All posts tagged summer

Kids Coming Home from School?

Five Tips for a Seamless Summer

School is almost out and for many parents that means rearranging schedules and daycare options or babysitters, shifting work schedules, signing up for summer camps and whether or not to keep all the routines and systems for continuity and sanity sake or toss them out for a few months. Much has been written on the subject in an attempt to help parents make the most of summer vacations – for themselves and for their kids. Read more

But what about parents who have college students headed their way? Students that are home for the summer before they return to campus life and those who are recently graduated and find themselves in that “tweener” spot of not really having that big job with the great advancement opportunities in one of the most dynamic cities in the world with their closest and most trusted friends as roommates. What about them and more importantly what about their parents?

TeensAs a mother who saw my own five college kids come and go, I knew that in order for all of us to survive a short summer stay (or as some of my friends were experiencing, a longer transition of sorts) it was in order to establish and then follow some basic guidelines. The guidelines ensure that everyone is treated with respect and that everyone takes responsibility for what is theirs. That includes words, attitude and actions, not just “stuff”. Clear boundaries limit opportunities for misunderstanding or power struggles.

The truth is I spent years cultivating a strong, healthy relationship with my kids and I didn’t want that demolished because an 18 or 22-year-old landed on my doorstep with very different ideas about life at home than the ones they grew up with, while living under my roof. So here are my five, tried and true tips on how to maintain a healthy, respectful and fun summer with your newly young adult kids.

  • Set the Tone with Appreciations: As soon as your beloved children arrive home, call the family together and dole out rich, deep and meaningful appreciations*. If you start by saying something like “I appreciate, that coming home for the summer or during this transition, isn’t the perfect situation for you and yet, you are willing to be flexible and mature enough to know that for now, it’s the wisest choice.” Or, “I appreciate how difficult it was to turn down that summer job in the city and come home so you could 1) concentrate on earning enough money to live off campus next year; 2) take a summer class so you can graduate on time; 3) help out the family …..By the time you finish delivering these appreciations, your kids will be ready to share an appreciation for you. Imagine how this is going to set the tone for the rest of your time together. Continue sharing appreciations formally at least once a week and I recommend putting up a large sheet of paper with the word APPRECIATIONS at the top and using it every day so that you all remember what is most important. Your relationship.
  • Get their ideas first: It’s easy to jump into parent mode with the kids, but I have found that life is much smoother when I took the time to ask them what their vision of our summer together would look like before I shared my vision. Each time I learned something new about my kids, how they had changed, what their expectations were and more importantly, what they were worried about. Because the truth is, our kids are as worried as we are when they step back into mom and dad’s domain. Keep asking gentle questions and get as much detail as you can. Then, show appreciation for how much thought they have put into their current situation.
  • Find something to agree on: After you have heard their ideas, identify one that coincides with one of your ideas and begin to build your shared vision from there. Work with your kids as if they are colleagues and not snarky 13-year-olds. They will appreciate the respect you are showing them and will return it in kind. We started with “clean up”. My kids initially agreed that if they made a mess, they would clean it up. I knew they meant well, but I also knew that they would get busy and forget and that there would be times when they just didn’t want to clean up. In order to be clear we talked about what “clean up” meant to all of us, how we would handle a messy kitchen without yelling or scolding, and so on. Just flushing these things out before they become issues saves everyone time, energy and misunderstandings. And a word of caution here, if you don’t want to do their laundry every week, don’t do it even once. Set a healthy precedent from the get-go and you will save yourself oodles of frustration later.
  • Keep it simple: The more “rules” you have, the more trouble you are likely to get into. Decide what your two or three non-negotiables are and make an agreement with the kids about those. Explain your position and ask them to explain theirs so that you both understand the other person. The kids have had a taste of independence and they have had to work with a roommate so they know how to compromise and cooperate. It will be up to you to allow that side of them to emerge. That is possible only when you control your parenting default setting and remember that this is not the same moody 13-year-old you once had to strong arm to help out, but a budding adult who needs support and patience.
  • Remain firm and flexible. Stay firm on the non-negotiables and be prepared to follow through with whatever you agreed to. That might mean that they find someplace else to live if they insist on staying out all night without calling by the agreed upon time to let you know. Only then will you be treating them like adults and if you do, they will most certainly rise to the occasion. If you don’t, you will likely return to nagging, reminding and then lecturing them on how selfish, rude and disrespectful they are which will only cause things to deteriorate quickly. Stay flexible with things like picking up the kitchen (unless that is your non-negotiable) and continue to talk with the kids about how to make life work for everyone concerned.

It is important that you remember, as hard as that may be at times, to treat the kids like colleagues or trusted friends. They might not be as mature as we hoped they would by 18, 19 or 22-years-old, but they deserve our respect and a chance to rise to their highest selves. That can only happen when we provide the space for them to do it.

Each time I dropped the kids off at college or off into the adventure we call adult life, I was gifted with a huge hug, a heartfelt thank you and tears which indicated to me that the time we spent together was as meaningful and special to them as it was to me. Don’t waste an entire summer bickering with a child who will soon enough be out on their own and will have the choice whether to call you or not, whether to come and visit or not and whether to share the most intimate and important parts of their life with you or not. These are crucial moments in our kid’s lives. Let’s be on our best behavior for each one of them.

Vicki Hoefle has been teaching parent education classes for over 25 years. Hoefle is the mother of five adult children and the author of Duct Tape Parenting, A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, & Resilient Kids and The Straight Talk on Parenting, A No-nonsense Guide on How to Grow a Grownup. She is an in demand national speaker and parent coach and is available to speak at your school or organization on numerous parenting topics or work individually with your family. Please contact us for additional information.

*Learn more about Appreciations and Family Meetings and enroll in our online course today!

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?


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!




Tips: Rounding the Corner to Fall

We’ve said ‘adieu’ to the lazy days of July, a month that marks the middle of summer.Barbecues, days at the beach, road trips, summer camps, late nights and even later mornings.

Many of us let routines and schedules slip away and allow for a more spontaneous, “go with the flow” groove to emerge and define the early days of summer. But as we welcome in August, a month that traditionally gets our engines revving as we consciously or unconsciously begin to prepare for school, a summer of mindful memories can be lost with the shift in focus.

It’s not unusual for me to experience an increase of inquires from parents wondering how to maintain a gentle summer flow with kids through August and avoid the stress that’s already permeating their minds.

Unlike our children who have the ability to remain in the moment, right up until the first ring of the alarm clock marking the first day of school, we parents are entering the planning phase of summer and with that comes additional, but unnecessary stress.

When my own children were young, I made it a practice to surround myself with friends who had older kids. Why? So I could leverage their wisdom, common sense and advise. Now that my munchkins are off to college, I want to share a few tips for keeping the energy high and the stress low as we round into August and the upcoming school year

First, make a list of what “fuels” you. For instance,

        Slow, mindful breakfast with the kids
        Sleepy babies cuddling on my lap in the morning light
        Baby, toddler, school age or teenage morning breath
        Giggles over chocolate chip pancakes and milk mustaches
        Fresh berries picked the day before
        Birds at the window
        A new flower budding in the garden
        The sound of the lake just beyond view

The smell of the ocean

Obviously, the list is endless – these are just a few I thought of that take place before teeth are even brushed. In August, it’s easy to lose site of what “fuels” us and keeps us grounded in the here and now, something our children are experts at, as our minds drift toward the upcoming school year. Continue making a list for yourself and tack it onto your fridge or make a large poster (with the help of the kids of course) to anchor you in the here and now, and get the most out of every remaining day.

What’s equally helpful is to write a list of what “depletes” you.

I doubt you need any suggestions from me and I don’t want to give this list any energy, but if you take just a few minutes and write down 3, 4 or even 5 things that could potentially interfere with you enjoying the last remaining, gloriously abundant, days of summer, do it now.

Ask yourself if you can let some of these go. Really challenge yourself and listen to your internal dialogue, which might be trying to convince you that it’s time to jump into gear and be proactive. If it feels right, rip the list up and toss it. Or keep it as a reminder of the things that take you away from what you want most from the summer – time to connect with kids and the memories that will make up the fabric of your lives together.

I can tell you, that even if you wait till 7 days before the first school bell rings, all the major retailers will still have plenty of shoes, backpacks, notebooks, pens and anything else you think necessary for your child’s upcoming school year.

Look for more in the following weeks to help you transition easily into the new year and keep your kids in the forefront of the process.

Here’s to another jump in the pool, round of backgammon on the deck, or walk in the woods.


Summer’s Here! Break the Rules

Sure, be a control freak...on yourself!

Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.Dalai Lama

If you’re familiar with Parenting On Track™, you know our stance on time-outs, reminding and being a control freak (not to mention lecturing, nagging and so forth). If you aren’t sure, well, the simple stance is this: they are quick fixes with no lasting results. They don’t teach discipline and basically, they’re a waste of everyone’s time. The key is to put the relationship first.

However, now that summer’s here, it’s time to break the rules and implement TIME OUTS, REMINDING and BEING A CONTROL FREAK – but with a twist: to IMPROVE your family dynamic.

1. TIME OUTS: These are for YOU. Take them. Run to them. Cherish them. Carve them into your day. Take a time out from the hustle and bustle to walk around the block, sit and read while sipping tea, go to the garden or put the headphones on and put your feet up during nap time. DO NOT feel bad about taking TIME OUT for you. This, unlike time outs with kids, DOES teach discipline – it trains you to make a healthy decision to care for your own space and mental clarity.

2. REMINDING: Again. This is about YOU, the parents. Do not forget to REMIND YOURSELF to pay attention, to relax and to cherish. REMIND yourself how lucky you are. How wonderful your family is (faults and personality conflicts and all) and how far you’ve come. REMIND the kids that you appreciate them and that they can handle what comes their way. REMIND the family that practice is good and mistakes are positive and that slowing down is okay. These are the REMINDERS you’re encouraged to make.

3. BEING A CONTROL FREAK: I’ll say this again and again….There’s nothing wrong with being a control freak as long as you are controlling YOUR thoughts, actions and behaviors. MODEL MODEL MODEL. Let others be and break the rules…on yourself!

So, get out there and TELL US how you’re going to break these rules. Leave a comment below, tweet us @parentontrack or post your summer rule breaking on facebook.

P.S. It IS summer so don’t even bother with lectures and obviously, nagging is not one worth breaking…unless it’s nagging your spouse to snuggle up. Then we could let that one slip! Have fun breaking the rules folks.

Articles: Simplify for Summer

There’s all kinds of chatter out there as moms and dads get ready for the reality that summer is just around the corner! Going into summer with the right mindset can make all the difference between starting off smoothly or feeling a bit overwhelmed out of the gate. One big idea we think is great: “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Also, we really feel it’s okay to take the pressure off- if you can’t afford a vacation, there are plenty of local and “staycation” ideas out there. Start thinking creatively about how you can use your resources (friends, connections, local hot spots) to make it a memorable, affordable and manageable summer.

Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking:

    Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
    This is a very important place to start your thinking, especially as summer vacation arrives. You can give yourself permission RIGHT now to let go of all the power struggles that don’t benefit you or your children. Begin to let go of the habits like feeling bad if the kids miss a camp or an activity. You can get excited to just relax a little and enjoy the family! Find out more via @todaymoms @KristineCarlson @DontSweatMoms or visit these links below.

    These Moms Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

    Author Kristine Carlson talks about the latest book in her “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” franchise, which is all about mom. Or watch this video trailer.

    Staycation / Nearcation
    There’s a lot to do right in your own backyard! These links will get you thinking about what you can do nearby and keep it simple but fun.

    Ideas for Camping


    Budget a Stay At Home Vacation

    Packing Light for Any Getaway (A Week or weekend away with kids = STUFF!)

    Get out and GO!
    Leave your child at the park day! Go Freerange kids, thanks for the link. I encourage you to try to promote independence and practice making a safe plan, giving your children ample opportunity to prove they can do this and then, once they can, let the kids play! Check it out. @brochman

    The National Gardening Association says that the act of gardening benefits kids’ health, well-being, and attitude towards learning. This stress reducing activity also builds self-esteem and creativity while fostering bonds with nature and family. Good blog post via Stress Free Kids (Cool factoids in there as well!) @StressFreeKids

    Nature Deficite Disorder – “clever” but makes you think!

    Parenting / BIG Buzz
    Shameful “Creative Parenting” Trend = Public Shaming and Cyber Humiliation
    Parents are turning to public shaming and humiliation and “cyberdiscipline” as a form of punishment and “creative discipline” for their children. Although parents may feel they are at a loss of options, it is NOT a healthy form of parenting because it degrades the child’s integrity, dignity and self worth. It jeopardizes the relationship. It makes the child’s mistake the definition of her identity (vs. just something she did) and it influences a child’s confidence to take risks in the future. There is no natural consequence (it’s fabricated by the parent) and most importantly, it feeds the beast that we call bullying. The biggest issue is not that these parents don’t love their children- the issue is that we, as a society accept it as a reasonable trend–and see very little connection to the bigger issues we’re tackling together (ie bullying, cyber bullying, victim submission, etc). The evidence is in the comments — there is overwhelming support for parental “creativity” in their SHAMING tactics. It’s essentially the scarlet letter or the public stocks and I URGE you to rally a stance against this trend! More on this topic VERY SOON and actionable steps on how we can help change the public’s thinking behind this degrading trend.


      Madeline Kunin, Vermont’s first female Governor has a NEW book out, THE NEW FEMINIST AGENDA Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family By Madeleine M. Kunin, 288 pp. Chelsea Green Publishing. $26.95.
      From the NYT OPED: “Kunin, a former Clinton administration ambassador to Switzerland who served as the first woman governor of Vermont, exhaustively catalogs where we are in terms of work-family balance (deeply out of whack) and where we need to go if we want to make the idea of merging motherhood with all the other necessary aspects of a woman’s life a reality.” Read the full New York Times review here Or pick up a copy here.

    Just for Fun!
    Don’t take all this parenting so seriously! Here’s a few article to make you smile!

    Quotes to Inspire

      FANTASTIC quote by @KathieLGifford’s dad- “I love you too much to deny you the privilege of making mistakes.

      Pins for your HAPPY PARENTING PLACE

Preschool graduation?

Ok, so we know it is far past graduation season, however the awareness this mom gained during a recent preschool graduation event is — timeless.

This post is re-printed with permission of the author, who has the uncanny ability to move me to tears, with each post. If you want to read about dedication, commitment, progress, set-backs, and real-life with Parenting On Track™, read this blog.

Really? I thought as I sat down.

I had arrived early for Talula’s last day of school as we had been asked by the teachers thinking we were having a BBQ, not realizing there was going to be some kind of ceremony for a bunch of 3 year olds. I sat down beside my husband wanting to say “are you freaking kidding me? they are having a graduation ceremony for these little goof-balls?”. But I couldn’t, I was surrounded by other adoring parents who may have been a tad offended by my comment, so I kept my mouth shut and grinned and bared it. Thankfully, they didn’t come out wearing cap & gown (as my mother asked when I told her about the whole event); but I did come away having been grateful that I just witnessed the whole thing. Who knew?

The children all proceeded into the end of the gymnasium that they had blocked off for this event in pairs waving “flags” that they had made. And there was Talula waving that flag high and proud like it was the most important thing in the world to her. All the kids were in two’s – except Talula, she was marching to the beat of her own drum, not being unruly, just doing her own thing and lovin’ it. She was so utterly confident, so utterly at ease in front of a bunch of people, so utterly content with life. And then I thought “I need to nurture this, I can’t let this belief she has about the way she approaches life fade away”.

AND THEN I thought about where Talula and I would be if I hadn’t become so consumed by the concepts behind Parenting On Track™. We’d be fighting. All the time. I’m an authoritarian, there is absolutely nothing permissive about me. Talula is my power child and WHOO BOY would we be butting our heads together like a bunch of stubborn male rams in heat if I hadn’t been blessed with the knowledge that I have been given by Parenting On Track™. Seriously. Thor is my attention child, and probably would have fallen in line with my authoritarian ways but eventually would have come out the other side as an adult that didn’t have any respect for me. But Talula and I ~wow ~ our relationship, at her tender age of 3, would have already been explosive and ugly.

In the last few days I’ve started to have the realization that as an authoritarian, I have attached myself to the “discipline” (and I use that term for the lack of a better word – it’s not discipline in the normal sense) strategies of Parenting On Track™ fairly successfully. I give them the choices, I let them feel the consequences of their choices, I ask them what the responsibilities are that go with the privilege they are asking for, I say “yes, as soon as….”. All those, “you’re going to go with the flow of the family” or else (?) things. Not that there is an “or else”; but it’s suddenly how I’ve been feeling. And then I realized why. I have been using all these strategies for making our life smoother, but have not been giving enough attention to one crucial thing: our relationship with each other. I have been thinking, I think, that just parenting this way was enough to make that connection with my kids. I think I believed that just by not being the nag, not being the enforcer, not being loosy-goosy, not being the yeller etc etc was all I needed to do to build a solid relationship with my children. Not so. And it took a ridiculous pre-school graduation to let me see that.

So here is my goal for the summer: build the relationship stuff. Keeping going with all the other stuff, but focus on the love of my children.

Oh, and I have one more goal for the summer: teach Talula that in’s and out’s of why we wear underwear.