Go Up the Slide with Early Bird Gifts

Ready to pre-order! Can't wait to go up with slide with you.

 Ready to pre-order! Free gifts for early birds.      

A box arrived on my doorstep from Penguin Random House this week. I thought it was THE BOOK. Instead it was a batch of lovely postcards from the publisher, but this is a good sign.  It means we’re getting close – only 6 weeks to go!

To celebrate and thank everyone who’s an early buyer of It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, I’ve designed a special one-hour exclusive podcast for you. Just pre-order, and you can enjoy this special edition podcast as a gift.

Also, I’ve designed a set of inspirational quotes that you can print and post on your fridge or other spots around the house. A gift to you.

When you pre-order, you can get your copy the day it comes out – March 8, 2016 – and be among the first to dive into new content and renegade ideas such as: It’s OK Not to Kiss Grandma, Safety Second, It’s OK to Talk to Strangers, Recess is a Right, Reconfigure Kindergarten, Banish Calendars, Princesses are Powerful, plus a huge section on elementary school homework. Guaranteed to be a conservation starter.

How do you pre-order and claim your free gifts? Pre-order here or at your favorite neighborhood bookstore.

  1. Order It’s OK to Go Up the Slide at your favorite bookstore.
  2. Send an email telling me where you bought the book to slide@heathershumaker.com

That’s it!

Already pre-ordered long ago? No worries, just send an email to slide@heathershumaker.com telling me about your purchase and you can enjoy the gifts.

Enjoy! Can’t wait to share the book with you.

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Go Up the Slide with Early Bird Gifts

  1. Deidra says:


  2. Anne Donn says:

    Congratulations on your new book. So happy to hear that it’s release is getting close. I love the title. What a great way of seeing the world, as you go up the slide. All is well here.

  3. Saundra Fischer says:

    I am so excited about your new book! Your work has probably influenced me more as a parent and educator than any other author. Meeting you was a highlight last year. Thank you for all that you do!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Of Karate Kids and Soccer Moms

Is it your idea to have a dancer in the family, or hers?

Is it your idea to have a dancer in the family, or hers?

Karate. Ballet. Soccer. Swimming. Hockey. Art lessons. Music lessons. Theater class. Children’s choir.  The number of enrichment classes out there for children is mind-blowing. Chances are, if you have kids, you’ve signed your child up for one of these fun-filled classes. Or maybe three or four.

When it comes time to decide whether to sign up again, do some careful thought. Besides the obvious overscheduling concern, ask yourself this: is this class really for me or for my child?

Children’s interests come and go. They may like to try tap dance, then give basketball a go. As a parent, it can be hard to know whether you should encourage your child to stay longer with trumpet lessons or acting class, and reap the rewards of getting better, or decide that this particular activity has run its course.

Ask yourself what prompted you to sign up your child for this activity in the first place? Was it your ideas or hers? Did it come from her personality or yours? Then re-evaluate.

It’s fun to sign up. It’s fun to try new things. Stopping – even a child quitting a music or sports program – can seem like failure. It can be hard to let go.

That’s true even if you’re a parent. Most enrichment activities create a parent culture that’s comfortable to be part of. When your child plays soccer, you take on the role of a soccer mom or dad, when your child does ballet, you get used to the ritual of dance recitals and doing hair in buns (Yes, I’ve even had to learn to do my son’s hair in a bun as a ballet mother. Not only does he dance, but he grows his hair long enough it needs to be pinned up.). Kids, too, get caught up in doing the same thing year after year.

Be sure to check-in. Childhood is about exploring and learning, so don’t forget to take turns with activities from time to time. “You want to try baseball? OK, let’s do that this spring. You can go back to drum lessons if you find you want to.”  Beware of the danger of simply adding and adding activities, or continuing something because it’s become a habit.

Enrichment classes today are sometimes just for fun, but often as you get to higher levels there’s a push for the child to commit to this activity to the exclusion of other interests. Travel sports teams. Extra rehearsals. Higher levels. Specialized camps just for basketball or choir. Some kids love the intense focus. But childhood is a time of discovery, not necessarily improving skills.

Remember children are just kids discovering themselves. They’re not projects. They’re not here to live out our dreams. They’re here to find their own.

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fantastic Fiction: Encouraging Young Writers

Encourage fiction - kids need to write what's in their souls.

Encourage fiction – kids need to write about what’s in their souls.

As our family moves through public school, I’ve heard six years’ worth of teachers explain why kids don’t write fiction in their class.

“Frankly, kids aren’t very good at fiction. They only write about explosions, aliens and robots,” one teacher told me.

One first grade teacher explained fiction wasn’t part of the curriculum (“we focus on essay writing”). Others insisted that students should “write what they know, and kids only know about their own lives.”

Hogwash. Or should I say Hogwarts. Kids know more about fantasy – the stuff of fiction – than most adults. A child writer can describe the intricacies of a mermaid’s life or an alien who battles pirates with explosive powers better than what they had for breakfast.

With national education focus on hard-core skills like essay writing in elementary school, fiction writing is being pushed out from many children’s lives.

As a writer, I know the hardest thing to teach in good writing is Voice. The structure of an essay can be taught later. We need to help our children find their unique voice, encourage their efforts, and give them ample practice. To love writing and get good at writing, a child needs to be able to express herself.  Express the ideas that are bottled up inside. Often these ideas are about aliens, explosions and mermaids at first. If that’s what’s inside a child’s soul, that’s what she should write about.

Kids may not be very good at fiction writing. But they’re learning.

Looking back at my own not-so-good writing as a kid, I learned a tremendous amount each step of the way:

  • First grade. Expressing my ideas felt great. People liked my stories and treated me like a real author. I wrote 12 books about Leo the Lion before I could write. Adults wrote down my dictated words and helped me bind them up to look like real books.
  • Second grade. I experimented with tragedy. I realized that killing all my main characters off didn’t give a satisfying ending, just a sad one. Hmm… this was trickier than I thought.
  • Third grade. I coped with my first rejection letter for a short story.
  • Fourth grade. I wrote an overly-complicated story with unpronounceable names and realized that sometimes a simple story line can be more powerful.

My early stories were not good, but they allowed me to take the next step. What’s more, I felt valued and listened to when I expressed myself through written words. If children need to express themselves with ideas about princesses living in towers or pirates who eat seaweed, then we should let them.

Young writers should write what is bursting from their souls.

Is fiction writing alive and well in your child’s school? What were your favorite topics to write about as a child?

Posted in Joyful Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Fantastic Fiction: Encouraging Young Writers

  1. deidra says:

    Yes fiction writing is alive and well in our school. My son’s stories are so creative. He is becoming a great story teller. Is his spelling, grammar, and punctuation perfect? Absolutely not. There stories sometimes don’t flow very well, but most importantly they are really creative, funny and strange.

  2. ann says:

    I think the problem is teaching to the tests. It is crazy high stakes in public schools that have not found a creative way around to actually teach kids. For those schools that find ways to actually teach, they often find ways to develop the creativity in kids. Creativity in one area helps in other areas. The problem is when you feel like you only have time to teach the facts, the basics, the test, then you can look at creativity as a luxury instead of a necessity. I sure hope this will change soon.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for your comments, Ann. You’re right, it must seem like a luxury, and you’re so right how creativity flows from one area to the next.

  3. I’m so happy you wrote this one. My best childhood moments were being alone, making up wild stories about witches and queens, and yes, even princes and princesses, but the witches, oh I had such good and terrible witches. And in these fantasies, I was allowed to die and resurrect on a regular basis. It is truly the basis for an active imagination.

  4. Jan Waters says:

    What are they doing to creativity???? They are dumbing down kids’ education! Who are these people who don’t value the creative spirit? Preschoolers write wonderful stories and an adult can write it down. We are not educating scholars we are educating technicians. Jan

  5. Anna says:

    That teacher’s reasoning is so crazy. I presume she has also cancelled math, since some kids aren’t that good at it? And art – after all, 6-year-olds’ drawings are hardly known for artistic merit. In my first years of piano lessons, my playing really sucked – clearly my parents should have quit giving me music lessons. In fact, isn’t it the very nature of any skill that needs to be taught and/or practiced, that the student is bad at the beginning?

  6. Katrin says:

    My son’s teacher has them write journal pages twice a week. They all have a blank top for a picture and then lines to write something. Some start with prompters such as “I wish”, “My Mom”, “I wonder”.
    He writes the most hilarious 1-4 sentence stories in his first grade spelling with really simple but extremely expressive pictures.
    I wish there was more writing and encouraging to write, but it seems like I should be happy about what his teacher already does.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Flash Card Babies

Children learn early math through play.

Children learn early math through play.

This morning I watched a mother hold her six-month-old baby. They were watching a screen together and the mother was singing along a counting song. “Twenty-two, twenty-three…”

There was nothing truly wrong with the scene except expectations. The baby was content. She was being cuddled and sung to, so her needs were mostly being met. But already there’s a clash of expectations. What’s valuable to the adult versus what’s valuable to the child. What’s possible and reasonable to expect at a child’s given age versus what’s pushing an adult agenda.

Drilling numbers early doesn’t speed up a child’s natural development. Counting to twenty-two is still years off. First comes the concept of “more” and then “she has more cookies than I do!”

Kids grasp early math concepts through life and play.

The same mismatch of expectations comes with ubiquitous calendars in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Starting around age three, adults push the idea of Monday and November and 2015, despite the fact that most children’s natural brain development is not ready to grasp these time concepts until closer to age seven.

We waste children’s time when we use their time for “educational material” that ought to wait for later.

I understand the urge. Parents simply want their kids to have the best start possible. They truly dread the idea of falling behind, so they grab onto screen programs billed as educational. It’s hard for adults to realize there are some things you just can’t speed up.

Time is key. But not rushing time. Taking time.

What ways have you seen young kids use math concepts in their play? Are there babies counting to 22 in your town, too?


Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Flash Card Babies

  1. So much common sense wisdom in such a simple message. Thank, Heather.

  2. Erika Cedillo says:

    Absolutely loved this post Heather, thank you! I know parents that have been doing flashcards with their kids since very early in their life, for me it didn’t feel good. Now your post has put it so clear. It is about time, but give time for every stage of development and allow them to play and let them get the concepts at a more appropriate time. Take time, don’t rush time, loved this!
    And I specially liked when you talk about parents dreading their kids fall behind, once again this is another issue that is about the parents and not the kids. I’ve worked, and keep working, on keeping my own expectations at bay and just allow my daughters to unfold their beautiful and brilliant characters at their own time.
    Thanks again!!

  3. Kirsten says:

    To my nearly 4-year-old, “yesterday” is any day that was in the past. Certainly makes things confusing for us when she’s talking about something that occurred almost a year ago, but she’s formulating how time works. She knows Tuesday is recycle truck day, but I have no idea if she understands the frequency of that occurrence, and that’s okay. She’ll get there and I’m so grateful to have advocates like you.

  4. Anna says:

    I remember reading something somewhere (maybe an REI site?) pointing out that before you try to “teach” your baby something, you need to ask yourself what he would have been learning in that time that you’ve now displaced, and which was more important.

    If the kid is 6 months old, there’s not even any kind of doubt: what nature was teaching him during those minutes was far more important than the numbers or letters you decided to drill: e.g., sensory integration, correlation of cause-and-effect, the fundamentals of universal grammar, recognition of key phonemes in his native language. . .

    Anybody who thinks counting or memorizing the number series is more important than these things is simply a moron, and shouldn’t be trying to direct anybody’s education.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Lovely point. I often think in terms of “opportunity cost.” What are you giving up to make time for what you are doing?

  5. fionasamummy says:

    I used to sing numbers to baby B when I was so exhausted I couldnt think of any songs. Great article though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Going Up the Slide

UpTheSlide final cover

It’s here! So excited, wanted to share with you this beautiful cover for my new book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. We still have to wait for the book – coming in spring – but thought you’d like to take a behind-the-scenes look at a book being born.

Besides the cover design, we’re in the proofing stage for the final layout, and in the process of seeking blurbs from parenting experts. This is rather fun. I’ve been sending out sneak-peeks of the book to early childhood folks.

David Elkind wrote back, along with Alfie Kohn, Peter Gray, Ellen Galinsky, Michael Gurian, Ooey Gooey Lady, Stuart Brown and many others. Some have time to read it, some don’t, but it’s great to chat and connect ideas with other authors.

Here’s a taste of what people are saying:

“I’m in love with the book from the introduction. It’s going to rock some boats, challenge some thinking, and nudge some adults in the right direction.” – Jeff A. Johnson, author of Let Them Play 

“Can we clone Heather Shumaker? If so, let’s get cracking! Anyone willing to stop and ask, ‘Wait, why do we have to sign our kids’ homework?’ is on the right track. The fact that Heather Shumaker stops to re-examine almost all the conventional wisdom about childhood to figure out which of it is based on anything other than, ‘That’s just how it’s done’ makes her my hero.” – Lenore Skenazy, founder of book, blog and movement Free-Range Kids

It’s OK to Go Up the Slide is coming out March 8, 2016. You can pre-order it now, and be the first to carry it to your playground and share it with other parents as your child climbs up the slide. My eternal thanks to SYC’s director, Stephanie Rottmayer, who thought up the great book title, and to all of you from San Jose to Sandusky who cheered it on.

This book covers a new range of hot-button topics facing preschoolers and elementary school children. Risk. Recess. Kindergarten. Princess play. Sad stories. Technology. Homework. It contains chapters like “It’s OK to Talk to Strangers” and “Families are not Entertainment Centers.” It’s bound to shake up some thinking and validate what we know is right for children. For those of you who love It’s OK Not to Share, I’m thrilled to bring you more renegade ideas.

Ready to be a renegade? Pre-order the “Slide” book.

Here’s a few blurbs if you want to read more –

“This is the book I have been waiting for. Heather again has provided us with practical and respectful parenting advice for the child entering the big world of elementary school years…This book is tender and completely engaging. You will want to keep it with you at all times.” – Dan Hodgins, author of Boys: Changing the Classroom, Not the Child

“Shumaker is like the wise elder we need beside us. In this day and age when recess and play have been set aside for worksheets and sitting still, we need to hear and heed her voice. Every parent, caregiver, teacher and administrator will want to return to this book over and over again. Bravo to Shumaker for encouraging us to reclaim our children’s childhoods.” – Sara Bennett, author of The Case Against Homework

Big thanks to everyone who has sent in ideas, kind words and support. This is your book, too.

What do you think? Do you like the cover? Are you ready to be a renegade?

UpTheSlide final coverIt's OK small cover

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

10 Responses to Going Up the Slide

  1. Emily Plank says:

    So excited for you! How fun to see a cover!! :) Our field needs more of your wisdom, so I am really glad you have a second book to offer!!

  2. Bj Richards says:

    I can hardly wait! I gave your first book to all my families!!

    I recommend it to everyone!! Everywhere I go I refer people to your book. I have been doing child care for 39 years and your book is my all time favorite!!!

    Thank you
    Bj Richards

  3. Mary Haley says:

    I, too, have given the book to family and enjoy renegade discussions! Looking forward to the new book!

    Cover Idea: How about adding additional kids waiting to climb UP the slide!

  4. Cynthia Zapel says:

    You are amazing, Heather !! Congrats on your second innovative book. I wish I had such a book when I was raising my children. I also like the book cover-how appropriate.
    Thank You, Cynthia Zapel

  5. Warmest congrats. The cover is perfect and I am so thrilled with the title–yes, it’s just right for that next step in the child-rearing. Let them play.

  6. Congratulations and good luck with the new book. Looking forward to reading it and passing it on to those who need it much more than I do.


  7. Heather Shumaker says:

    Thank you! So glad you like the cover. Can’t wait to share the real book with you soon.

  8. Katrin says:

    I cannot wait to read it! I’ve already hooked some families to “It’s ok not to share”, and I do already know that I’m going to get a copy for them and me.
    I love your ideas and your down to earth approach to parenting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sane Rules for Homework

When is homework OK? When it brings joy, not tears or tiredness.

When is homework OK? When it brings joy, not tears or tiredness.

The new school year probably brought excitement. Now it probably brings…homework.

If your children are in elementary school, homework has very little place in it. Research shows (analysis of more approx. 180 peer-reviewed studies) that homework assignments for this age is pointless, and even harmful.

What?! Really? Yes, those struggles with homework each night are not worth it. The research has been showing for years that elementary school homework shows 1) no academic benefit and 2) hurts children’s love of school and learning.

That’s why our family bans homework for our elementary-aged kids. You can read more about it here.  (More coming March 8, 2016 – helpful tips on homework and discussion of homework research in my new book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, available for pre-order now.)

But is all homework bad? No, not necessarily. It’s important to keep family – child – learning goals in mind. Take a look at your child and what she’s asked to do. Decide if it’s a net benefit or not.

When is elementary homework OK? When it’s…

  • Joyous
  • Gets the child excited about school or learning
  • Optional
  • Something the child can do 100% herself, or mostly herself
  • Pleasure reading
  • A project that’s occasional (1-4 times a year)

If homework in your house doesn’t have these ingredients, take stock. Understand what’s bothering you, then gather up your courage and talk to the teacher.

What do children need more than homework? They need these ingredients more: play, sleep and positive relationships with people who care for them.

It's OK small coverHave you found a sane solution to homework? Is homework a struggle in your family? If you’ve successfully talked to a teacher, share your experience with other families.

It’s OK Not to Share...and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids (2012)

It’s OK to Go UP the Slide...Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids (pre-order for March 8, 2016)

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Playing with Fire: Why Risk is Good for Kids

Boiling water and fire - yes, my kids play with both. Here's their raspberry syrup concoction.

Boiling water and fire – yes, my kids play with both. Here’s their raspberry syrup concoction.

I’m back after a lovely, non-computer time this summer. We spent a lot of our time playing and traveling, including camping and playing with fire.

OK, I don’t have tots anymore. My youngest is seven, and that’s a wonderful age to play with fire. Yes, striking the match, building the fire, poking it and learning its power. Some days in our campsite or backyard he spent hours playing with fire.

Letting children work with fire has some risk, but it also helps keep them safe. After I trained my kids on basic safety and gauged their development, I was ready to take that risk.

Kids don’t like to get hurt. They don’t like pain, blood or owies and most kids avoid getting hurt at all costs. That’s why giving them some training – and then giving them some risks – works so well.

Risk helps kids get involved in their own safety. It helps them understand real dangers and gauge their own physical limits. When kids have experience with handling risk, they actually grow safer  – becoming less likely to take dangerous risks and more likely to understand their limits when dealing with reasonable risk.

Researchers have found that letting kids experience risk first-hand is the only way children learn how to judge danger. Whether it’s crossing a street or adding a stick to the fire, we need to introduce risks to our children’s lives.

What zany, somewhat risky things did you do this summer? Are you comfortable or nervous about risk? Do you think kids are getting enough risk?

New chapter about Risk coming in my new book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. Publication date: March 8, 2016.

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Playing with Fire: Why Risk is Good for Kids

  1. Jan Waters says:

    Heather, again you are right on. I remember letting my grandkids light a whole box of matches while I watched and then blow out the candle. We have campfires a lot in my backyard and I let the kids play and poke. One granddaughter said she was doing experiments. Risk taking is so important to educating. Its fun to read your wriing what I’ve always believed. Jan

  2. Lydia says:

    I totally agree! I have so many happy memories from my own childhood, of fire building.
    I love the sound of your new book too, my daughter is a slide climber upper! ?

  3. Fire building is a terrific way to teach safety and risk. I started making campfires under the watchful, expert eye of my mother the first year we went family camping. I was 10. A child needs to feel the intense heat from a small fire, feel the burn when he touches a seeming harmless point of a stick that’s been poking in red-hot coals, and see how fast a small fire can flare up when the damp wood has finally dried enough to really blaze away.

    My not so foolish risky behavior is taking solo wilderness canoe trips in my late 50s (and hope to do so well into my 60s). But I’m experienced, cautious, and never bite off more of a trip than I can chew. The main risks are Mother Nature nailing me with a bolt of lightning or a strong wind blowing a tree down onto my tent while I sleep. Capsizing in the middle of a large lake during high winds is a good example of mindless, intentionally foolish behavior. I’ll arrive home a day late if necessary rather than risk paddling across a whitecap filled lake by myself.

    Glad you brought up the topic of teaching kids to take risks. It’s an important topic too often ignored in the age of helicopter parenting when parents seek to eliminate all risks for their children.


    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Happy canoeing, Chris! And so glad your early campfire burning days have continued to serve you well. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Anna says:

    I agree! My son is only three, so as yet I’ve only let him throw twigs on the campfire, but more soon, hopefully. I do, however, let him cook his own oatmeal on our gas stove in the morning. He does great and he’s very cautious. I read a very helpful suggestion a while ago that when teaching a child to use the stove, you should have them actually use their hand to feel different distances from the flame to figure out what’s safe and what isn’t, and I found it to be great advice.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Great tip about stoves! Sounds as if you and your son will have many fine adventures ahead. Thanks for sharing your story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Book Clubs – Read this & Giveaway!

All adults need time for books and friendship. This book combines both.

Be honest. How many of you busy folks and parents really take time for friendship these days?

Mardi Link’s new memoir The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Change is all about the friendships we need in our adult lives. Her story may not be your story – her set of friends chase bears and drink on a remote island for their getaway – but the threads in her story are universal.

Mardi knows how to write. This is her 5th book, and her spunky, hysterical take on the world gets better all the time. It’s the perfect book for book clubs. How a diverse group of women comes together and shares life over a twenty-year period. How they age, marry, die, face calamity and good times. It’s spunky, witty, tender and true.

I love this book partly because I’ve seen it being born. Mardi’s part of a writing critique group I belong to. We call ourselves the Powerfingers. Boy, Mardi has the power ramped up on this book.

Author Mardi Link and a loyal fan.

Author Mardi Link and a loyal fan.

We all need reminders – tug-at-your-gut reminders – that kids, spouse/partners, careers, and other priorities are not enough. Without creating time for friends and friendships for ourselves, life gets to be too much. Whatever your status, single or partnered, kids or no kids, you need the sustaining power that only friendship gives.

So take time for friendship. Take time to dwell on friendship with The Drummond Girls.

This book is brand new – the book launch is Tuesday, July 14. You can pre-order anytime. If you’re part of a book club, whether it’s a book club of one, or a book club of many, read this book.

Need more convincing that Mardi’s the real stuff? Here’re some reviews from the New York Times and others from her last book. (And The Drummond Girls is better).

“Glints with Link’s raw, willful energy. . . . Possesses that rare, elusive, but much sought-after feeling of authenticity.”The New York Times Book Review

“You’ll fall in love with Mardi Jo Link’s family in this irreverent and heartwarming memoir.”Parade

“A heroic-comic saga of single motherhood, pure stubbornness, and the loyalty of three young sons.”Garrison Keillor

OK, ready? Order or pre-order this book and you’ll be entered to win a second FREE copy of The Drummond Girls to share with friends, or a free copy of It’s OK Not to Share (your choice). Giveaway book signed by the author. Giveaway ends July 20, 2015 at 12 noon ESTLeave a comment on this blog, with order info. and /or friendship comments, and the winning name will be picked by a random number generator. U.S. mailing addresses only.

Posted in Author Friends & Family, Good Reads, What I'm Reading | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rewards versus Celebrations

Find a way to celebrate kids' big accomplishments. But be wary of rewards.

Find a way to celebrate kids’ big accomplishments. But be wary of rewards.

Rewards are all around our children. Stars. Sticker charts. Prizes. Many of us automatically reward good behavior or new accomplishments with food. Even if you don’t dole out frequent rewards in your family, chances are your child is being loaded with rewards like pencils, toys, candy, school bucks, ice cream parties or other prizes at school, music lessons or other places.

Where does all this rewarding lead us?

Rewards do two things. They put the spotlight on outside approval, so the child’s inner glow of satisfaction can get lost in the fuss and reward focus. They also elevate the value and importance of possessions/ eating. Rewards like this can be habit-forming in unhealthy ways. Even as adults, children rewarded by food may say “I did great! Now I’ll eat.” Food rewards can become a lifelong habit.

I’ve never been a sticker-chart person. Life and relationships seem to complicated for that. Still, for certain big changes, some kids appreciate seeing something tangible so they can touch and see and feel to mark their progress. The goal is to help a child develop and recognize the inner glow of accomplishment and self-worth. That comes most easily when things are child-directed. Go ahead and put something on the wall, but make it personal – something of the child’s own devising. We’ve had a picture of a dancer moving on to a stage and a soldier finding things a soldier would need, such as food and gunpowder. Progress itself is the reward, not a prize handed out.

There’s also a difference between giving out rewards and simply celebrating. Regular, daily celebrations go on all the time – these are times when you’re simply there to smile, listen and share the joy of your child’s new independence. Then there are times when you want to reach into a reward bag to mark a special milestone. Instead of food, toy or sticker rewards, our family uses experiences.

When it’s time to celebrate a child, we often camp out in the backyard or sleep in the barn. My youngest calls it a Wongo. It’s fun. It’s free. It’s the child’s idea. It reinforces family relationships. The reward has already come within the child’s own spirit, now we’re just celebrating.

Simple celebrations bind people together and they focus on doing not spending money or getting an object. It might be eating breakfast for supper. It might be having a silly hour. It might be sleeping under a tent fort in the living room.

When you’re ready to help a child change a behavior or gain new independence, be careful before you set up a reward structure. Think how you can foster internal rewards. Share her joy. And if you want to, go ahead and celebrate.

Were you rewarded with food or other things as a kid? What actually makes you feel good inside? What types of rewards or celebrations do you like best?

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Rewards versus Celebrations

  1. Marisol says:

    Thanks for share this information. I have three childs and the prizes were foods or candies. It is bad this.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Try to remember the reward that comes inside the child. Then share your joy with the child’s inner joy. That’s what counts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How to Grow a Grown-Up


New book from Vermont author Vicki Hoefle!

“Bold, clear and lifesaving. Vicki Hoefle is in the business of helping parents grow great grown-ups.” That’s the cover quote on Vicki’s new book The Straight Talk on Parenting: A No-Nonsense Approach to How to Grow a Grown-Up.

2015 is turning into the year when all my favorite parenting authors are writing sequels. Vicki’s first book, Duct Tape Parenting, came out the same summer my first book It’s OK Not to Share did. Readers are clamoring for more.

And they should. Vicki understands that the struggles we face every day – morning out-the-door rush, meals, bedtime, backtalk, sibling squabbles, messy rooms and more – are all fundamentally caused by 1) fractured relationships, or 2) a child’s quest for independence that gets thwarted by parents and lack of training, or 3) both.

She’s in it for the long-haul. Behavior struggles that seem to many parents as daily headaches, Vicki sees as chances for developing lifelong character traits, independence and healthy relationship models. Lasting change takes time and means making a switch to intentional parenting. If this sounds daunting, it shouldn’t. Vicki’s method is straight-forward and far easier than a lifetime of parent-child struggles.

The strength of her book lies in the many examples and how the approach works for all ages.  Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, this book can guide you through making a change. She looks at teens on the phone past midnight with the same lens as toddlers not getting ready in the morning. No, the solutions are not identical, and the same issue would be resolved differently by different families, but the process is the same. It starts with examining your own parenting behavior. Read enough of these examples and you will be saying – wow – I didn’t know life could be any other way. It’s like having Vicki in the room with you.

I love this book . It gives practical, yet individual help, for every family. And that quote on the cover? It’s what I told Vicki when I read the advanced copy.

Want to read Vicki Hoefle’s new book? Add a comment to enter the Straight Talk on Parenting book Give-Away!

vicki book smallWhat’s your biggest daily parenting struggle? What behavior would you love to transform? Add a comment and your name will be entered in the Book Give-Away.  Give-Away ended Monday, June 1 at 12 noon ET. Winning name was chosen by a random number generator.


Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to How to Grow a Grown-Up

  1. Amy Sue says:

    My biggest parenting struggle is with our 8 & 10 year olds. They argue about screen time limits, and are constantly bickering with each other. It’s exhausting!

  2. Jenifer says:

    This sounds great! My girls are now 2 and nearly 5. They crave independence, and I try to give it to them, but would love to learn more about how to give them the skills they need!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Jenifer – Congrats! You’re the winner of the book. Enjoy the wonderful journey ahead of giving more independence to your children. Best wishes, Heather

  3. Irene says:

    I would love to parent my son without yelling or bribing him!

  4. Swen says:

    Our greatest struggle is with our 4 year old daughter, being very strong-headed, testing our limits and her owns every day and all the time. When we as parents are sleep deprived from our younger one, it gets exhausting.

  5. Linda says:

    Sounds excellent!! We have 2.5 yr old triplets. Feels like we’re in the throws of it all right now and we’ve only just begun!

  6. Cari Noga says:

    I have a 9 y.o. son with special needs and a 6 year old typical daughter. Exhausted trying to be fair to both. Also worried my special needs son is not ever going to be able to leave home. I definitely need help growing 2 grownups.

  7. Alyson S says:

    I would love to win this book! I struggle so much with losing my patience

  8. Dawn Sparks says:

    I have a 5 and 3 year old. Our current biggest problem is helping them deal with anger and disappointment in appopriate ways. It’s pointing out my issues in dealing with my own big emotions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *