This guest post is by Vicki Hoefle who has a new book out called Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids (Bibliomotion, August 2012), which is available at bookstores nationwide, as well as on all major online retailers, including Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, and others.
Taking a less is more approach to raising five kids helped us all enjoy the transition from childhood to tweenhood to young adulthood (ages 18 – 23 living on their own or at college).
I came up with some simple rules that guided us on our journey and supported each of them as unique individuals discovering their place in the world. These rules also translated well to the tens of thousands of parents who I have worked with over the past twenty years as a parent expert and coach.
- Stop worrying about how your tweens express themselves in terms of their personal style (this includes their wardrobe, accessories, hair and makeup, music and friends). Learn to notice character traits and strengths that define your tween as a unique human being. What you might find troublesome now, will develop into a sense of personal power later on. Embrace this time of self-discovery and adventure. This is the time that your tweens can discover what it means when someone says, “be yourself.”
- Likewise, ignore parents who give you the hairy eyeball when your tween experiments with clothes, hair, makeup, music, attitude and values. Let those around you know you are raising a thinking child and giving him/her room to develop self-confidence and independence.
- Ignore strangers at the mall, grocery store and restaurants who give you the hairy eye-ball because your tween is lost in their own world, giving you the cold shoulder or looking apathetic when everyone around them looks thrilled to be doing whatever it is they are doing. Learn to wait quietly as your tweens navigate their own feelings and find their own way of re-engaging. Adolescence is a tough phase and moments of withdrawal are necessary from time to time.
- Don’t interfere if your tween decides to go to school in yesterday’s clothes, without having taken a shower in 3 days or decides to watch television for five hours straight instead of working on that science project due in two days. Nature is the best teacher. Celebrate your child’s courage to make a choice and listen as he/she shares the experience without judgment or criticism.
- Ignore mistakes, big and small, yours and theirs, and remember that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Use them as ways to build alliances with your tween, show understanding and demonstrate compassion and understanding.
- 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 tween’s shoes and then respond accordingly. It’s easier to hold your tongue than it is to repair a fractured relationship.
- 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? If you give up the daily nagging, you are bound to get a tween who is willing to help out when you really need an extra pair of hands, a strong back or a creative mind.
- 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. And never complain about your tween to anyone who isn’t in your inner most inner circle, and even then, keep it short.
- 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. Yes, lazy, stubborn, forgetful, inconsiderate, disorganized tweens turn into the most extraordinary adults if they are supported by parents that can see past their warts.
- 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.
A less is more approach to parenting is all about investing in a long term relationship with our beloved children and that means embracing the tween years the same way we embraced their infancy. Be less of the things you aren’t proud of (demanding, short tempered, impatient and critical) and more of who you want to be (loving, accepting, firm, kind, dependable and supportive) and you will raise kids who embody those same traits.
Empowering kids to navigate their own lives makes our job as parents much more enjoyable and sends the message to our kids that we believe in them, have faith in their abilities and that we are on their side.
Vicki Hoefle has a new book out called Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids (Bibliomotion, August 2012), which is available at bookstores nationwide, as well as on all major online retailers, including Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, and others.