All posts tagged parenting tips

Siblings Fighting? Making Small Tweaks Can Change the Game

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

Here are the 3 simple tweaks (the first step) you can make to break the cycle of fighting in your home and create a little more peace, harmony and enjoyment from all that I promised you.

1. If YOU are still trying to GET your children to get along, the solution is simple: STOP. (In the next post I’ll share the most powerful strategy there is for eliminating the majority of the fighting in your home.) But first, I want you to stop getting involved and observe.

2. Because kids fight for their parents, the solution is to just watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice and walk out of the room or act like you found something more interesting to pay attention to. That doesn’t mean you ignore a situation where you think someone is in serious jeopardy of being hurt, but it does mean you learn to ignore the fighting that is designed to engage YOU. I walked around with headphones on and pretended to listen to music. This drove my kids nuts, but within a few short minutes, they were either dancing with me, or laughing at my taste in music. In either case, the fighting stopped and we could move on with our day.

3. If you are doing things for your children that they could do for themselves, the solution is to: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their own lives. By inviting, training, encouraging and supporting your children, you will begin to notice that EVERYONE is in a new relationship with each other and that no one seems all that interested in fighting with anyone else.

If you just realized that you do too much for your children, I invite you to learn more about how to implement the Timeline for Training Strategy.

The Gift of Duct Tape

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Tips to Happier Parenting!


Happier Parenting doesn’t happen by magic. It takes practice. Here are my favorite tips for creating a life with kids that is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.



1. Stop Worrying

About how your children express themselves in terms of their personal style (this includes their wardrobe, accessories, hair and makeup). Learn to notice character traits that define your child as a unique human being.

2. Ignore strangers

In the grocery store who give you the hairy eye-ball when your child throws a temper tantrum.

3. Learn to Wait Quietly

As your child finds his/her own solution for dealing with disappointment or frustration (or just being too tired to shop).

4. Don’t Interfere

If your child decides to go to school in jammies, wear sandals in the snow, or watch tv instead of doing homework. Nature is the best teacher.

5. Celebrate Your Child’s Courage

To make a choice and listen as he/she shares the experience without judgment or criticism.

6. Ignore Mistakes

Big and small, yours and theirs, and remember that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Resist the Urge to Say:

“I told you so” “What were you thinking?” and “If you had listened to me in the first place, you could have avoided the whole mess.” Imagine yourself in your child’s shoes and then respond accordingly.

7. Leave the mess.

When your child is 35 how do you want her to remember you? As the best damn, nagging housekeeper in the neighborhood or as her ally, champion and teacher?

8. Never ever, ever, ever, ask your neighbor how she parents.

You wouldn’t take your car to an accountant for an oil change would you?Consider yourself the expert in your child’s life.

9. When you don’t know what to do do nothing.

Challenge every belief you have about what “good” parents do and don’t do and replace it with accurate, factual information that will help you parent from your best.

10. Don’t make the mistake

Of believing that your children ARE their mischief making. Mischief making is your clue that you are living with a discouraged child. The only solution is to encourage and encourage again.

How to Handle Toddler Meltdowns

toddler meltdown

Question: How do I handle “bad” toddler behaviors- aka toddler meltdown?

Scenario: My 2.5 year old daughter does not do this often, but three times in the last 2 weeks she has either hit me or thrown a toy at me. My friend witnessed one of the episodes and told me I should take a firm stand on this behavior and let her know that I will not tolerate it. Should I sit her down and tell her that her behavior is unacceptable, send her to her room or is there another strategy that might get better results.


Wow, only 3 times in 2 weeks. I would be toasting to that exceptional behavior, not trying to find a strategy to punish her which I am fairly certain will turn your 3 times in 2 weeks to 3 times every day.

When stumped on how to handle toddler meltdowns, consider this:

Kids hit, throw, bite, pull, punch, scream, spit, holler, cry, pout, hug, kiss, cuddle, laugh, and say I love you because they are learning.

What are they learning? How to interpret the world. They are looking for responses to all these behaviors as a way to inform them on which ones bring mom and dad closer to them, and which behaviors push mom and dad away from them.

The best and most effective strategy is this – pay attention to the behaviors that will best serve your child (these are sure to delight you as well) and ignore the ones that will cause her trouble as she grows and matures.

QUESTION for YOU: Have you ever had a moment when you didn’t know how to handle toddler behaviors? What did you try and how did it go?

Kids Developing Worrisome Habits? Stop Blaming the Neighbors.

If we want our children to change their behavior, we must first change ours.Earlier this week, we shared this article on our facebook page. Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky

For many this proved as a wake up call.  As this article so plainly points out, it is parents, adults, who model unhealthy and addictive behavior when it comes to technology but instead of taking responsibility for our actions and instead of having the courage to admit that our kids are modeling exactly what they see mom and dad doing, we spend hours talking about the neighbors, the kids on the bus, and the negative influence this dangerous technology has on our children.

Whenever parents talk to me about “pesky” behavior or worrisome habits, I remind them that kids are modeling EXACTLY what they are exposed to – by their parents.  It is me, it is you, it is every parent and adult, we must accept that we are role models. If we want our children to change their behavior, we must first change ours.

 Here is an example from my own life:

I am talking to my daughter, Zoe, on Skype. (Yes, that is the two of us many years ago in the picture above.) She has taken a break from her studies and has called to chat about something important that she is discussing in one of her child development classes.  We are deep into a conversation we both care about, sharing ideas, thoughts, concerns, and solutions. I get a facebook message – POP – and Zoe is in mid-sentence. I ignore this distraction for a moment but then I open up the message and think to myself, I will just respond real quick.  Now, I already know that the brain can not multi-task.  (I too, read that scientific study that confirmed what we already know.)  The brain can not successfully focus on two things at the same time. One of the activities or thoughts takes a back seat – it is deemed, “not as important”.  This is what happened to Zoe’s sentence, it got relegated to the “not as important” pile. Suddenly, as I am clicking away to answer this message I notice that Zoe has stopped talking.  I stop typing.

She says “Let me know when you are done and then I will continue with what I was saying.”  No malice in her voice.  “Either talk to me or talk to the other person, but be present for at least one of us.”  Message received loud and clear.

I stopped nagging my kids about their technology the first time Zoe busted me like this.  I used her strategy instead to invite re-engagement with my children and I made damn sure I wasn’t trying to multi-task as they were talking to me.  Even if we were 3000 miles away and I could mute myself so they couldn’t hear me typing to someone else.

The next time you are tempted to complain about the impact of technology in your child’s life, examine your own practices and I think you will find that like everything else, the remedy to this national crisis is looking back at you from the mirror.

Holiday Parties and Picky Eaters

holidays with picky eatersThe Holidays can wreak nutritional havoc on any child’s eating habits- and picky eaters can contribute much undue stress and conflict if we choose to let their preferences take center spotlight.  You may be at a family feast or friendly festivity when you’ll hear those words you’ve been dreading, like: “I don’t like chicken cordon bleu; I only eat chicken nuggets!” or “I don’t want those vegetables—I see cookies!”

When you  hear words like this, you’ll probably feel flush and yes, it can be challenging, to say the least, to feel good about the food our children choose to eat—or not eat—at parties. But how we respond determines how long this will drag out, how upset everyone will end up or how much time energy will get sucked into a fight over food. Because so much relies on our reactions, it’s helpful to keep these in mind:

  • Feed her first, then let it go. If you are really worried about it, make sure your child has a healthy snack or meal before going to the party.
  • Participate in the potluck! Offer to bring something, and then bring a healthy meal or side dish that you know your children like and will eat.
  • Be proactive vs. reactive as sugar mania sets in. Talk with your children ahead of time about all the goodies they’ll see and make an agreement on how many sweets they should have, over the course of the party. Just don’t get too distressed if the temptations override the commitment. Afterall, it’s not everyday you have 8 pies and 35 cookie trays to choose from!
  • Let it go.  The bottom line is —one day of bad eating will not ruin your child’s health, and most likely they will remember the party as a whole lot of fun!

The most important thing we can do is help our children develop healthy eating habits during the rest of the year, so that eating well becomes part of who they are. When this happens, children will be more likely to find the balance between eating good and bad items—even at a party. Besides, if you’ve every had too much of a good thing, then well, you know there are lessons to be learned that you’ll only discover for yourself via indulgence.

Happy Holidays!

Share your photos of kids and cookies, HERE.

Average Kids Kick Ass

kickass1Because they freakin’ do!

I’ve been taking a lot of heat lately for suggesting that for the most part, we are all raising “average” kids.  That it is unlikely there will be 100’s of Vermont kids (or kids from any other state) that go on to live exceptional lives doing exceptionally satisfying work that is sure to impact the world in some significant way.  It is far more likely, that the vast majority of kids will grow up to be average, everyday individuals who construct lives that they either find satisfying or lives that leave them feeling resentful that they aren’t satisfied with the life they were expecting to live.

I know what parents are thinking when I tell them they will probably raise average kids — “She doesn’t know MY child.  MY child is, in fact, exceptional, special, better than….”.  Maybe, but I doubt it.

After I ruffle feathers, I go on to ask “So what’s wrong with average?  When did being average become a bad thing?”  I’m average, my kids are average, most of my friends are average, most of my family members are average.  And we seem to be doing okay.

I’ll go on record now as saying that when I was pregnant with Hannah, 25 years ago, I prayed for an average child.  Not too cute, not too smart, not too athletic.  Just average.  Do you know why?  Because I think average kids have a better shot at creating a meaningful life for themselves.  After all, no one is paying attention to them.  No one has unrealistic expectations for them.  I think kids who really are exceptional in some way, may have challenges that few of us recognize, because, well, we are average.

I believe that average people, who work their fannies off, and accept that life is full of ups and down and believe that the universe is conspiring for (ALL of) our happiness, have a leg up on those who think they are exceptional.  Imagine the pressure to maintain your exceptional status.  Yikers.

Maybe besides being average, we are simple.  The truth is, I am happy a good portion of my life.  Even when things suck, I can be happy. My kids are happy. Believe me there have been times in their lives when things sucked.  But in spite of that, they were happy growing up and still are happy as twenty-somethings out there navigating the world on their own.

Happiness, connection to self and others, a strong work ethic, enjoyment in the simple things is far more important to me then being exceptional, special or as a my friend Cindy Pierce says “precious”.  I want average kids who kick ass.

My grandfather used to say, “Work harder than everyone else for less pay.”

I like that.  It fits with my idea of life.  I taught my kids this value.  From the time they applied for their first jobs, most of them at age 10 and certainly when they hit the job market at 14-years-old, they were taught to work harder than anyone else and never to expect anything more than the guy working beside them. When they got older I included these pearls of wisdom “from 18-years-old to 28-years-old you will, in all likelihood be eating Top Ramen, living in ratty apartments, shared with people who are complete slobs, commuting for 90 minutes one way, to jobs that are less than fulfilling.  This is the path you must travel so at 29-years-old you have the skills and experience, wisdom and patience, tenacity and insight to actually create a life that has meaning to you and for you in a job you find exciting, stimulating and satisfying.  It isn’t going to happen any other way, kids.  So buckle up and get ready for the ride.”

And all five of them will tell you that this is the truth.  And yet, for all that “tough love” talk, they are thriving and truly enjoying this rough part of the journey.  As they say, it builds character.

So when I got the 35th email with the link to this article sent to me, I decided maybe it was the universe suggesting I write about it and share a few of my thoughts. I don’t care so much about special or exceptional.

  •  I care that my kids love their lives as young adults when so many other young adults are really struggling to make sense of the world.
  • I love that my kids love each other, take care of each other and include each other in their lives.
  • I love that my kids call, text, skype, IM me when there is something exciting to share both good and bad.
  • I have a front row seat to their lives, because I can be counted on to sit quietly until I am asked to become an active participant.

So I guess what I am saying is this: I will take average any day of the week.  Anybody else out there feeling okay about average?

Yes! GO to the Principal’s Office

challengeLet me explain. I truly believe there is value for kids when they are sent to the principal’s office at least once a year. The lessons they learn can be some of the most powerful lessons of the year – and in life!

Lesson One: Cause and Effect

Every year I remind my children. “There may be a moment, when…

  • You oversleep, miss the bus and arrive without a note from a parent.
  • You choose to ditch a class to help a friend in need.
  • You are caught cheating on a test – not because you didn’t know the answer, but because you were curious as to what would happen if you were caught.
  • You thought using fake money for the bake sale was an AWESOME idea and got BUSTED – what a surprise – ( it happened to a friend– he’s almost 40, he still talks about that lesson! He did not become a counterfeiter.)
  • You and your normally rule abiding friends decided to yell in the lunchroom when the lunch monitors called for quiet.
  • You found yourself defending a friend who has been bullied.
  • You walk out of a class when the teacher starts to belittle a class mate.
  • You made a mistake and either stole something, broke something or forgot something

…and you will be required to live with those choices.”

I am a big proponent of letting life teach our kids some of the toughest and most important lessons life has to offer. Learning that they are responsible for their choices and experiencing the consequences of those choices allows children a chance to develop critical thinking skills. It also teaches them to take responsibility for their choices and to live with the outcome of those choices. Those are skills that will continue to develop over time and will make it easier to make wiser, tougher choices later in life.

Lesson Two: Compassion

I know from talking to my own children, how upsetting it is for them to watch a classmate be sent out of the classroom and down to the principal’s office in disgrace. As a collective group, my 5 decided that making that walk of shame personally, would help them better understand how scary, embarrassing and humiliating the experience was, and help them show more empathy, compassion and understanding towards kids who struggled in school. As a result of mistakes, humiliation, encouragement, and inclusion.

Lesson Three: You’re Never Alone

I wanted my children to know that no matter what they did, no matter how much trouble they might be in, I would be with them. I would not save them. I would not make excuses for them. I would not take the blame. But I would always be there for them. And together, we would figure things out. I felt it was important, for me to SHOW my kids the truth of my words and it occurred to me when they were very young, that getting sent to the principal’s office could be a vehicle to prove to my kids that I would be there for them no matter what the offense.

My kids learned it was safe to call their parents. They learned that they would have to figure out a way to make things right. They learned they would have to serve the time (detention, community service, making apologies, and so on.) They learned that their mom and dad had no interest in rubbing their noses in their mistakes. They learned that they could survive the mistakes they made and life would go on.

So this year, consider using the Principal’s Office as a place of learning. Thinking outside the box often provides amazing opportunities for kids to develop skills that will help them grow into amazing human beings (not just to be remembered as a model student.)

Speed Bumps Happen: Slow Down…

slow down, slow parentiingWith all this focus on love and encouragement, it’s important that you, the parents, feel encouraged too. Sure:

  • It won’t always be easy.
  • It won’t always go smoothly.
  • It won’t always turn out how you envisioned.

But that’s OK. Mistakes are part of YOUR process, not only your child’s.

So, take this summer to go slow.

If you make a mess, no biggie. Find new ways to fix problems.

Experiment with: Solutions. Challenges. Experiences. Letting go. Having faith.

You’ll have plenty to learn from so later, you can ask yourself:

What went well? What didn’t? What would you do differently next time?


10 More Encouraging One-Liners

faith in the childAre you looking for even MORE encouraging responses to use with your children? Would you like to step back and allow your children more practice in decision making, cause-and-effect and creative thinking? If you do, we have 10 More Encouraging One-Liners to help create space for trial and error, modeling and problem solving. PLUS we have a few *bonus* suggestions from Rick Ackerly.

Note: If we go about each day with a goal (to use encouraging phrases), we will find it easier to slow down, relax, let go and say, sure- let’s see how this plays out (instead of reacting, steering or trying to control the outcome of ALL the ups and downs, bumps and hiccups along the way). Good luck and please share your encouragement tales!

  1. Can I join you? (Instead of assuming: I can join just because I’m the parent.)
  2. How would you fix this problem?(Instead of saying: What a mess! or Look what you did!)
  3. I never would have thought of that. (Instead of wondering: WHAT ON EARTH are you doing?)
  4. Hmmm…interesting choice (Instead of reacting: NO WAY! Not ice cream for breakfast!)
  5. That was a mistake. Oh well. (Instead of commenting: You should’ve done this or that.)
  6. What an improvement, don’t you think? (Instead of hinting: You’re not getting the dishes 100% clean.)
  7. I’m sorry. (Instead of acting like: I’m right just because I’m the adult.
  8. I noticed how hard you tried to do that. (Instead of noticing: Why didn’t you get it right?)
  9. I’ve learned a lot from you. (Instead of claiming: As a parent, I teach the valuable lessons).
  10.  What you did made a difference in the situation.(Instead of: Focusing on the outcome, ignoring the effort).

Bonus! Rick Ackerly added:

“You can handle it.”
“What was the worst thing about that?”

“Oh can be said with many different inflections. You might want to practice them in front of a mirror or with a fellow parent–take turns saying “Oh” to each other.” – Rick Ackerly

Remember: your face, tone and body language can say something very different than your voice. Have fun and let us know how it goes!



12 Awesome Ways to Encourage

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

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

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

12 Awesome Ways to Encourage Your Child:

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

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




Using Natural Consequences…

natural consequences To Teach Life Lessons

Parents often say, I understand what natural consequences are (by definition), but it’s unclear how to use them as a parenting strategy.

Let’s start here: The Definition of Natural Consequences:

Natural Consequences are the natural responses to a child’s choice with NO parental involvement.

What Natural Consequences Look Like:

Natural consequences can be feedback of any kind (positive or negative) from the environment, peers, learning materials, physical activities, etc. These can be anything from physical discomforts to challenging situations to problematic scenarios to surprise outcomes that naturally steer a child toward making more informed choices and identifying personal preferences.

What is the Purpose in Allowing for Natural Consequences? 

The ultimate purpose is to encourage children to make choices/decisions (responsible or not) without forcing, guiding, steering, correcting, influencing or coaxing a child into submission. When a child makes a poor decision (and the parents stay out of it), the child has the OPPORTUNITY to learn from the consequence, gain new information and is in a position to choose differently the next time. Likewise, when they make choices that work for them, they are in a position to learn and to make the same choice again.

natural consequences

The Outcome:

Children practice and become efficient at assessing situations, making choices, learning through the consequence, reevaluating, planning for the next time and ultimately, making choices that move them closer to their goals in life.

The Barriers:

One of the biggest barriers is a parent who is unwilling to allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their choices because:

1. She is  worried what other people will think
2. He does not want his children to “feel bad,” or “be disappointed”
3. She believes it is HER job to make sure that her children are properly clothed, fed, prepared (school, sports, sleepovers, tests, homework, etc) and organized so they never forget anything.

If you are one of the parents caught behind such a barrier, I challenge you to evaluate this faulty belief system and recognize the effects this thinking can have on your child’s self esteem. Natural consequences build resiliency, confidence, decision-making skills and prepare children to handle what life throws their way.

A motto to keep in mind: Believe in your children before they believe in themselves.

The Benefits:

  • Long-term learning that leaves the child with a sense of fairness and empathy
  • Less fighting and power struggling
  • Meaningful discovery of how the world works and your child’s role in that world
  • A growing sense of confidence and self-assured-ness in your child with each challenge / achievement



How To “Get Your Kid To” ___

how do I get my kid to..I address this question all the time. As in every single parenting class.

Hand goes up, someone says: “What if she doesn’t want to clean the sink? How do I GET HER TO clean it?” or “What if he doesn’t make his lunch? How do I GET HIM TO make it?”

My answer is always:

You can do whatever you want to “GET YOUR KID TO” do anything.

You can hit, bribe, yell, cry, whine, threaten, take things away. You can hold your kid’s hands and brush his teeth for him. You can carry her to the car if she’s not ready in time. You can nag until he yields and finishes his homework. It’s up to you. You already know, these are all ways to GET YOUR CHILD TO listen. You also already know- these don’t work (and they’re exhausting) or you wouldn’t be here. These are Bandaids on Bulletwounds. They only temporarily “fix” the problem – but you’re not solving the bigger issue.

Then I wait: Hmmm. The room goes quiet.

Folks, here’s how you GET YOUR KID TO do what you want:

  1. You Stop Asking: HOW DO I GET MY KID TO
  2. And Start Thinking: WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR MY CHILD TO?

Light bulbs go off. Hands go up. Ah-has become clear.

Oh, right, because the goal is NOT to have a child with a clean room or brushed teeth.

The REAL goal is to raise a child who knows how to clean his room and when to brush his teeth. Big difference!


Stay tuned for more as we roll into our NEW blog schedule.

xo – Vicki

11 Benefits of Giving Allowance

allowanceThere’s little argument at this point that handling money as a child will prepare you for handling money as a young adult and eventually, as an adult. Great. But what exactly- as in literally- do the benefits of giving allowance look like? Why is it such a valuable commitment?
Well, imagine for a moment, that you have been giving your children money each week from the time they were four years old and each week they were encouraged to make decisions about the money. Imagine if you handed over the gift buying power, the junk food buying power, the cheap “crap” purchasing power, and so forth. Imagine if you allowed your child to experience the frustration when she didn’t have enough money to go out with friends, buy the perfect jeans or pay for her car payments. If you can imagine these lessons during childhood, you can imagine her respect for money heading into the real world.

The Benefits of Giving Allowance (Why it’s worth the inconvenience of getting cash and handing it out!)

  1. Kids, at an early age learn the true value of money. As in, what can I buy for one dollar? $100?
  2. They discover what money can and can not do (happiness is not in the box you waited all month to buy, only to forget about a week later).
  3. They learn the “real” way how hard it is to save money and how easy it is to spend money.
  4. Kids develop a keen ability to assess what purchases are really important to them and which they can do without. (They’ll eventually say things like, NO. NOT WORTH IT… and walk away).
  5. Kids discover things about themselves- Am I a saver? Am I a spender? When will that benefit me? When will it not?
  6. Kids who buy their own things, DO NOT expect the adults around them to buy them stuff. In fact, they stop asking.
  7. Kids learn to negotiate, barter and work together. (i.e. If one kid only has 15 bucks and his brother pitches in five, you bet they come up with creative reimbursement plans!).
  8. Kids who carry their cash grow independent. There is no need to ask mom or wonder what she’ll say or how to sweet talk her (note: no fits because the answer is yes if the child has money). The child simply walks over, and decides if he wants to purchase or not.
  9. Kids who make mistakes with their money have learned the good old fashioned hard way money has value, it can go away and with time, you can earn it back– financial resiliency is valuable.
  10. Kids who spend enough time practicing also have time to understand- and make a judgement that sometimes, it’s ok to say– it’s only money– and there are things more important than a wad full of ones.
  11. And finally, as a result of their experience with money, kids develop a strong work ethic and an appreciation for everything you provide.

Also, it’s Good to Note

Kids learn to keep their money safe, lend it to those they trust and how to make interest in inventive ways. (As in, hey, I’ll buy you a donut if you pay me back – plus extra).


Book: Protecting the Gift

Today’s post is a special topic in response to the headlines in Colorado. Parents are looking for resources and this post is meant to deliver exactly that. Please share this info with anyone looking for answers on how to move forward in relation to this national tragedy.

In the wake of the Jessica Ridgeway abduction and murder, there have been many questions asked, like:

  • How do we reconcile this with our desire to let our kids find independence?
  • Do we let our kids go outside anymore?
  • Do we toss it all to the wind and hover for safety’s sake?
  • Do we go inside and shut the blinds and stay out of harm’s way?
  • Can we trust people around us in our community?

These questions, and countless others, are running through the minds of confused, heartbroken and fear-filled parents across the nation.  When parents ask me what I think they should do, I say:

“While I’ll tell you how I handled this with my  children, it is best to consult a professional resource when assessing predatory risk. In my case, when my kids were little, I said, trust your gut. If that hair on your neck stands up, that means something. And so we we practiced. I let them interact with strangers on purpose to get a feel for how people interact with them simply so they’d be aware of what felt “normal” or a little off.  And then I trusted them to learn from those (supervised) interactions.”


But my experience, while it may inspire, does not give me the authority for giving advice in this specific, danger-assessment situation. Real data and procedure are the best bet for handling this agonizing quandary.


Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker

A few months ago (as if by fate for this moment in reaching all of you), I was introduced by a mutual friend, to the trusted child safety expert, Gavin de Becker. His book, Protecting the Gift has been, since 1999, a go-to source for parents looking to guide their children through the riskier realities of childhood. While it’s not a light read (due to crime statistics etc), it is a practical, step by step approach (with actionable items), to guide parents in training kids to be independent in the midst of predatory dangers. Not only does he give realistic data on child crimes (so you can abandon unreasonable fear), he gives you a plan of action.


Key takeaways are that we, as a society must teach kids to get out there and give them time to practice specific skills that will protect them should they face danger. Making victims of the world does nothing for the future. Teaching kids to look people in the eye, having an emergency plan, talking regularly to strangers (vs. hiding away in fear)- and more-are factors that keep predators at bay.


Testimonials for Protecting the Gift

Ann Wolbert Burgess, Professor of Psychiatric Nursing University of Pennsylvania:

“Gavin de Becker’s Protecting the Gift takes a giant step in helping parents translate fear into positive action that can provide safety for their children.”


Ken Wooden, Leading Child Advocate Author of Child Lures:

“Gavin de Becker has done it again – this time for kids. Protecting the Gift provides practical solutions for keeping youngsters safe from the day-to-day violence and risk that threatens their world. De Becker is truly a modern day knight – a good guy who shares his intuitive and intellectual armor with us all. A brilliant lesson in prevention”


Dr. John Monahan- Professor of Psychology and Law, University of Virginia. Author of Predicting Violent Behavior:

“A rare opportunity to converse with a master observer of the human condition. Protecting the Gift is the antidote for every parent’s worst nightmare


Casey Gwinn- City Attorney San Diego, California:

“Gavin de Becker has captured the truths from real life stories that we can use to protect our children from the predators of our society. I will be a different kind of parent, spouse, and friend because of Gavin’s profound insights. We would need fewer police officers and prosecutors in this country if everyone followed the advice in this book.”


So, in this state of sad parenting confusion, I highly recommend reading (or re-reading if you’ve read it in the past) De Becker’s Book. It delivers the hard facts and line of clarity to get through to a logical plan.

You can also visit his website- visit the child safety section for Q&A on relevant topics, like:

How old should a child be when she starts walking to school alone?

I’m concerned about the safety of children in our township.

How can I protect my son when I’m not able to be around?

How can you teach a painfully shy child to speak to strangers?

As a teacher, I’m wondering about the best policy for safety.

How do I change what I’ve taught my youngster about talking to strangers?


About Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker

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

Resource for Right NOW

This article, Helping Children Regain Their Emotional Safety After a Tragedy, is excellent.


Thank you. – Vicki

Articles: Back to School


It’s been a few weeks for some, a mere days for others– either way, we’ve all hit “back to school” in full steam fashion. Some of you are veterans, others are rookie parents but together, we’re all just getting familiar with this year’s shuffling, packing,  locating, and out the door scurrying.

Some of us love it, some of us loathe it and for many of us, some days it’s a bit of both! (Especially when Monday mornings roll around). No matter where you are on the back-to-school spectrum, a little thinking, planning and practicing can go a long way in making the mornings smoother, the days happier, and the transitions simpler.

Here’s a dragnet of Parenting On Track (#PonT) posts that will keep your back to school mojo in motion!

Packing Lunches

I know what you guys do at home and the independence that you foster there shows up here in the classroom. The things you guys have them do in the mornings like making their own lunch gives them such self confidence. I’m not sure what you see at home but it’s so strong here. I can clearly see the connection between the independence you give them and the confidence here at school.

-Note from a Real Teacher

Why She Can Pack Her own Darn Lunch

There’s something more delicious than a PBJ or bagel with cream cheese in your child’s lunch—something sweeter than a fresh baked cookie or chocolate milk. It’s CONFIDENCE.Read the post here.

Five Tips to Make Lunch Packing Easier for Your Kiddo

As we said before, packing a lunch is a very useful and “real life” habit that will help your child develop responsibility, time management and confidence. It’s also a nice way to send the message that you trust your child with decisions that affect her life. Here are 5 ways to help you make this process smooth and simple so that you can walk out of the kitchen and trust they can handle it.Read the post, here. [hr]

Schedules, Routines and Staying Happy

Finding the Balance

This list was compiled by my friend, and fellow Parenting On Track parent S.G. in response to a parent who was struggling with how to make the morning and evenings run smoother with her young kids since having recently returned to the workforce. After I read it, I realized that this list will work for ANY parent or EVERY parent who has 1 child or 5 children and is trying to juggle family, work, & life. Of course I HAD to add my own 2 cent worth in red. Enjoy.Read it here.

Routines Happen By Design

Revamping your family’s routines can be a strategic challenge – a chess game of cause and effect. Ultimately, you must observe your kids and then “design” a household environment that will lead to effortless routines. You’re probably thinking, please, that’s gonna be hard. But actually, it’s kind of fun because once you’ve figured it out, it’s almost as if by magic, your kid begins to sail through the day. Read the post here.

Happier Parenting

10 Tips for Happier Parenting can be foundHERE.

Thinking Kids

When my child was in the 2nd grade, and her teacher asked me why I didn’t sign her “homework” notebook, I told her it was because I was raising a “thinking” child. It’s the same reason I didn’t…. READ THE REST HERE.

I Believe in You

Let me tell you something about YOU.

YOU can do anything you want. YOU are in control.

YOU can achieve as much success as you want to.

YOU can and will pick yourself up when life knocks you down.

I BELIEVE IN YOU. Read the post here

Praise vs. Encouragement

Training without a Sticker Chart

As school starts, so do the charts and goodies! “The illusive, yet necessary training of young children remains a lively and interesting conversation by parents everywhere. Certainly, those of us familiar with the Vicki’s Tools for Success program, and the idea that self-esteem is developed by contributing in meaningful ways to the family (and by extension the communities we are a part of) are ahead of the game.”Read the post on Training here.

Watch Out for “Good Job” Overload

Real Families

You Can Make Them Go But…

“Flockmother purchased my home program in April of 2009 and decided to chronicle her journey, for the benefit of others. If you read her first blog post the first day of her DNSN week, you will see that the girls in fact did not go to school. That, my friends, is just where this journey begins. Once again, Flockmother inspires us.” Read the PonT post here or go DIRECTLY to the post.


Zip it. For the Kids’ Sake

mom-and-dad2Ahoy parents! The tides are changing. Parents, educators, experts and obviously, the kids, have finally come to accept that the entire “over-parenting” approach to raising kids, just isn’t working out. All that structured time? All those heroic homework rescues? All that frenzied energy spent mapping the perfect childhood? Well, it’s all a waste of valuable time and energy. As a mom of five, who didn’t have the luxury to waste time or energy, I was committed to finding an approach to parenting that made more sense for myself and for the kids I was responsible for raising.

Madeline Levine and Faulty Logic

Among experts who are beginning to challenge the over-parenting, over involved approach is expert, Madeline Levine. Levine uses the term faulty logic and states, over-parenting isnt doing what we think it’s doing” and I couldn’t agree more. The question then becomes, so why the heck are so many parents STILL hovering, over protecting, micro-managing, controlling and over stepping their boundaries as parents? And even more curious and relevant than that question is, What the heck can a parent do instead?

Lenore Skenazy on WHY Are Parents Still Hovering

As Lenore Skenazy shares with her readers week after week, fear is being pushed at parents from all sides.

  • Let them play outside? Social services.
  • Let them draw with chalk? Fined.
  • Let them ride their bikes? Jail.

This fear-based thinking which leads to over-protection and micro-managing is easy to adopt (often unintentionally), when parents find they are floating in a current that sweeps them into a sea of worst case scenarios.

The other fear that plays into this hovering approach weighs on parents who are afraid that if they let go, just a little, the family and their kids will fall apart. These parents worry that they’ll look like “bad parents” or they’ll get the hairy eyeball from strangers for the decision to step back a bit and give the kids some breathing room.

In spite of these fears, and many others, parents are re-thinking their approach to parenting and finding ways to show more trust in their kids’ abilities to navigate their lives and rebound from disappointments, frustrations and failures completing a very valuable learning process. For helicopter types though, admitting and working through their own fears takes courage. Those ”what-ifs” and worst cases can pile high and push even the most committed parent back to safer ground.

Like any change, stepping back and taking a less is more approach to parenting takes time, patience and support, so offer a hand and a bit of encouragement when you see someone ready to abandon the hyper-parenting ship for a more satisfying approach to raising great kids!

What Can Mom and Dad Do Instead of Hovering?

If you’re still tempted to hover and you’re looking for a replacement response, you can, for your kids’ sake do one thing: train yourself to refrain. 

Literally, do less. Say less. Interfere less. Thats it!

Stepping back and giving your kids some breathing room isn’t the same as not caring about their safety.  It is a matter of balancing your concern with the reality that in most cases, your kids will be fine.  Instead of worrying about the worst case outcomes, take some time , and give your children the chance to show up and practice (and fail) at their own lives. I used Duct Tape (hence the name of my book!) to keep my mouth shut and my bossy, dictating ways at bay.

  • You may be a saver, so next time, sit.
  • You may be a comforter, so next time, stay.
  • You might be a nagger, so next time, zip it.

It’s not always a valiant course toward independence, but kids learn their own lessons every time we allow natural consequences to do the teaching for us and we refrain from saying “I told you so”.

Remember, our kids don’t need us nearly as much as we think they do (or want them to) and we don’t need to teach every lesson. Our job is to guide without control and to respond to them as the world would. Remember, bribing, begging and giving-in won’t train kids to become resilient adults. Keep this in mind and your decision to sit, stay & zip it will be much easier (even if it comes with the occasional hairy eyeball!)

Think, Look, Plan- Then DO

A parent wrote in the following scenario:

Vicki HoefleDuring a casual dinner, a neighbor’s daughter got up from the table and my friend said, “sit down we are not finished yet.” The little girl proceeded to walk away and come back with a yogurt smoothie and my girl friend said, “Do not drink that or you will be in trouble.” The little girl proceeded to turn the smoothie over and dump it on the floor. (She is almost 4.) My friend then grabbed her and put her in a time out. I thought, HMMM…I know that didn’t seem to go well –what would YOU DO?

-Perplexed Spectator Parent

Vicki Hoefle: Hi, Great question! As a Duct Tape Parent, I follow a LOGICAL, SOLVE-ALL PROCESS (one you can too!) that leads me to this answer:

I always: think, look, plan- then DO.


It’s important to stop and think: parenting problems are not really problems, they are SYMPTOMS of either a fractured relationship or a lack of training or both.


So, in this case these are the symptoms: girl shows complete disregard for mom by walking away, dumps yogurt, doesn’t listen to mom, won’t stay in her seat and shows a lack of respect for both herself and her mom.

Then, I’d walk through a couple questions- what is my reaction? What is the goal of the behavior?

In this case, mom gets pissed, and asserts her power by saying NO. She tries to win. Her clever and powerful daughter pushes back and eventually mom takes the child to time out. She may have quick fixed it with a “bandaid” but it sure didn’t heal the underlying “bulletwound” – which is a combination of relationship and training problems.

Hint: because mom is emotionally charged and angry, there is evidence of relationship stress and because the child carelessly makes a mess and is physically moving around, there is evidence of a training problem.


Look at the relationship. How close am I to my 4 year old right now? I’ve been annoyed at her lately and  a little checked out.
Look at the training. She didn’t understand the proper way to stay seated or clean up a mess.
Look at the behavior. Ok, she’s engaging me in a power struggle so the goal of her behavior is power – not to take mine- but have her own. For more on identifying the Mistaken Goals of Behavior, click here.


Once the entire situation has been put into perspective, I’d plan to work on the relationship and training the child.

Relationship Plan– (Mom and daughter are definitely in a classic power struggle so here are my recommendations)

  • Invite the child to participate vs. shutting her down and making more conflict.
  • Invite her to make decisions with me- which drinks do you think are ok to have at dinner? Peach smoothie or milk?
  •  I’d also increase the respect I show toward her preferences, since her pure disrespect is reflecting something important: the mutual respect is running low- on both ends.

Training Plan: (Obviously, if the child knew what a pain it is to clean the smoothie, she wouldn’t have thought it was a good idea to chuck it on the ground.)

  • Before showing her how to CLEAN the mess up, show her how to master some simple kitchen tasks. The more included she feels and the more confidence she will have around cooking and cleaning.
  • Begin to train her in self skills, picking out her own clothes, getting dressed, setting the table, etc. When children feel competent, they work WITH their parents, not against them.
  • Plan to do the training when you and your child are both relaxed and in a cooperative mood.


After I’ve thought about the relationship / training problem, looked at the realities, and made a plan, I’d DO THIS:

  • Refrain from quick-fix responses to her behavior. (No bandaids on bulletwounds)
  • Take time to implement the relationship plan. (Invest in the relationship)
  • Practice dinner routines, but NOT during dinner. (Take time for training)
  • Be patient and celebrate success. (Focus on what I want more of)
  • Train to clean up her own spills. (Quit being the maid)
  • Encourage her to participate authentically in family dinner. (Prepare her for departure)

So, there you have it folks- as you can see, this process can work with any behavior challenge you face! Duct Tape Parents refrain- they think, look, plan and then DO. They have learned to stop before slapping a bandaid on a bulletwound or disciplining a kid who hasn’t been trained properly. Duct Tape Parents put the relationship first (fix that, worry about spilled smoothie second). YOU have this in your mind so have courage to think this way when it starts to slide into the rabbit hole. 🙂


5 Tips: STOP Feeding Weeds

water-what-you-want-to-flourish (640x495)Refresher: What are Weeds?

Weeds are all the pesky behaviors that tend to drive mom and dad crazy, annoy others or are generally considered “bad,” obnoxious, rude, and otherwise. Hyper focus on these behaviors does not nip them in the bud- in fact, it’s the opposite. The more focus parents put into making them “go away” the more light, love and tender care these weeds receive.

1. Sit. Stay. Be Quiet. (Use Duct Tape on Yourself)

If your focus and attention = fertilizer, the first thing to do is just SIT. STAY. BE QUIET. There is no need to get up and correct, remind, nag the pesky behavior. It sounds easy, right? Try it. It’s not so easy! It takes training and self discipline. If you need a cheat, use DUCT TAPE to get your mouth, mind and micromanaging in check. Nothing says grow, weed grow like, “I won’t talk to you while you’re whining” except talking to a child while she’s whining. It’s fully worth a commitment to STAYING OUT.

2. Check Emotions at the Door (Turn Off all Buttons)

Sure, ignoring certain behaviors can be easy. But many find it’s not so easy to ignore the behaviors that “push our buttons.” You probably know a few of these- the ones that get us from chill to boiling – the behaviors that send our patience into orbit. It could be as simple as one high pitched complaint or a spat between siblings- no matter what, every parent has a few behaviors they wish they’d NEVER see (or hear) again. THESE are the ones you must consciously prepare to shut off your circuit breaker. You must pretend your child is not going there even when she is. Ignoring is an art…and a science. You can’t be flushed in the face, scowling while looking the other direction. Your buttons have to be off- emotions, checked at the door. It’s hard at first, but it feels great when the behaviors stop knocking at your sanity.

3. No CHEAP Drama

Whenever mom and dad buy front row tickets to the afternoon fussing and fighting show, the performance gets a standing ovation. Don’t. See tip number one. Yes, it’s annoying when kids fight. It’s also dramatic. Cheap, but still, it’s drama. Don’t applaud the performance.

4. Focus on the Good Stuff

Basically, water the GOOD behaviors!

5. Focus Anywhere BUT the Behavior

This one is fun!  There are many OTHER options and responses when a child misbehaves. Many of them involve theatrics. You COULD walk over there and tell them to KNOCK IT OFF (for the 1,000th time) OR You could run into the back field and say, “Did you see that?! I think it was a deer!” Guess which one will have them forgetting what they were doing faster. Remember, two can play at the drama game. Just keep that poker face solid and your “feigned” interest anywhere BUT the behaviors!