All posts tagged Milestones

Tips for Back to School Transition

All over the country, kids of every age are leaving home and venturing out into the world and for most of those kids, the world is the school yard or college campus. And some of us are sending our wee ones off for the first time, whether to daycare, pre-school, kindergarten or somewhere else that constitutes their first time on their own, outside of our home for even just a few hours. I’ll never forget the first day of school for each one of my children – the memories are as bittersweet as the longer-term goodbyes are today.

I was reminded of those first, short-term goodbyes last week by one of my good friends, who said goodbye to her oldest child at pre-school. She called me with a choked-up voice and told me how seamless it went. “Seamless?” I said, “Then why are you crying?” I asked. “Because… because I needed the goodbye hug more than she did.”

Many of us have had these seamless transitions from home to school with children who are confident and excited for the next phase in their life. But many of us have had the opposite. The child who doesn’t want to let go and cries a lot the first few weeks of school. If you live with a child who is having a hard time transitioning into pre-school or kindergarten, the only thing I can say is, “hang in there.” As hard as it may seem at this moment, your child will get through it.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Have faith in your kids and their ability to rebound. Make sure that you have a strong connection with the child before you say goodbye, but then say goodbye with faith that they will be okay.
  • Have faith in yourself and the fact that you made the decision to send your young one off after serious thought. You can feel good about that. You will be required to do much tougher stuff than this as they grow and spend more time away from home.
  • When you see each other again, be sure to spend a few minutes just connecting before you start asking dozens of questions. Whether they are sobbing in your arms or they have a smile that extends from one ear to the next – connect.
  • Let the child set the pace for answering your questions. Some kids want to share every aspect of their day and other children are ready to move on and leave the day in the past. Take your cues from the kids, not from your own curiosity or fear.

The truth is, all of our children will experience change and transition into new experiences many times throughout the course of their lives. Some of those transitions will be seamless and others, not so much. All we can do, as parents, is support them, listen to them, encourage them and hope that we need the goodbye hug more than they do.

If you think I am a competent young adult, stop treating me like an immature child

Growing into competent young adultsSitting in the doctor’s office last week, I overheard a mother and her sixteen-year-old daughter chatting. How do I know she was sixteen-years-old? Because she was talking about the rules that go along with being a new driver, mainly, that she is not allowed to drive anyone under 22-years-old for 6 months. Totally lame in her words.

The topic of their conversation suddenly shifted and before I knew what was happening, their exchange went from casual disdain, to blatant hostility, to full on, clenched teeth verbal warfare about whether or not mom would be going into the exam room with the same sixteen-year-old young woman who was just moments before talking about driving a vehicle.

Question: What might this mom believe about the relationship she has with her daughter that makes it possible for her to see her as a competent adult ready to get behind the wheel of a car, but not mature enough to go into the exam room on her own?

Question: Is this a common phenomenon? Accepting our kids are growing up and becoming competent young adults in some ways – dating, cars, college – and yet refusing to accept that they are growing up in other ways – exam rooms, using manners, choosing friends.

Question: Is needing to be needed as a parent making it difficult to identify these “markers” in our teens’ lives and if so, does that explain the “pushback” we feel as they become more competent young adults?

Question: Does a sixteen-year-old who is old enough to drive and probably date, have the right to decide whether her mother joins her in the exam room?

Question: Do we, as parents who changed diapers, wiped tears away, giggled under covers get confused because our kids will always remain MY child, but not always be A child?

This is just one example of how as parents, in our desire to stay connected to our kids, inadvertently enter into power struggles that push our children further from us. Take a moment and consider all the ways your pre-teen may be showing you that she is ready to be treated more like a competent young adult, than a school-aged-child.

Consider that by letting go just a bit more each day, you are sending the message to your child that you trust her and have faith in her ability to handle her life. Kids who know their parents have faith in their ability to handle the ups and downs of life along with making the daily decisions that go along with being an adult, feel more connected to them. While kids who have hovering parents who continue to hound them with questions, offering opinions and advice, want to run as far away from their parents as possible.

Let’s keep our kids close, by giving them space and supporting their march towards independence.

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.

For more inspirational posts, visit http://flockmother.wordpress.com/


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.

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.

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.

Mind Blowing Reflections

Graduation season is behind us. Maybe you attended Kindergarten Step-Up Day or a college graduation or maybe something in-between.

We had our own graduation celebration here in East Middlebury this past weekend. My middle child graduated from High School and will head out on her own come September. Graduation is always a time for me to reflect on the child who will soon be flying solo.

Here are a few reflections as they pertain to the Parenting On Track™ Program (because as I mentioned in the last post – YES, I do use the program and here’s how:)

1. Do Nothing – Say Nothing: This remains my secret weapon of choice. Here’s why. My kids change. They change all the damn time. I tend to change less often as I get older, so it is up to me to find ways to change along with my kids. The only sure fire way I know to do that – is to shut-up and watch for 7 days. I do this on a regular basis. In fact, I do it at least 2 times each year, sometimes more, if I know a particular child is going through a major growth spurt. As a result of shutting-up, observing and learning, I am able to parent each child in a way that supports their unique personality and perspective. This in turn, builds a deep and lasting relationship that can stand the ups and down that every relationship is bound to experience. In this particular child’s case, I have learned: she is extremely loyal, independent, funny, easily embarrassed, hates making mistakes, loves children and people over the age of 92. This is helpful information if I am to stay close to her as she ventures further and further from home.

2. Buttons: As I have said repeatedly, this one strategy alone is like holding the key to a locked door that hides treasures more valuable than gold. Whenever I start acting crazy, I know my kids have accidentally stumbled upon one of my activating events, a mistaken belief, a “BUTTON!” Listen, I can not begin to calculate how many hours of misunderstanding, fights and power struggles I have avoided because of this one simple, easy to use concept along with a strategy that literally takes 5 minutes to put into place.

3. Timeline for Training: You can’t raise kids who have the ability at 18 to make all the necessary arrangements for living abroad for another year, defer from college for a year AND maintain their scholarship money, if you don’t start by asking them to unload the dishwasher every single day before they leave for school and every evening before they jump on the computer. It just won’t happen folks.

You can’t raise kids who trust themselves, feel confident making decisions, are willing to take chances, rebound from blunders without missing a step, and have a realistic view of themselves and the world they live in, if you haven’t invited them to participate in their own lives EVEN when it was easier to manage their lives for them.

The Timeline for Training is a concept, when understood and used regularly, empowers the entire family and creates a kind of kinship and comradery that translates well beyond daily contributions.

4. 4 Mistaken Goals of Behavior: Here is what I know: our kids have a certain solution that they adopted around the age of 3, 4 or 5. This solution has now become their biggest and most reliable problem. The good news is, once you know what that problem is, you can provide a support system to your kids that is free from judgment and disappointment. It is liberating.

It is not uncommon for me to pour myself a cup of tea and wait patiently for my child to hit up against the same obstacle she has been hitting up against for 12 years. I am ready, with kindness, compassion and empathy. I am in no rush to give her the answer or try to make life easier for her. On the contrary, I am there to provide a sounding board for her, because I know, there will be a moment in her life, when she realizes that the problem she faced when she was 7, is the problem she is facing at 27 and suddenly, the answer is there, waiting for her. And at that moment, my kid will realize that I was there, beside her, trusting her to figure it out when she was ready and she will know how deep my love and respect is for her.

5. All of the “Invest in the Best” strategies have provided me years of pleasure as a mom. They are the tools I use to build strong, healthy, loving, accepting, respectful relationship with not only my kids, but anyone else who is important to me in my life. When the relationship we have with our kids is solid, there is little need for discipline strategies. I don’t care what anyone else tells you, come talk to my five kids and they will tell you that “punishments and consequences” just weren’t part of their childhood experience – and yet, there was order in our lives and there were clear expectations and there was restitution and there were thousands of solutions.

My husband I decided to invest heavily on the relationship we were building with each child, knowing that it would take years for us to experience the payoffs. And let me say right now, that having kids who truly like, care and respect you as a parent and a person is a payoff worth waiting for.

6. The “Tools of Necessity” became my teeny, tiny, secret weapon. I became a master at utilizing these tools when I felt us sliding down the Slippery Slope towards the Rabbit Hole. These common sense strategies saved my ass more times than I care to share AND the best part is my kids began using them as a way to support the family when we all seemed to be stuck or struggling. It is truly amazing to listen to teenagers who care so deeply about their family’s emotional health, that they will use the “distraction” strategy to break the tension even if it means looking like a complete idiot in the process.

7. Over the years, we have found ways to celebrate our lives together as a family that can only describe as “mind blowing”. From simple gatherings around lit candles where appreciations we given and received, to major trips anchoring a storm weathered that brought every member of the family closer together.

As my oldest daughter likes to say –

“We have a “way” of being together that draws people towards us. We have a “way” of being together that tells a special story about who we are to each other.

And she is right, we do. And that is because we worked at it.

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.

The Big Talk!

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

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

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

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

Here is my concern:

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

Now, I sum up sex ed in two categories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birds and Bees and Kids

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

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

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

Big Love everyone.

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 http://www.parentingontrack.com.

Sibling Appreciation

This story was sent to me by one of our Parenting On Track™ moms. She does not have a blog that she uses to journal her experiences, so I thought this would be a good story to share on our blog.

Here it is. Enjoy.
Last night I overheard a brief interaction between my two oldest children. Not much for some families but for me – it was enough to bring me to my knees. The exchange was a complete contrast to the relationship I had with my own sibling growing up, which was, in a word, non-existent. Sad? Maybe, but that’s the reality. We have seen each other 2 times in 2 years. Here is how this relationship with my sibling plays out in my life now, as the mother of 4.

I would say I am like most parents in that, the reality of my own personal sibling relationship weighs heavily on my beliefs around my children’s relationships with each other. Before the Parenting On Track program, I was crazy insane every time my kids would tease each other or give the cold shoulder or any type of interaction that was not loving and appreciative. Within an instant I was transported into the future, where as adult siblings, they didn’t speak to each other, didn’t make time for each other. In fact, they spent so little time getting to know each other as kids, that they would have NO idea what their siblings interest, values or talents were. And to make it worse, I truly believed that because of this “lack of relationship” they would carry around a big black void in their life. Intense and very real to me.

Rewind to my early days with Parenting On Track. I took a leap of faith and listened as Vicki told us that we would “get what you feed in your homes”. What she was suggesting was that I ignore the fighting, the teasing, the outdoing, the put downs. I can’t tell you how hard that was for me to swallow. What AM I supposed to do then?

Here is what Vicki suggested:

  • Notice your children’s strengths and ignore the rest.
  • If you want kids who are nice to each other and who like each other, hold your weekly Family Meetings and teach your children how to give and receive appreciations.

Two seemingly simple ideas. So, I started ignoring any fighting, teasing, outdoing, put downing and started having Family Meetings once a week that included Appreciations.

Fast forward to now and lo and behold, after 9 years of Family Meetings, I live with 4 children ages, 14, 12, 8 and 5 who are all best of friends. I experience sibling relationships that feed my soul and restore my faith in what is possible.

Here is the interaction that inspired me to send this story to Vicki.

Peter and Sheila were up, later than I was, studying for mid-term exams. I heard a big rustle from Peter’s room and Sheila says from hers, “Peter, what are you doing?”

He replies gently, “Just going downstairs to get something to eat before bed.”

“Oh”, she says.

“Good night” he says.

“Good night, I love you” she says.

“I love you too, Sheila”, he says.

This is what is possible between a brother and sister smack dab in the middle of adolescence, when you practice Family Meetings each week and take the time to teach your kids how to notice each other’s strengths and give them practice telling each other how much they appreciate one and another.

Bliss, Peace, and Family Meetings! If you do one thing from this program, do appreciations at Family Meeting. The pay-off is priceless.

For more information on the Parenting On Track™ program, visit www.parentingontrack.com/program/details

Prepare for Departure

Last week we had our good friends over for dinner and games. They brought their 3 kids with them. This is the story of Zach, their 11 month old son and how “letting go” when kids are young, pays off in ways that are easy to overlook if you don’t know WHAT you are looking for.

Zach is 11 months old. Because he is the 3rd child and because he spends a good amount of time at our house (he splits his time between me and my teens), his experience of the world is one of constant invitations to “participate”. He isn’t babied, he isn’t indulged, he isn’t spoken to like a pet. He is treated like a contributing member of the group. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we relish this cherub cheeked youngster, but there is a difference between goobering all over a yummy “baby” and clinging to the idea of him staying a baby.

As a result of his parents’ approach and his relationship with my family (and other factors as well), he is a relaxed, confident, interested, engaged, curious child. He is comfortable meeting new people and hanging out with a group (without demanding all the attention). He moves through the house with the speed and agility of a professional skateboarder, not a cautious crawler. He is neither clingy nor distant. Already you can sense the balance in his young life. He is preparing for departure, even at 11 months of age.

I have to give kudo’s to his parents who accepted that their children are leaving the nest and never look back. Like every parent, it gets easier with each child, and this is their 3rd. But still, letting go can be difficult.

What I notice about this remarkable 11 month old is the confidence he feels in himself, the people around him and to a certain extent, the world at large. Because I am continually asked to talk about the “letting go” process, it’s important that I look at it from all angles. It’s easy for me to talk about it now that my own kids are grown, but what parents are looking for is an inside view of what it looks like to “let go” when children are young. They want to know what the benefits are when they embrace both the idea and the process of kids growing up – out and beyond us when they are YOUNG.

Zach is a great case study. He is young. What does it look like to start letting go of a child who so recently arrived? Here are a few things I have observed over the last several weeks that might help parents better understand not only the reality, but the benefits to letting go intentionally.

  • Contain your excitement when your child accomplishes new tasks and skills. Instead, encourage the first few times and then move on to a new task. Keep encouraging and moving forward.
  • Let your children know you are available to help, show them what to do and then leave them alone to try, try, and try again. After several attempts are made, go back in for more training- if necessary.
  • Walk away when they need space to fail – sing a song, look away and start a conversation or be quiet (this one can be painful but worth it). Letting go means allowing children to learn about their thresholds, how to deal with frustration and how to recover all on their own. Empowering.
  • Have Faith. Know in your heart, that they can do ANYTHING they put their minds to, even if they fail the first few 100 times. Keep “seeing” your children successful and soon enough, they will be.

Here are a few words from Kathy herself: “I recommend working on self skills between 1 and 3 years. The trick is “to stay sane while you are doing it. The benefit is that you are working yourself out of a job and working them into self-esteem – something most of wish we had more of. When things get out of balance or the routine has changed remember to look at your children as if they are asking “How do I belong in this family” then if you still can’t move past that call Vicki for a coaching session.”

Letting Go is a natural process. One that can be enjoyed and even savored by loving and committed parents. Letting go doesn’t mean throwing our kids into adulthood, it means providing an environment where they are engaged in all the yummy-ness the world has to offer them.

Thanks for sharing Kathy and Steve. You are truly an inspiration.

Letting Go

When my oldest asked if she could shave her legs for the first time, I had an out-of-body experience. There she was, with a razor in her hand (a pink Daisy, I think), a serious all-grown-up look on her face and a voice that demanded I pay attention. What I saw through my mothering eyes, was my first child, still an infant, quietly nursing in the privacy of her softly lit bedroom. I was having a flashback. I was caught off guard. It was the first time I experienced what so many parents had shared with me during my early career as a parent educator – the reality that their children were growing up and they, the parents, were struggling with the idea of “letting go”.

I am forever talking to parents about “letting go” and recognizing that the moment our babies land in our homes, they begin the slow journey of moving out. Yes, it does start the minute they arrive. I know this and here I was getting ready to yank my own kid back into infancy.

It’s been years since I thought of that incident. I remembered it because Jennifer (my business partner) was talking with me about a similar experience with her oldest daughter. We began a poignant conversation about the phenomenon of letting go and growing closer all at the same time. It’s the “this and that” factor again. As I was reminiscing, she was in “real time.” I could hear the delight and wonder in her voice as she relayed the story. So similar to mine that it was uncanny. I watched her face deepen with love and admiration for her daughter. And then she said, very simply, something I have been trying to communicate to parents for years…

“Ya know, the thing is, if you can embrace the “letting go” process with your kids, they don’t seem all that interested in running away from you. In fact, I think they tend to move closer and stay longer.”

So, here is my short list, for letting go and hanging on without ever losing your balance.

  1. Stop pretending that your kids aren’t going to leave. You know they are AND they are supposed to. It is complete indulgence when parents act as if they won’t be able to handle the eventual departure of their children. I sometimes wonder if parents who hang on tightly think it’s an indicator of how much they love their kids. We all love our kids. Clinging is a lousy litmus test for love.
  2. Think about the message you are sending your kids when you talk about how hard it is on YOU that they are growing up. Here the kids are, doing their best to move forward in their lives and they have some clingy parent hanging on to their pant cuffs screaming – “Don’t leave me.” “Don’t grow up.” “I can’t handle it.” You really think your kids think this is a sign of love? I doubt it. It serves as an indicator to the kids that your life is too focused on their life, hence the “get a life” campaign.
  3. Remember that growing up, doesn’t mean growing away. Children leave our homes, they don’t leave our lives. If we give them the space they so desperately require to grow into the people they are meant to be, they will choose to stay close to the people that helped them get there.

All parents will experience a multitude of milestones with their children. At some point, every kid is going to pick up a razor, male or female, and you will decide at that moment whether you will be part of this incredible stage in your child’s life, or whether you will live in the past.

11 years ago, I sat on the edge of the tub with Hannah. I filled the tub with warm water and we both dangled our feet just below the surface. We lathered up our legs with shaving cream. I pointed out all the tricky spots on a woman’s legs – around the ankle, the shin line and the knee cap. I explained that using a sharp razor was a sure way to limit the nicks and cuts so dispose after of old razors after 2 or 3 shavings. We practiced taking long strokes up our legs. She was nervous and tentative and I felt needed and loved and connected to this amazing young woman. The experience lasted about 30 minutes. The water was temped by the time we finished. I gave her a gift of Jafra Almond Lotion – a kind of coming of age gift, to make her legs shiny, smooth and soft. She was radiant.

Throughout the day I caught her running her hands up and down her legs, feeling not so much for the new smooth feeling of her legs, but for what they smoothness represented. I remember doing the same thing at her age. Stroking my first real step into adulthood.

I have thousands of these memories with my kids and because I was willing to let go of their childhood, I was able to step into the moments with them and become a part of their experience. Letting go allows our children to stay close. Trust me.

Is letting go easy? Not always, but I understood that my kids were leaving the moment they entered the world, so I was prepared AND I decided to relish their walk towards adulthood instead of fight it. That made all the difference in the world.

The next time your child takes a step toward the door, put your fear aside and make the decision to walk with them. Imagine the conversations you and your children will share when they realize you have no intention of disrupting their walk towards independence and adulthood. Yummy is the only word I can use to describe it.

Next year at this time, your, my children, our children will have another year of new experiences under their belts. Will you be there with them, or will you be sitting on the sidelines still fighting the inevitable “letting go”?

A note from Jennifer: “I am so grateful for Parenting on Track™. Everything I have learned over the past 9 years has brought me to this moment. Letting go and watching my children grow into young adults is magnificent. Its difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced this – but as Vicki likes to say – “It’s DELICIOUS.” And it’s not only the relationship I have with the kids that helps me embrace letting go, its my confidence in them – as people – as thinking individuals who are navigating their lives the best they can and I so appreciate the invitation from them to be a part of the journey.”

Trick or Treat?

Even though you might just want to forget about it and hope that Halloween doesn’t happen this year, your kids probably won’t let that happen. And the pictures of them in their cute costumes ARE fun to look back at (even if getting the picture taken was a nightmare). So here are some ideas to help make Halloween a little bit more fun, whatever the age of your children.

For younger kids:
If you want to give out healthy snacks instead of candy, the following websites might be helpful:

And for environmentally conscious folks, check out

You’ll find everything from healthy treats to environmentally-friendly treasures to give out.

For ideas on costumes, decorations, fun Halloween cuisine, games and more, check out

For those pre-teen and teenage kids who really are too old to be trick-or-treating anyway:
Have a party! Let the kids get dressed up if they want to, serve some fun Halloween party food, and play games. If you have the party at your house, you get to join in on the fun, know where your kids are (and what they are doing), and keep kids who are a little too old to trick-or-treat off the streets.

For Halloween party food ideas, see:

If you have any Halloween ideas or traditions that you think might interest others, please share them in the Comments section—we’d love to hear from you. Happy Halloween to all!

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 www.parentingontrack.com/program/details.

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

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.

The Morning Routine

overparentingThe morning routine has long been one of the “challenging” times in the life of a family. We’ve all had those mornings when kids don’t want to get out of bed, they find their clothes “just aren’t right”, or maybe their breakfast lacks appeal and all these moments add up to power struggles, stress and a bumpy start to the day. As parents, we understand that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day, so it is important to start on the right foot.

Parenting On Track™ offers families access to proactive, sustainable, age-independent strategies to help you parent from your best – which, inevitably, brings out the best in your child. Grounded in teaching “long-term-sustainable-solutions,” the program teaches parents how to support children as they implement and practice life skills that will help them maneuver their way from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. The fundamental principles of Parenting On Track™ focus on training and the understanding that parenting is a journey and there are no quick fixes.

However, there are things we, as parents, can do right away that have a significant impact on the attitudes of our children as they start their days, face daily challenges and navigate their lives, regardless of whether those challenges are deciding what to have for breakfast, standardized state tests, or a fight with their BFF.

Here are a few simple tips that will remind your kids that you believe in them and love them – this, of course, translates into a relaxed, confident and enthusiastic kid. You know, a kid with a “can do” attitude, the one who enters school with a smile, a swagger and a “bring it on” look in his or her eyes.

1. Appreciation:

Identify specific character traits in your child that you admire and make an observation about one every morning.

Imagine being greeted each morning by someone who clearly knows you and appreciates you.

These appreciations might sound something like:

  • You always wake up in a good mood.
  • You are such a curious kid.
  • You can make your mom and I smile even when we are upset about something.
  • You are incredibly patient with your siblings.

2. Participation:

Invite your children to do more for themselves.

Imagine being treated like a capable, competent person by the people most important to you – your parents.

Try some or all of these suggestions:

  • If you have been getting them up, ask them if they want to get an alarm clock and get up on their own.
  • If you have been making their breakfast, ask them if they want to make pancakes with you this morning.
  • If you nag them to get ready, try being quiet and see what happens.

3. Connection:

  • Create a final connection with your kids in the evening.
  • Have faith in your children and show them that no matter what happens – you love them.
  • Ask questions that are relaxed and open ended (and not about the upcoming test.)
  • Sit quietly at the bottom of the bed and tell them you just want to hang out with them for a few more minutes.
  • Do something unexpected (like paint toenails, or give a back scratch.)
  • Create a positive affirmation together.

By utilizing these three strategies – Appreciation, Participation and Connection – on a regular basis with your children, you can eliminate some the current challenges you face each morning and replace them with a smooth routine that will have all of you out the door on time and ready to face the day.

For more information on inviting your children into the process of orchestrating a smooth morning routine, see our Parenting On Track™Home Program details.

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.

Working and Having Fun

  • Have doubts about what kids can REALLY do?
  • Wonder if a 3 year old is capable of doing anything other then making messes?
  • Cautious about asking your kids to help out on a regular basis?

Well check out this video of my favorite 3 and 4 year old and see for yourself what young kids who have been encouraged to help because their mother took me seriously when I said “If they can walk, they can work” can do for themselves.

Doesn’t training look fun?

So no more stories about how kids: Won’t Work – Can’t Work – Don’t Work

Take a page from K’s book and invite your kids into the process of helping around the house. You could send one of these video’s to all your friends or better yet, have children who have had so much time to practice life, that they enter into adolescence with confidence and enthusiasm!

New Beginnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Thoughts on Habits

fresh-perspectiveSunny mornings on the deck, lazy afternoons by the pool, fresh veggies from the garden … does it get any better than summer? There are a few weeks left before we all have to get back to reality and start our lives of school, activities and all that comes with having busy lives and busy children.

I have spent this summer enjoying a full house with all five of my children here. It has been, at times, chaotic and busy but mostly it has been a wonderful summer full of laughter, fun and memorable times spent together. The house was full of friends and music and the smell of great food on the grill. I don’t know when I will ever have all my children under one roof for an entire summer, so I am savoring every last minute of it.

It’s now, before the summer ends and the school year begins, that I take a few hours and reflect back on where is it we’ve been as individuals and as a family and where it is we may be going in the coming year. It is a chance for me to revisit the milestones we set for ourselves and acknowledge the progress and improvement we have made in the areas we identified for ourselves as “challenging”. I wonder what new goals we will set for ourselves when we gather for what we have dubbed the “The Dinner of the Roadmap”. It is a site to behold. Food everywhere, poster board, paints, markers, magazines, glue and scissors, pens and pencils. Mostly though, there is conversation. Deep, rich, questioning, encouraging, challenging, loving conversation. We are a passionate bunch and the gathering is no exception. Fears are shared, dreams are ignited, plans are made and as a result each of us feel a deep connection that defines who we are as a family.

What started out as a Parenting Roadmap quickly changed to not only a Family Roadmap, but Kid Roadmaps as well. Iain and I have been encouraging our kids for many years now, to approach their Roadmaps with a fresh perspective. to dream big, to hold themselves accountable and to go for it – what ever “it” is.

Throughout the years I found it helpful for me and for other parents to talk with each other about the triumphs and tribulations that we have had recently to keep us focused on what goals and milestones were attainable or realistic. I’d love to hear from all of you in the Comments section about how your summers were, the moments that became memories. Your experiences help all of us see that we are not alone in parenting struggles and we can all congratulate each other on our parenting successes.

Hope your summer was a good one, and I look forward to hearing from you.

For more information on the Roadmap, see Ch. 5 of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program or our blog, “Parenting Is a Journey? I Think I Need Directions!” May 13, 2009