinking child and trust that any day now, he will figure out a valuable lesson and the problem will be solved once and for all.

7. Your child goes to school in her pajamas at least twice a week – and you have long ago given up your mistaken belief that “good” mommies make sure their children are color-coordinated, because this morning, like every other morning, your child gave you a big fat kiss, a super-duper squeeze and said I love you, before heading off to school – and that means more than a matching outfit.

6. You do nothing and say nothing unless its physically or morally dangerous – because you know that 90% of the time, if not more, doing or saying anything will only make things worse and there really isn’t any reason to make things worse with a 4 year old who is doing his best at figuring out the world.

5. Your whites are pink – and you don’t care because in another 4 weeks, you will have another person in your house, who is capable of sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away clothes without whining, griping, or complaining.

4. Your 17 year old child, makes a point of coming over during a basketball game with friends, hugs you and tells you he loves you – and the crazy thing is, this is perfectly normal because it happens on a regular basis.

3. Your kid makes a mistake, and it actually brings your family closer, instead of pushing everyone apart – family meetings, which are a staple of your lives, has given rise to amazing problem solvers who appreciate everyone in the family and understand that mistakes are indeed opportunities to learn.

2. Your children honestly believe that without them, the family would not function, and you, the parent, would not be able to manage your life effectively – and you bask in this knowledge even as you listen to other parents brag about how much their children need and depend on them.

1. You extend the invitation to your children to participate in life, they accept and when it’s time for them to go out on their own, they step out with confidence and enthusiasm and look back at you and say, “Thanks!” Ah – the thrill of victory.

To all the thousands of parents, who invested their time and energy and a few bucks in creating a family that is sometimes impossible to describe to someone who isn’t living it, thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories and your struggles. Thank you for believing in yourselves and your kids and in a program that promises to deliver what most of us dreamed about when we held our first child in our arms.

Navigating Summer Expectations

expectSummer is when we have to step into new thinking and challenge ourselves to create realistic expectations that take into account our own unique style, as well as our children’s.

We train ourselves not to “compare”, but instead to view our children as individuals who have a particular temperament and rhythm, that when tapped into, makes parenting much more enjoyable.

Summer seems to be a particularly difficult time for many parents, and here is where a strong sense of what’s reasonable and what isn’t helps us navigate our way through some tough decisions.

    • Can you reasonably expect your child to mimic that amazing behavior they demonstrate at home when they are on vacation for a week?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to mimic the same structure and routine found during the school year, during the lazy days of summer?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to continue with their daily contributions when the morning runs into the afternoon with no distinction between the two?
    • Can you reasonably expect mealtimes to occur on a regular basis, attended by all family members?
    • Can you reasonably monitor how much time your kids spend plugged into some form of technology (including the cell phone)?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to “get busy” on their summer reading list as if the assignment was due on Friday when in fact it isn’t due for 2 months?
    • Can you reasonably expect your child to sleep at your home 6 nights out of 7 when saying “it’s a school night” isn’t an option?
    • Is it reasonable to expect your child to talk as openly and as often with you as they did last year?
    • Is it reasonable for a child to “just hang this summer” before they get a job, even if they are already 16?
  • Is it reasonable for a new college graduate to know exactly what they will be doing with their life simply because they received another diploma?

The truth is, we all have expectations. And most of our expectations are built on the dreams we have of what life “could” look like, if our kids followed the well thought out plans of their parents. But as we all come to realize (some earlier than others) is, that kids are “creating” their lives as they go along. For them, there is no grand scheme of things. There is today. And sometimes the expectations they have for themselves and of the world, are more relevant and realistic than their parents.

This summer, take some time to re-establish a clear set of expectations for yourself. Leave your kids alone for a few weeks or months and concentrate instead on you. Challenge some basic assumptions you have about kids, the world, work, love, technology, education, faith, friendship, sexuality. Challenge the idea that all you want is “what’s best for your kids” and how that seemingly simple line can wreak havoc on a budding and fragile adolescent personality. Challenge yourself to decide for yourself what expectations need a bit of updating, which ones need a solid kick out the door, and which ones support both a beautiful relationship with your child and their ability to grow into confident and independent people.

Here is my one, over arching expectation for myself, which as it turns out, has been communicated clearly enough to my kids, that the think it’s the same for them – which maybe isn’t such a bad thing

My expectation is this:

That I show up in my own life with a willingness to do whatever it takes to make the most out of each encounter and each opportunity presented to me, so that at the end of the day, I can safely say – this was a day well lived.

It’s Just A Pink Cake…Right?

Have you ever – in your life – seen such a cool birthday cake? Doesn’t it just make you smile from ear to ear? If not, imagine a cool super hero with a cape and mask.

Okay, I admit it – if someone had suggested that I buy MY daughter a Pink Barbie Birthday Cake when she was 6, I would have been insulted and indignant. I would have protested that the very fabric of feminism was in jeopardy and that I would not be a part of it.

I didn’t know then, what I know now. As the mom of 3 daughters who are now all young women, I know that one Pink Barbie Birthday Cake does not have the power to influence their ideas about being female as much as I might have believed. In fact, over the years, I have come to realize that there are other factors which influence the way our children view themselves in terms of gender identification that are more powerful and influential than media images and peer pressure.

1. Honest Conversation – Frankly, it can be difficult to talk with kids about gender identification in a world that spends billions of dollars a year trying to define it for us. That’s why it’s important to start the conversation with kids about the world around them when they are still young and before gender has any real meaning to them. Starting the conversation when they are young, will make it easier to navigate through the more difficult discussions that are bound to come up. Tackling issues like discrimination, exploitation, and sexism is essential if our children are to process the information being thrown at them through music, media and pop culture with some level of discernment. Allowing children to express their views, preferences and desires (without editorializing) allows our kids an opportunity to explore, accept, or discard what they are being exposed too.

Without honest conversation, children are left with either the media or their peers to help them navigate this tricky aspect of growing up. Make sure that the conversations have a “curious” tone to them. This will encourage kids to share more deeply what they think, how they feel, and how they make decisions.

2. Exposure – I believe that education and exposure go hand in hand in this area. When kids are educated about what they are being exposed too, they tend to make better decisions than when they are merely exposed to an idea or point of view and then left to interpret that information without guidance. And let’s face it, you might not bring home the Barbie Birthday Cake, but just turn on the TV or radio and your kids will be exposed to the media’s ideas of gender. Education in this area is key to keeping an open and honest conversation going for years.

Exposing kids to “real” people who may break the stereotypical molds helps give our kids a broader perspective of what it means to be male or female. As a mom, I made sure that for every lousy ad on TV depicting women or men in one kind of role, I introduced my children to “real” men and women who could offer another perspective on life. These relationships turned out to be some of the most important and influential in my kids’ lives. These individuals brought credibility and could challenge the media perspective with an authority that I didn’t necessarily have. In other words, leverage the people in your life who have challenge gender stereotyping.

3. Encouragement – We say we want our children to be their “authentic” selves and yet we limit their ability to choose because we are afraid of what they might choose. Encouraging our children to listen to their internal voice and honoring what they like and don’t like, is far more important than keeping “pink and blue” out of the equation. Encouraging self discovery allows our children to talk to us openly about how they view themselves, what their preferences are and how they want to express themselves to the outside world. Encouraging our children to decide for themselves who they are and how they choose to express that means taking a step back and trusting that our kids have the ability to wade through the crap and find essence of who they are.

4. Flexibility – As parents, staying flexible is a pre-requisite for raising children. We know that our kids will change their minds thousands of times in the course of their life. At one point your daughter wants pink, pink and more pink and a year later, she wants soccer balls and lax sticks lining the room. Your son wants baseballs, bats and helmets and two years later he is asking for oil paints and a canvas. Staying flexible and supporting our children as they discover for themselves who they are, is a sure way to support an independent, thoughtful, grounded young person who isn’t likely to be as influenced by the media or their peer group as a child who has been sheltered from all the options available to them.

The next time your son or daughter asks for a pink birthday cake, or a super hero outfit, try to look past the stereotyping and create an environment rich in opportunities for your children to discover for themselves who they choose to be.

Kids Have Perfect Solutions

Okay, so here is a perfect example of how smart and quick kids are.

Kathy takes her 3 kids to the kiddie pool during her recent stay in Florida. Zack, a new walker, tries to follow his sisters into the center of the pool.

Unfortunately for Zack, he has only been on his feet for a few short weeks (still wobbly), the bottom of his little shoes are slippery and the kiddie pool has a decidedly deceptive slope “down” to the center.

Zack enters the pool to follow said sisters. His feet come out from under him and SMASH. Down on his ass he goes knocking his head on the bottom of the pool.

Mom walks over to the child on his ass. She didn’t run. She didn’t scream. She didn’t grab him up. Why? Because she knows her kid. The other parents in attendance jumped up to “assist” Zack, but Kathy used non-verbal tools to get all the busy bodies to sit down and mind their own business.

She holds Zack by the hand, lifts him up, puts him on his feet at the edge of the pool and sits back down.

Zack takes a few steps towards the center of the pool and SMACK. Down he goes again.

This happens approximately 6 times. No tears. Frustration to be sure, but Kathy is quickly by his side, Quick hug, quick smooch and off he goes again.

Until suddenly, left on his own to figure this problem out, this smart, clever, creative, determined young 14 month old figures out that he has to sit on his ass and scoot towards the center of the kiddie pool.

For the next 2 weeks, remembering what he learned all on his own, Zack enjoys the pool. In fact, he practiced every time they went to the pool and inevitably, some parent would approach Kathy and comment on how clever Zack was for scooting into the pool and asked her “so how long did it take you to teach him that?” To which she promptly broke out in gut busting laughter.

I asked her why the gut busting laughter – her reply “Can you just see me sitting MY ass down in the pee filled kiddie pool and teaching my kid to scoot down to the center? No way that was gonna happen.”

Here is what she knows, what I know and what the parents of the Parenting On Track family know:

Kids are their own best teachers and when parents provide opportunities to practice, well, kids find their own perfect solutions.

Way to go Zack!

It is not a Secret!

Over the holiday vacation I had the distinct pleasure of watching Kathy and Steve’s kids. Just in case you don’t know this magnificent family, Tela is 5, Sadie is 4 (they are 11 months apart) and Zach is 11 months old. The entire day was glorious (pure joy), however one specific moment struck me and when I shared it with Vicki, she encouraged me to share my story with the other parents who read our blog.

Here it is:

We were getting dressed to go outside and play in the snow and Tela and Sadie wanted the same thing. I don’t remember exactly what it was maybe a pair of skates or a hat or mittens, it really does not matter, what transpired is the important part.

Tela said, “I want that.”
And Sadie said, “I want that.”

It was quiet for a few seconds, all 8 of us sitting, waiting to see what would happen next. We have had enough cousins and kids in our house that all of us knew the atmosphere could shift from peaceful to unpleasant in one short second.

Finally,Sadie says, “Ok Tela, you can have it and then I’ll use it when you are done.”
Tela replies, ”I love you Sadie”
And Sadie says, “I love you too, Tela.”

Fast forward these Parenting On Track™ kids 9 years and look at some other Parenting On Track™ kids I know.

We are at a Christmas celebration with my husband’s extended family.

Jack (14) and Amy (12) are sharing a recliner and Liz (8) and Jess (5) are snuggled in the couch so closely together, it’s difficult to discern how many people are in that clump of arms and legs. They are all intently hanging on every word their Uncle, who just flew in from CA, is saying.

My husband’s cousin points to the older two and says,

”Don’t you know brothers and sisters that age don’t sit in the same room with each other, let alone the same chair?” He points to the younger two and says, “Girls that age are usually fighting with each other, they look like best friends. How do you do it?”

I shrug my shoulders and give the standard reply that I had nothing at all to do with it. He smiled and said, “Wish we all knew the secret. You are doing something.”

As I sat watching Kathy’s kids interact with each other, I realized, yes, we (parents) do have something to do with it and it starts at a very early age. If we are mindful and intentional parents when kids are 2, 3, 4, and 5, we start preparing them.

Over the years, I have experienced many a rolling eye, because I ignored the snarled hair or the mismatched shoes. I have felt many judgmental sideways glances when I decided to walk away from a tantrum instead of sending the crying child to timeout. I have heard not-so-subtle scoffs when I share that I do not sit down with my children every night and make them do their homework.

It took a while, but I am finally able to relax in the confidence that I am preparing myself and my children for departure- for life from 18-80. While my kids are young and living with me, my parenting choices have a purpose.

After spending time with Kathy’s kids, I know what connects the two of us. We are both committed to raising independent, thinking children. We trust this will give them a distinct advantage in managing their young adult lives with confidence and enthusiasm. Yes, it can be inconvenient at times, but after being in the room with a 3 and 4 year old who know how to solve problems, appreciate each other, move the action forward and show gratitude for a fun day spent at my house (without being prompted by their parents), I know what I know. This program delivers a powerful punch.

I know this does not happen by accident; these kids are being trained and are given the opportunity to practice over and over and over again.

Want to know the best news? It’s not a secret!

The Parenting On Track™ program exists to show every parent how. All it takes is a decision. A decision to invite kids to participate in their lives at the earliest of ages. The results are worth every cavity, every missed bus, every broken dish, every lost mitten, and every choice made-no matter the immediate outcome.

So thanks Kathy, thanks for sharing your beautiful, wonderful, capable, confident, resilient, thoughtful, joyous, flexible little babes with me- I so look forward to the next time.

If you are interested in learning more about the Parenting On Track™ program please visit our samples page at

Take Time to Pause

I have been teaching this program for over 20 years and still, still when I receive a story like the one I am sharing with you below, it drops me to my knees and I know I truly have the best job on the planet. The mom in this story took one of the first parenting classes I offered in the state of Vermont. The 5 year old daughter she refers to is now a Freshman in College.

Enjoy and be inspired!


I am a bit of a skeptic. Somewhere along the way I learned to be a conscious observer, one who would not allow the word SUCKER to be pasted across her forehead. Whether it was a long stretch of being an unhealthy pleaser or that foolish pyramid scheme I paid into in my early twenties…as an adult, I decided not to just buy into everything I heard and read. So when my friend and neighbor asked me to join her for a parenting class, I thought “probably not…I’m too busy….it’s hard to get out at night…blah blah blah”. I had a perfect out because I couldn’t make the first one anyway. After attending the first class without me, my persistent friend was totally on board and she would not take no from me for an answer. I joined her.

My head was spinning with new thoughts. A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. Praise is different from encouragement. Punishment doesn’t really work. Lecturing doesn’t really work. Really? I don’t know. I’m skeptical. I don’t believe that I could (lovingly) walk out of the grocery store, leaving behind an almost full cart and do without groceries for a week to help instill a sense of respect and responsibility in my child(ren), not after the effort it took to get the four of them and myself that far in the store! Oh, my thoughts were spinning. I didn’t quite buy it.

It was time to pick my kids up from school…three boys and a girl. They all rounded the corner full of energy, papers flying, backpacks bouncing. In they piled, the boys rolling over each other, grunting, laughing, pushing, vying for position in the van. The noise level escalating…my daughter, age 5, was screeching, bossing, witching, fretting. I was about to reel around and get in her face when the most miraculous thing happened. A truly new and momentous thing happened. I paused. That was it. I paused. Oh my god, I didn’t react. I thought “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child”. That pause gave me a moment to consider…maybe she’s had a bad day…maybe… who knows? Instead of reeling around, yelling in her face and shaking my finger at her, I simply reached around and held her hand.

She stopped her noise. She whimpered. And she settled down. Something washed over her…and me. It was grace. I blinked away the tears. I knew this was it. I felt in love with her. A minute ago I was ready to “take her down a peg”. I felt a release of anger. Instead there was tenderness, kindness, empathy….and a quiet astonishment. Imagine…I could discipline with encouragement. In every moment – I could choose to offer a respectful stance. I could throw a lifeline rather than hold the kid under to comply. I realize now that what happened in that moment was that she felt connected, she knew she counted. She didn’t have to rail against the three boys to find her spot.

That wave that washed over me changed my life. I understood encouragement all in one moment. Things would never be the same in my life. Really, all I needed to do was to pause.

The Rubber Band Effect

I have been using the “Rubber Band” analogy for years to explain the “letting go” process AND the idea of teenage rebellion. It seems fitting to wrap this whole “letting go” conversation up with this.

Imagine if you will, a rubber band that exists between you and your child. When they are infants, the rubber band is tight. They move to far away and in you “swoop” to pick them up and move them safely back to you.

In other words, they are never more than arm distance away. As it should be. We all know how quickly babies can encounter danger. It’s a lot of hard work and at times it’s downright exhausting. We ask ourselves, will there ever come a day when I can just sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee without worrying about the stairs, the stove, the dogs, the…whatever.

And then it happens. The “Grace Years”. It’s usually between 1st and 5th grade. The years when you can sit down and read a book, or start a conversation with a friend, because you know the kids will be alright on their own for a while. The constant worry is behind you. You can relax. They made it through infancy and toddler-hood.

The best part of the “Grace Years” is these same kids still snuggle with you and say they love you and ask for your advice and you, me, we are lulled into thinking it will always be like this. And because you are secure in your position in their life, you extend them a little leeway. You treat them a bit more like an adult than a baby. You afford them a few extra privileges and you loosen the reigns on them. You start asking for their opinions and inviting them into some of the decision making. They are easy and fun and they share stuff with you and you come to believe that all is well. To use the rubber band analogy, you have provided them with LOTS of slack. You are comfy and they are comfy. All is right with the world.

But not so fast – Just as everyone is getting comfy with the extended rubber band, your child is suddenly ready to step into adulthood through the doors of adolescence and at that moment every fear you ever feared becomes real and you YANK that kid right back in and SLAM, you are suddenly nose to nose with a kid who is looking at you like – “Hey – What do you think you are doing?”

And your brilliant response might sound something like “Hey – Don’t think you are going anywhere young lady or young man. I’m not ready for all this. Stay close so I can keep you safe. There are dangers, real dangers out there in the big wide world. Stay right here where I can keep my eye on you.” HMMM, where have we heard THAT before. Oh, right, the last time you uttered those words, your child was 8 months old and crawling.”

No wonder kids rebel. If they didn’t have the “rubberband” snapped back at them, maybe they wouldn’t have to pull so hard against it.

As the mother of 5 teens, I know, yes I KNOW just how scary the world can be for kids who are UNPREPARED for it. But our kids ARE prepared. As a parent, you can ensure that YOUR kids are ready to cope with real life situations. When you take the time to do that, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that they will navigate their way with clear heads and a strong connection to you. Keep the rubber band loose. Show your faith in their abilities. Yes, they will continue to make mistakes, but not nearly as many as you think they might and not all of them will end badly.

Keeping your kids close, too close, is a sure way to drive them away. Try extending the rubber band just a bit every day and before you yank them back, take a second and remember, you prepared them.

If you would like more information on how to prepare your children for adolescence, check out the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.

Applauding Praise? Consider the Danger!

The emails started coming in as soon as the article hit the internet. Along with the link came personal messages ranging from mild frustration to complete outrage.

It took me several hours to finally get to the article in the Burlington Free Press. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that surprised by most of what I read. Oh, I was upset to be sure, but not surprised. I’ve read 1000’s of articles just like this one in the 20 years I have been teaching.

I did do a bit of research on PBS and I suspect that there is more to this program than what was reported in this article.

The part of this article I found profoundly disturbing was this –

“The approach is succeeding for many reasons, starting perhaps, with human nature. “I think children really in their hearts want to please adults,” Knopf said. “They want to know that they are doing a good job, they want to be recognized when they are doing a good job.”

I could not imagine why an entire school would institute a program that left children at greater risk of being manipulated and exploited by predators all for the sake of “less discipline problems”.

As the mother of 5, I can not imagine anything more dangerous than for an entire school to be training children how to “please adults”. I don’t know any child who can distinguish the adults who have the child’s best interest at heart and the adults who view children as prey.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • If this system works for the teachers in the classroom, would it not work equally as well for the predators within the school?
  • What will happen to these kids who have been indoctrinated with this system when they step into the real world?
  • Does the school think that at some point the kids will understand that no one else will praise, compliment or reward them for doing what is expected of them and that really this was a trick, to “get” kids to behave?
  • Will these kids be trained to demand rewards each time they do as they are told, or follow the rules? At what point is this school going to adequately prepare these children for the real world – or isn’t that their job?

I shudder to think of all the ramifications of this program. In light of all the research based studies suggesting that praise is a danger to children on so many levels, it seems irresponsible, at best, for this school to be instituting something that is clearly a “quick-fix” strategy and is motivated, so it seems, by numbers instead of real lives.

In my Parenting On Track™ program we outline the dangers of Praise and offer a more substantial, long-term, fulfilling way to acknowledge children’s strengths and character traits. Encouragement helps children develop self-confidence, self-esteem and a clear understanding of who they are in the world and what choices they can make to support who they “be”, not who someone wants them to “be”.

Watch Video Sample from Chapter 7 of my Parenting On Track™ program.

For more information about the dangers of praise:

How Not to Talk to Your Kids, By Po Bronson

Punished By Rewards, Alfie Kohn

Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job, Alfie Kohn

For more information about my Parenting On Track™ program that teaches you how to help your child develop a strong sense of self and supports you as you identify what it will take for YOUR child to be encouraged and to participate in life, visit:

Acts of Kindness

Have you ever had someone lend you that coin that you were short of at a check-out counter? Or have you ever had someone stop you on the street because you were about to leave one of your mittens behind you? There are many, small wonderful things that strangers do for each other every day because, well, just because.

Here is one story about a good Samaritan that takes it one step further.

“My parents have been going through some rough times lately. Among those hard times, they’ve been trying to sell their home. They needed to replace a large broken appliance in the process of getting their home ready to be listed. My mom went out one day and made the purchase at a large department store. When she got it to her car, she realized that it wouldn’t fit in her trunk, wouldn’t come anywhere close. She hadn’t even considered how she’d get it home, having so much on her emotional plate. As she was standing in the parking lot almost in tears, having no idea what she’d do, an unfamiliar woman pulled up. She said “I think that’ll fit in my truck; where do you live? I’ll follow you home!” They got it in her truck, she followed my mom home, helped her unload it, and went on her way, not accepting anything for her efforts. Just an angel out of nowhere, who swooped in when we needed it.

I recently came across a very elderly, very shaky man with a walker trying to make it down a flight of stairs, and while I normally would have hurried on to the appointment I was late for, I thought of that angel, and stopped to help him get down the stairs. It made me a few minutes late, but so what – if that angel had been there that day, she would have done it for him, for sure – and I had learned something from her. It won’t be my last time, either – I’ll see to that. Someone who would do something so selfless for a total stranger – that’s someone I want to learn from.”

One person can make a big difference in the life of another. Keep your eyes out for your chance to be that person.

This inspirational story was found at

Words to Live By

It is easy to overlook the simple fact that the words we say can make a difference in the life of another. But sometimes you come across a story that serves as a good reminder.

He had led a life of anger, addiction and incarcerations when an aging corrections officer talked to him differently than anyone ever had before. He used words like admirable, remarkable, and trusting. At first the faith and trust of this corrections officer were shocking to him. In his short life full of pain and suffering, the encouraging words of another took time to take root. But eventually they did.

“(T)hose simple acts of empowerment, and allowing me to know and trust myself and understand that I was a valuable person, has had a profound effect on my life.”

Today he is a licensed & registered addictions therapist/counselor. He also runs meditation retreats at the prison and teaches a graduate class in a local university. But most importantly of all, he does his best everyday to smile and project love towards others, all because one person had the courage to take a risk with him.

Words of encouragement and radical faith in an individual completely turned his life around. Imagine what it can do in the lives of the ones you love.

For the complete story, “The Only ‘Enabler” In My Life” see

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.

When do you start training?

  • Are you a parent who thinks kids can’t do much?

  • Do you think kids have to be 13 before you can begin teaching them how to take care of themselves?

  • Do you think kids might be resistant to doing things for themselves, after they have had a bit of training?

  • Did it ever occur to you that four-year-olds can make a decent peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

We’ve got news for you – they can – they do and this one DID. Check it out.

If you are hesitant to start training, I encourage you to rethink your ideas on training kids for independence and self sufficiency. Or then again, you could be packing lunch for an ungrateful 13 year old. Its up to you- you choose.

Ready to Give your Notice?

featured I quit

Quit your job as the maid!

There are many things in life that are black and white. Parenting isn’t one of them. Not all of the strategies we talk about here at Parenting On Track™ work the same way for every child, or every family, and everyone’s kids are at a different place when it comes to training. That’s why, when it comes to training our children to participate more fully in their own lives, we recommend creating, maintaining and USING a timeline.

By creating a timeline, individualized for your children, you can:

  • Track where your child is today in terms of skill development
  • Identify what areas require additional training
  • Relax with the confidence that your children are becoming capable, cooperative, responsible and respectful

Many of you started your timelines with the first week of class when you spent a good deal of time just watching your children to see what they were already capable of. From there you had the information you needed to identify areas that required additional training. For the next couple of weeks we are going to use the feature article to explore what a timeline for training means for each specific age group of children.

This week however, is a time for you to stop – look – listen. So take some time this week and update your assumptions about what kids can and will do and then get ready for a powerful series that will walk you through the training process for each of the significant stages of your child’s development.

For more information on creating a timeline for training and inviting your children to participate, purchase our Home Program. View video samples here.

No More Lunch Lady

lunch-ladyWe are always trying to find ways to simplify our lives. There are entire books, magazines and TV shows dedicated to this very subject. One of those times in almost all of our lives that could use a little simplifying is the morning routine. Last week we touched on some of the broad, universal things you could incorporate into your daily lives to make the morning routine a little smoother. This week, we decided to team up again with Porter Hospital Dietitian, Amy Rice, to talk about how to train your children to make their own school lunches.

I know, right now you are thinking, “What? Are they crazy?! If little Johnny makes his own lunch he’ll end up eating Cheetos and Ring Dings everyday!” And, while this might be true, we have some guidelines for an easy way to train your children how to make a healthy lunch and hopefully avoid the excessive processed food and sugar intake you fear.

Here’s what Amy has to say:

The strategy that I usually suggest to my clients and that I have instituted with my own 3 year old and 5 year old is the Protein/Vegetable/Fruit lunch. When packing their lunch, teach your child to choose a vegetable, a fruit, and then a protein-rich food. Depending upon their choices, at this point, an item from the breads/grains group may be added. For example, your child first picks from the vegetable he’d like in his lunch. He chooses baby carrots. Then he makes his fruit choice, a banana. Now for his protein-rich food, he chooses hummus and packs this as a dip to use with his carrots. Perhaps he wants to add a few crackers or pretzels to dip in the hummus as well. Lunch is done.

Why start with the fruit, vegetable, and protein-rich food? Many children’s daily intakes of fruits and vegetables do not meet the recommended amount of at least five a day and protein is an important nutrient for growth and development. Choosing from these three categories first stresses their important while moving the focus away from the starches that typically flourish in a child’s diet beyond recommended levels.

Training your child to pack their own lunch will help teach some basic principles in nutrition, meal planning, and independence. With this method, you will be creating a healthy lunch structure within which your child has the freedom to make their own food choices. Even if some of their food combinations sound strange, remember it is their lunch and their culinary exploration. Who knows, maybe a new family favorite may be happened upon from your six year old’s palate!

Take some time, today, to talk with and train your children about what a healthy lunch is and let them do the work. You will not only be freeing up some of your time each morning, but you will be instilling healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.

For more information on training your children, inviting participation and encouraging independence, view the Parenting On Track™ Home Program details page, Chapter 3, Timeline for Training.