One of the stops I made on my book tour this summer was Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vermont. There, next to my poster on the bookstore window, was a poster for another parenting book by Vermonter Vicki Hoefle. Vicki and I never met, but I felt a kinship since we shared the same space on Bank St. Not long after, Vicki reached out to introduce herself and her book Duct Tape Parenting.
Vicki’s book is inspiring for how to raise problem-solving, independent kids. In her world, five-year-olds pack their own lunches and get ready in the morning routinely and without complaint. Teenagers pay for their own cell phones and car insurance, not to mention their own cars.
In other words, she believes children are capable beings. She trains them. And trusts them. Vicki herself has five grown kids. This is reality; not fantasy.
Lest you think Vicki’s world is all work and no play, it’s actually fundamentally about respecting feelings and valuing family relationships. Using a base in Adlerian and Dreikus’s psychology, she focuses on seeing the best in our kids and helping them achieve that through a combination of firmness and kindness.
One idea I like is her “Timeline for Training.” This helps us realize how much time we really have to raise our children into competent, independent folks. If our kids know nothing at age 0 and need to know everything – money management, household care, self care, responsibility – by 18, where should they be today? Does your 9-year-old know 50% of the life skills he should know?
Her book is for raising kids of any age – birth to teen. What I like is that she outlines a plan for helping to transform your family, so if you are currently in the do-everything-for-your-child mode, (the “maid”) you can follow her steps to create a new family reality. If your kids aren’t doing what they could do, it’s likely that the relationship needs repair and/or the kids need training.
She shares three optimal windows for training:
Birth to 9 = Life skills and self skills (making beds, remembering gear, doing laundry)
10–15 = Social world skills (making appointments, apologizing, saying no)
16-18 = Real life skills (cooking and menu planning, changing oil, dealing with alcohol)
Vicki’s book isn’t all about chores. It’s about letting kids problem-solve, gain trust and take reasonable risks. For parents, it’s about not nagging or reminding, and most of all not rushing in to save them. So if you’re ready (in Vicki’s words) to “Quit your job as a maid,” check out her book and her website. There you can also listen to parenting podcasts and hear the one featuring my book It’s OK NOT to Share – (the closest Vicki and I ever got to meeting!).
What tasks do you think your children are capable of doing that they’re not doing? Why do you think we’re reluctant to have kids contribute?