All posts tagged parenting trip ups

Siblings Part 3: Tips To Bring More Joy

stop the fighting

Watching your kids play nicely together, hearing a shared giggle, watching a potential fight averted, because of some savvy negotiating between your 6 and 8 year old is just about every parent’s idea of a dream come true. But raising kids who truly enjoy each other is a process that takes years. It’s important that parents recognize that building on small moments, bringing a child’s awareness to the moments that “work” with a sometimes pesky sibling, providing situations in which kids can practice solving problems around play, will go a long way in creating sibling relationships that will stay strong and loving for years to come.

Personally, I made the decision when my kids were young, that if I could choose between kids who got along between 2 – 18 and kids who were close from 18 to 80, my choice would be the later. One of the major trip ups for parents around kids getting along when they are young, is the belief that we parents are responsible for those relationships. Maybe if we did more of one thing or less of another, we could guarantee our kids would be each other’s best friends for life – pinky swear. But nothing could be further from the truth. Take a page from your adult experience and trust that by following these easy but powerful 10 tips, you will indeed raise kids who truly enjoy each other’s company more with each passing year. And yes, you will witness this before they leave home.


1. Appreciations: Just like suggesting to someone who has a head ache that they drink water, before they run to the doctor for an MRI, using appreciations as a way to combat sibling squabbles is often overlooked because of it’s simplicity. But as a mom who raised 5 kids in a blended family dynamic, this was the key to my kids not only enjoying life together under one roof, but the reason the 5 of them are still as thick as thieves as young adults.

2. Adler’s Golden Rule: “ I use Adler’s “see with their eyes, hear with their ears and feel with their heart” to help my children understand a sibling they are struggling with. Inevitably, there is a moment of empathy and awareness, which translates into a more relaxed and accepting dynamic. This has become the foundation for conversations when one sibling is struggling with another’s choice of behavior.” Mother of 4 children, ages 7 – 16.

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

3. No Blood – No Break – No Foul: “I stay out of every single squabble that doesn’t include blood or break. And yes, it’s tough. Especially in public. It’s easy for parents to get pulled into the tussle and as soon as I’m there, I can see the entire dynamic change. It’s no longer an opportunity for my kids to work together to solve the problem, it’s about me trying to decide who needs to change or do something different and the relationship between the kids takes a psychic hit. I would say, that at this point, my kids spend less than 10% of their time squabbling for more than just a few minutes. They have strategies that work for almost every occasion, including walking away, writing it on the problem board, negotiating and sometimes, just throwing themselves down on the ground and hoping for a sympathetic sibling to concede the toy.” Mother of 3 children, under the age of 5

4. Use Reality as your Guide: “I had kids who were very physical and it really concerned me. I thought that the fighting defined the relationship and it scared me. Over time, as I learned to watch the kids in other situations, I realized that they had a high degree of respect for each other and often times worked together in ways that I overlooked. I think it’s important for parents to really challenge their beliefs about what it means for kids to enjoy each other because truly, I think it can sometimes be a bit Polly-Anna. And today, my kids are as close as any siblings I know.” Mother of 3 children, ages 25 – 19

5. Get an accurate idea of how often your kids get along and how they “do” getting along. Most parents admit that when challenged to do this, they recognize that the kids get along more then they give them credit for. So take a deep breath and relax. Remember to acknowledge when the kids are working together or enjoying each other and be specific so they can use this information again and again.

6. Give them a break from each other. Even kids can get sick and tired of hanging with the same folks for too long. Sometimes it’s that simple. Allow them time alone, with other friends, with parents one-on-one and don’t get caught up in the “it’s not fair” song and dance.

7. If you have friends with older kids (like young teens) leverage them. They can teach your kids the importance of getting along with their siblings in a way that we, the parents, can’t. Hearing a story from a 10, 13 or 16 year old about how awesome they think their sibling is, or a time when their sibling came to their rescue, can go along way in helping shift your child’s perspective towards their pesky sibling.

8. Stop fretting. Most kids do enjoy each other. They might not show it the way you want them too, but they are young, they are doing the best they can. Allow the relationship to grow over time, slowly and naturally. Watch that you aren’t comparing or judging and that your expectations are in line with reality.

9. Keep your own childhood out of the picture. You aren’t raising yourself and over compensating for a lousy relationship with your sister will only guarantee that your kids struggle to create meaningful relationships with each other. If you model for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like, sounds like and feels like, they have a much better chance of establishing a healthy one with their siblings. Trying to force kids to get along usually back fires and causes more fractures not less.

10. Take pictures of the times people are enjoying each other and post them around the house. When kids start to squabble, bring them over to a picture and ask them to remind you of what was happening in the action. Along with this, make sure appreciations during Family Meetings includes when kids are rockin it out together. Remember, whatever you pay attention too – you get more of.

jens kids

Remember to pace yourself. It’s not nearly as important to have young children who have developed the skills which makes it possible for us to get along with people day in and day out for years, as it is to help them build a strong foundation that will grow with them over time and solidify the relationship they have with their brothers and sisters.

Choose to Focus on Positives

Q&A With Vicki Hoefle

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

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

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


You have two things working against you here.

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

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

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

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

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

Tween Behavior During Divorce

normal tween behaviors during divorceQ&A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: Is my tween showing “normal”  behavior during divorce?

Scenario: I am in the beginning stages of a divorce and I have noticed my 12 year old seems to be lashing out and becoming somewhat defiant and uncooperative.  My question is two-part:  Is this normal tween behavior during divorce and how can I support her through the process and get my daughter back.

Answer:  Divorce is never easy – on anyone.  As a mom who experienced divorce herself and as a parent coach who has worked with many divorced couples, here are a few things I have learned to support tweens during divorce.

  1. Everyone deals with divorce in a very unique way.  There is no formula so it’s impossible to know from one day to the next how someone, especially a tween is internalizing their experience.  One day they could be sullen, the next joyful, the next angry, the next confused and the next melancholy.  I taught myself to observe each of my kids every morning and look for clues as to how they were dealing with the situation on that particular day.  I fully expected that later that day or certainly by the next day, they could be experiencing a whole new set of feelings. This helped me stay “fluid” through the process and before long I started to notice more consistent, “normal” behavior.  By plugging into THEM, I felt more centered and calm myself, which influenced the entire family dynamic.

  2. It is quite normal for anyone experiencing a stressful event, to have shifts in behavior that might seem random, unexplainable and downright aggravating.  Remembering that the behavior is what is informing you about her internal feelings will make it easier or at least help to not take it personally, or to worry too much about it.  Instead of talking to her about her behavior, talk about all the ways that she is dealing with the situation in a mature, kind and supportive way.

  3. None of you will be the same after this experience.  So allow everyone affected by the event to change accordingly.  Look for the best, celebrate the future and let go of the past.  There is nothing to be gained by going back and wishing things were different.  They are what they are.

Question:  Do you have a strategy or a resource that helped you through a difficult transition?

Duct Tape Those Emotions OUT

calm patient Duct Tape Parenting Natural consequencesDuct Tape Natural Consequences IN

As a parent, if you ever find yourself in a place where you want to “teach a lesson,” but you think you’d like to choose the relationship, remember that the world is already set up to help your child learn lessons with nearly every event, decision, and mistake.

The daily grind of life offers kids countless golden opportunities to learn with no emotional attachment to what’s going on. Sometimes kids get away with it. Other times, it takes a long time to harvest the natural response to a behavior, like losing friends over being bossy or mean. Either way, you can’t “teach” something by adding a bite in the bottom.

Think of the last time someone tried to teach you a lesson by acting like a jerk. Did you learn a bit of wisdom or did you walk away feeling disconnected and low? Use what’s readily available (natural consequences) and it’ll help take the pressure off both you and your child and allow for a better connection between the two of you.

-Duct Tape Moment  from the Book, Duct Tape Parenting


Allowance: Don’t Wing It

kids, money and allowanceKids and money are often a confusing combination. Ask any parent their “allowance” process and I bet you’ll find one of two responses:

  1. They don’t have a solid system and they’re wildly inconsistent and/or winging it. (Is this you? You’re not alone!)
  2. They have a system that “works” and  they’ll happily give you all the inside info on how to give your kids an allowance.In either case, it doesn’t matter.

Why? Because in order for you to implement a successful system, you must first ask YOURSELF key questions about your family’s relationship with money. You can’t find the guidance you seek until you understand how money plays out in YOUR family’s day to day routine. (Plus, just because a system technically “works” it doesn’t mean it will transfer over to YOUR family and it may not be teaching the healthiest relationship with money.)

Start Fresh

If you’re a parent without a system and your brain is filled with confusion, I give you unsolicited permission to TOSS all the advice you’ve been given and start from ground zero.

If you have a system, I’d ask you to look at the lessons it’s teaching and see if there are changes you can make to further develop a healthy relationship with money. (If you’re on track, then continue on!).

The Point?

Each family (including YOURS) will have a unique relationship with money. This basic information is often overlooked but it is valuable! Knowing your family’s relationship to money tells you where you’re starting from, what your values are, and will give you the means to measure progress. In order to pick up and start from where you are, it’s important to stop and ask yourself These 4 Valuable Questions:

  1. “What kind of relationship do my children have with money right now?”
  2. “Do my children expect me to buy them everything they want?”
  3. “What’s stopping me from allowing them to take over responsibility for their own money?”
  4. “How many years do I have left to help guide my children towards a healthy relationship with money before they leave my house?”

Once you answer these, you’ll begin to see how an allowance process can benefit your family, how much time you’ll need to get in the routine and most importantly how to ID YOUR role in the experience.

Parents, how are you feeling about your allowance routine? Have you stopped to ask these questions? Leave a comment or discuss it on our Facebook wall


Springtime Gardening Tip

As we start thinking forward to sunny days in spring and new growth, it’s a good time to stop and plant a few mental seeds that will lead to a big, lush garden of positive family poppies. It’s one of my all-time favorite sayings and I’m throwing it out there again now as a friendly reminder (feel free to print the little image and stick it on your fridge!)

In order to get what we want (cooperation, respect, independence, manners, and so on) we MUST NOT focus on the pesky, annoying behaviors our kids display from time to time. These behaviors or “weeds” are all the things we find distasteful, aggravating, mysterious and that we want to be rid of once and for all. Remember that they grow bigger and beefier whenever we say, “stop this” “don’t do that” “how many times have I told you to…..”, and so forth. The more we try to kill off the negative stuff, the deeper the roots grow and the hardier it becomes.

The point here is to imagine all those behaviors you admire and want to see more of as roses and poppies and daisies and colorful tulips. Water those, notice them. Tend to them. Encourage them. Every time you start to correct, remind, nag and so forth, you’re tipping the watering can onto the weeds, instead of watering the pretty flowers right in front of you. That is the only way the “weeds” will eventually die. You can pluck all you want, but if the roots are there and you’re spilling sweet water on them, they will return. By watering what you want to flourish, you will change the relationship and watch the “weeds” disappear.

What Trips You Up as a Parent?

As a parent, there are auto-habits that we develop in response to getting through the day. What starts as a firm voice to get the kids to do their homework leads to yelling and suddenly, oh snap, you’re a “yeller.” Or perhaps you controlled a little too much when your child was a toddler and now, oh crap, you’re a control freak. Or maybe you realized, darn it, I’m acting more like a friend than a parent but I just don’t know how to stop this cycle.

No matter who you are, you probably have one or two habits that you’ve thought to yourself, “gee, I’d really like to stop doing that” but every time the kids do X, Y or Z, I resort right back. It’s a hang up – a trip up- a screw up that you’ve seen play out over and over. If you’re ready to back away from the rope that’s strung between two trees, under the brush, just waiting for your foot to snag it and watch you fall on your face, start here. Learn to avoid those situations by following the next series of blog posts!

Today, in order for you to even begin the process, you’ll need to know what trips you up. SO, take a moment think of you when you’re parenting from your best. Write down what makes you feel like you’re on the right track.

It could be anything like:

    • Calm voice
    • Eye contact
    • Mutual respect
    • Humor
    • Affection
    • Listening
    • Back and forth conversation
    • People on task
    • No arguing
    • Minimal interference
    • No resentment etc.

Then, think of you parenting from your worst. Write down the biggest doozies you find yourself resorting to. Here are some ideas to get your mind thinking:

    • Yelling
    • Bribing
    • Perfectionism
    • Sarcasm
    • Getting Angry
    • Shutting off
    • Being inconsistent
    • Being too “nice”
    • Controlling

Great. Now keep your list nearby. The next blog will be helpful in learning what exact tactics you employ when you start to get tripped up. So, keep thinking and stay tuned!

Kids controlling the house?

Thanks to a Parenting On Track Mom, for sharing her story with us!

We recently moved. My adolescent son was holding a lot of anger and it was coming out at his family, which made us all feel like we were being held hostage by him. He spent everyday stirring up fights with his family and he didn’t care where he directed his anger. Any one of us would do. He was itching to provoke an argument, tease a sibling or disrupt the family mojo. His behavior caused each of us to get upset, cry, tattle, yell, ignore him individually or as a family or send him to his room as a last resort. After every episode, everyone was drained, regretful, exhausted and worse for the wear. If this kid was in the room, he was controlling it.

Stumped and frustrated, I asked Vicki “He’s on a rampage, what is the deal?”

Here are her thoughts and my “aha’s”. I hope other parents can benefit from the candid conversation I had with Vicki.

“You already know that he’s coming into the family and controlling all of you with his outbursts. So it stands to reason, he must be feeling out of control in other areas of his life.”

Ding. Ding. Ding. The light bulb went on. How did I miss it? The decision to move was made FOR him. What school to attend – made FOR him. No friends, no connections, nothing familiar. After our conversation, it became clear, he was trying to gain control of his life by controlling the mood of the family. And here we were, giving him the stage. Done.

The first thing I felt was empathy. No more frustration, anger, confusion only clarity and an open, loving heart. Time to help this kiddo out.

So now what? (Duh, I think now!) Give him more to control in his own life. He already gets himself up and out the door, does his laundry, feeds the pets and regulates most of his time. He’s beyond that. Here, at 12, he’s bored and he’s making mischief. He needs more to do. And by “do” I don’t mean a laundry list of extra-curricular activities. I mean a job. A real job. Community service. Volunteering. Anything that will draw him out into the real world and give him a new channel to control his life.

So, kiddo, what would you like to do? The choice is yours.

Bribing: It doesn’t always work!?

The majority of parents I have talked to during my 20 years as a parent educator have told me that, at some point in time, they bribed their kids. No kidding! Who hasn’t?

But recently it was brought to my attention that there are lots of bloggers and blog readers out there who have been discussing the effects of bribing on their kids. Since bribing seems to be a universal parenting tool, I thought I’d share my two cents’ worth.

Personally, I think bribing is insulting to not only the kids but to the parents as well. Yes, I know it works from time to time, but that’s the problem. It only works some of the time. I consider myself a lazy parent.
Here’s my list of “musts” when I consider any parenting strategy:

  • It has to work 90% of the time.
  • It has to be something that other people will use with my kids.
  • It can’t make things worse.
  • It has to be respectful to everyone.
  • It has to teach my kids something so they can build skills to use when they leave my house.
  • It has to work so well that soon, I am only using it 5% of the time.

Bribing, I’m afraid, doesn’t do any of that.

Here is what it does do:

  1. How would you feel if, at the end of dinner, when you were feeling full as a tick (my husband’s description, which says it all), your child said, “Mom/Dad, I’ll make my bed every morning this week if you eat the rest of the broccoli.” Absurd, right? Well, that’s what we sound like when we try to bribe our kids.
  2. We have already established that bribing works sometimes—they always eat their veggies for an extra helping of dessert—but what about the times it doesn’t work? Then what? More bribing? Bigger bribes? A full-blown temper tantrum? Face it—you got nothin’.
  3. What about the way it makes your child feel when you take away their decision-making power by trying to bribe them into doing something? What do you think this manipulative “parenting tool” ultimately does to your relationship with that child? And, who else might use bribing as an effective strategy on your child? HMMMMM—now there’s a truly scary thought.

Bribing is a “last ditch” parenting strategy. If it worked, we would use it all the time for everything. We know it doesn’t work to create lasting, sustainable change, so why use it at all?

One dad blogger, who wrote about bribing, captured my sentiments exactly.  For those of you who know me, you’ll understand why this blog had me howling.