I am always on the lookout for new book resources, and a few months ago, I stumbled across Duct Tape Parenting. Initially, I was wary of the title (any image I could conjure that paired duct-tape with children was…eh…sticky!) but the recommendation came from such a highly respected source, that I couldn’t help but find out more.
Once I discovered that the duct-tape metaphor is intended to help parents refrain from unnecessarily interfering with their highly-capable children, my worries were put to rest!
Vicki Hoefle writes with humor, under-girded by a consistent respect for the process of authentic human development. She values children as capable from birth, and teaches parenting strategies that foster that competence rather than undermine it. Most significantly, Vicki remains focused throughout the book on the long-term goals of parenting: raising children who can manage all aspects of their lives with increasing skill as they grow.
I have had the fortune of getting to know Vicki, and she was gracious enough to answer some of my questions so you all could get a little glimpse into her ideas. And she has agreed to give away one copy of her book to a lucky reader! Details for the giveaway are at the bottom, following the interview…
Emily: The hardest thing for me as a parent is keeping my cool when my children are not. Do you have tips to help parents keep their emotional outbursts in check when their children are resistant? Unhelpful? Rude? Temperamental?
Vicki: I think what is most important is that we remember three things:
- It isn’t personal. Our children are not AWFUL, they are having an awful MOMENT. It will pass and if we stay calm, our child begins to see us as a safe haven that can be trusted to help them through a difficult moment.
- Do not evaluate your parenting skills based on a child’s outbursts. Parenting is a long-term venture and these small episodes are nothing more than part of the maturation process for children. We have a tendency to think that if we have a happy child we are doing a good job at parenting, and are failures if our children are ever rude, resistant, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. Disappointments abound in life and helping our children become resilient is a gift we give them.
- Children are people. They may be rough around the edges but at the end of the day, they are just like their parents. Sometimes we just don’t have what it takes to handle our emotions in mature ways.
Emily: Can you offer some tools for parents?
Vicki: Here is one of my favorite tools to be used during one of those “what do I do now” moments.
- Understand that if a power struggle is brewing or your emotions are already activated, it is to probably too late to attempt to “solve” the problem in the traditional sense. Instead Do Not Make Things Worse.
- Stop talking. Take a breath and remember that you are in control of your thoughts, words and actions so model responsible behavior.
- Take a “snapshot” of the problem – My child has a melt down when he tries to put his shoes on, but won’t let me help when I try, or my kids start fighting in the car and they continue to escalate until I am screaming and threatening them.
- Now that you have the snapshot that you will use to develop a new strategy when you have a clear mind and have the time to formulate your plan, do whatever it takes to get through the situation without making anyone feel bad. It’s called Moving the Action Forward. You can use distraction, allowing the child to make a crazy choice that isn’t dangerous (and wouldn’t necessarily be your first choice), give a hug, do the unexpected, tell a joke, or anything else that lessens the tension and gets you moving forward.
This is a very “active” parenting strategy that allows you to gather valuable information to use later to create a solution that will lead to lasting change.
Emily: Were there specific books or people who inspired your journey?
Vicki: Certainly everything I read by Dr. Alfred Adler and Dr. Rudolph Dreikurs influenced my role as a mother and a parent educator. Children the Challenge by Dreikurs, although outdated in some ways, was one of my favorites. I resonated with Adler’s work immediately and recognized that his philosophy was about creating a healthy lifestyle, and not just about raising a child. His work offered me a way of being in the world and a way to construct every relationship, including those with my children, my sibling, parents, co-workers and friends. It is a philosophy that teaches us to develop our best selves and to cooperate with others in order to make life more enjoyable for everyone. Because of this outlook, it makes it easy for me to apply specific parenting ideas knowing that the end game was to raise socially connected, cooperative, mutually respectful human beings. That was a journey that I was excited about. Punishing a 2 year old for hitting was of no interest to me. Teaching my child how to develop resources for dealing with frustration, disappointment, rejection and failure was much more interesting a proposition.
Emily: Can you think of one simple thing parents can build into their daily routine to help children navigate an ever changing world?
Vicki: I think creating a structure, which supports flexibility might be the most important thing in helping kids learn to navigate an ever changing landscape. My motto is “structure without flexibility is prison, flexibility without structure is chaos”. There has to be a balance. In my life as a mom with 5 kids in the house, creating a defined structure that I could support 100% created stability, predictably and a sense that we were all in it together. It gave my kids the confidence to try new things, push boundaries to see what would happen and it gave me confidence to stand firm, to trust my decisions and to support my kids as they became more and more independent.
I don’t know that parents spend much time creating routines that last more than a few days and I think this might be the key to creating a balanced life.
[My main criticism of the book revolved around the way Vicki talked about childhood tantrums. She recommends ignoring the behaviors that we don’t want to grow in children. I needed to clarify, since it seemed like I resonated so deeply with everything else Vicki wrote…]
Emily: I believe that if a child is using a tantrum to try and meet a need, that’s because she lacks other pro-social tools to get it. By meeting the need, parents communicate that children are worthy of attention and their needs are valid. Instead of ignoring, the responsibility of the adult in the face of a fierce tantrum is to minimally respond – validating the need and the emotional strength, while supporting a different behavior. I don’t believe parents should engage – head on – with the tantrum, but to ignore the child entirely is disrespectful of their intense feelings, and may communicate that their feelings are unworthy/invalid/etc. I don’t know if there’s really a question there, but can you explain a little more about tantrums? The whole strategy of ignoring (in my opinion) is too focused on behavior and not focused enough on meeting needs in the context of developing pro-social behavior. Ideas?
Vicki: It’s so interesting to hear about all this work around pro-social behavior when Adler was one of the first to write about “Social Interest” and the development of it. He maintains that social interest (meeting the needs of the situation vs. meeting my own needs at the expense of others) is an attitude cultivated in very young children through cooperation, mutual respect and allowing them to take responsibility for their thoughts, words, actions and emotions.
He also maintains that a child either gets their needs met in useful or useless ways and it is the parents response to the child’s exploration of how to get these needs met that leads the child toward or away from developing social interest (pro-social behavior).
A tantrum is clearly a useless way to get one’s needs met. If the child is saying, I want attention from you and I believe that throwing a tantrum just might get me your attention, it is my responsibility as the adult to send the message to the child that this is not a method that will work.
It does not mean that I am unkind or do not show empathy, but it does mean that I will “move the action forward” and allow my child to decide whether the course of action he/she has chosen is in fact getting the needs met or not. My experience is that when tantrums are recognized and then ignored, it allows the child to find alternative methods for “connecting” rather then demanding attention.
Emily: What’s your least favorite chore? You know, just for fun.
Vicki: LAUNDRY. I hate folding laundry. I would do ANYTHING to get out of that job and I often found creative ways to swap jobs with the kids, save money and hire someone to come in and fold for two hours or anything else that got me out of doing it. Shameful, but true.
Thank you, Vicki, for taking the time to share some insight with us. If you haven’t read Duct Tape Parenting, add it to your summer reading list.
Interested in winning a copy of Duct Tape Parenting? To enter, leave a comment below. Tell me about your children: how are they involved in the workings of your family? Do they help with dishes? Make their beds? Does your infant sit near while you cook dinner or play with dishes from the cabinets? On Friday, June 7, I will use a random number generator to select the winner.
Vicki Hoefle is a parent; mom to six beautiful children. Her first concern is her family, her second is the well-being of yours. Vicki knows being a parent is not easy even on a good day. On a bad day parenting can be the ultimate challenge to mind, body and spirit. Her mission is to empower and encourage parents so they can parent with confidence and enthusiasm.
Vicki’s parenting philosophy and approach to raising “thinking” children, does not include “getting children” to comply or using so-called “discipline” strategies (which include nagging, reminding, lecturing, bribing, counting and time-outing) for dealing with pesky behaviors.