Vicki Hoefle’s book is out! I am thrilled to have her message in book form that fits in my purse. I can take it anywhere and soak up her parenting wisdom bombs. The anecdotes and solutions are a reminder of the triggers in our family that cause us to derail with regularity. Having the book is helping us get back on track more easily. As Vicki says, “It is a process that doesn’t end. I periodically start from the beginning with five grown children.” Any expert who admits to setbacks and challenges appeals to the way I live my life as a righteous imperfectionist. There is no shame in falling on our face and trying again, especially if what you are trying is helpful
Despite the fact that we are always restarting, re-remembering and getting way off track, our family dynamic has improved dramatically in the last few years. The connections we have with each of our kids are more genuine and healthy. Parenting On Track and Duct Tape Parenting has changed all of our lives for the better. Now that we have taken the time to teach our kids to help with the household tasks, the result has been that the parents sleep more and have brain space for other things. My husband sums it up as feeling less frustrated with the kids and having fewer reasons to get into frustrating scenarios. Parenting joy has increased, and our kids are reflecting the joy back to us.
The most inspiring aspect of Vicki’s message is the idea of giving our kids the chance to figure things out on their own, so that they are more capable, resilient and independent adults. There are so many reasons we all use to justify not taking the time to train our kids to do things on their own. Some common reasons I used to cling to: It takes less energy to do some tasks ourselves than teach and explain; busy kids don’t have time for contributions to the household; doing tasks ourselves helps us be on time; and doing for our kids makes us feel like we have purpose and have things in the order we like them (a false sense of control). The long-term benefits of investing time and energy to train our kids now will save us from spending a lot of future time in a state of irritation and resentment.
In the morning, I used to run my mouth with a lot of reminding, directing and nagging. I still have a tendency to impulsively burst out with directives like: “Have you had breakfast?” or, “Don’t forget to feed the chickens!” or, “You need some protein and fruit in your lunch.” Sometimes I wonder if I believe the sun would not rise or set without me getting my nag on and prattling about how to keep the train moving the way I like it. This is what Vicki is talking about. Zip it: Train them first then ZIP IT!
Since we can’t always zip it, it may be best to literally put a piece of duct tape over our mouths so we don’t start thinking we are in charge of the world. I have other strategies to keep my squawk from leaking out. I play solitaire while I chat with them about their lives rather than stuff they need to do. Our kids are champs at letting us know we are off track and reminding us that they can handle the morning routine. After a couple years of doing the Parenting On Track program, my daughter said, “Why do you guys even wake up? We don’t need your help getting ready for school.” I reminded her that when I zip up the nag tendencies, we have great conversations about life, observations and interests that keep us connected. She broke into a big smile, “Oh yeah.”
Sports are a place where many parents can’t help themselves from getting into the “Doing For” soup. Our kids are ski racers. Packing of gear and packing of food is a common practice that seems to help make the days run more smoothly for the parents, however it keeps kids from taking ownership of their stuff and meals. We handed over those tasks years ago. We are moving to the next level. Picking up racing bibs is the first thing to be done at a ski race. Inevitably, there is a long line of freezing cold parents outside the race club shack waiting to pick up the bibs for their kids. My feeling is that if a kid is big enough to hurl herself down an icy hill through gates, she is surely capable of picking up her own bib.
I hear parents justify their actions by saying, “My son needs time to get focused, prepare for the race and stay warm. And I don’t trust him not to lose the $20 bill used for collateral.” We disagree. Almost all of the kids are in the lodge are “focused” on playing games on their phones, chasing each other around the lodge or getting as much greasy food in their faces as possible before they have to meet their coaches. Our kids and a few others are often in line with the other parents picking up their own bibs. It didn’t take long for them to verbalize that it was appropriate for them to be in charge of getting their own bib and that they had plenty of time. When a kid knows that she will have to repay any lost bib or $20 collateral, it will only happen once if the parents follow through.
Some people resist any parenting input despite being intensely frustrated with or overworked by their own family dynamic. I have noticed a similar reaction to parenting books to books about sex and relationships. People claim they want things to be different in their relationship (with a partner or their children), and they complain endlessly about others (spouses or kids). However, people work hard to justify not trying or seeing through proven solutions and ideas. When my friend Edit Thys Morgan and I wrote a book about sex and relationships, our friends were clamoring to get a copy “as soon as it was off the press.” We rallied to drive books to people’s houses. Within a couple weeks, we heard from some husbands, “I have not read a book in years, but I read that one in three days. Thank you.” Seven months later we heard from some of our women friends, “Sorry, I have not even opened your book. I am afraid it will tell me what I don’t want to hear.”
Sometimes I wonder if people are addicted to being exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed with their lives. When people are in a constant state of stress, it justifies avoiding change, even if the change is healthy for everyone in the long run. Vicki Hoefle’s book is loaded with great ideas of how to give children the opportunity to become more independent, capable and resilient. In the process, parenting becomes much more fun and interesting. If you are hoping to have positive, genuine relationships with your children, Duct Tape Parenting is worth reading.