Wisdom from Vermont

Author Vicki Hoefle

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.

Her motto:  “If they can walk, they can work.”

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?

Timeline for Training from Vicki’s book “Duct Tape Parenting”

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? 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Wisdom from Vermont

  1. deidra says:

    I remember when I was in 2nd grade. I told my mom I didn’t like what she packed me for lunch and I was going to make my own lunch from now on. She said fine and I made my own lunch every day from that point on. She even mentioned once she thought I made good choices. Sandwich, piece of fruit, celery and carrot sticks.

  2. “letting kids problem-solve, gain trust, and take reasonable risks.”

    yes, Yes, YES! – I love this approach!

  3. Wes says:

    it depends on how you view work. if your view is some type of successor to the puritan work ethic, the work is healthy, purifying, and the path to righteousness/dependence. However, for most people, every hour they spend on the job is an hour their boss get more of their time than they do. We spend out whole lives working. My parents discouraged me from trading the only time I had to be young for minimum wages dollars to buy junk, and I’ll be sure to do the same.

  4. Pingback: Messy, True, But Worth It: Real Duct Tape Parenting Adventures | Vicki Hoefle

  5. Erin says:

    Terrific! We’re raising adults, not children. Friends are shocked that all my kids (6-14) make their own lunches, get their own snacks and drinks, have chores, etc. It’s not hard. You catch them when they’re 2 and they WANT to help, then they’re “sucked in” and can’t help it! My children also know that we will pay for necessities, but anything else (car, cell phone, etc) is THEIR responsibility and we expect them to earn it somehow. Too many adults (in age only) leech off their parents because said parents didn’t want to “make” them do anything responsible.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Erin, sounds as if you might be from Vermont! Or at least read Vicki’s book/ could have written it yourself. Leeching goes on as long as parents let it, and responsibility feels great. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. L.C. says:

    Great post, Heather. My observation comes from a (former) child’s perspective. I’m 23 now.

    I think it’s interesting how Vicki gives doing laundry as an example of something kids should know before age 9. My mother refused to teach me how to do laundry when I asked, which was multiple times throughout my childhood (including a few weeks before I left for college). Her reason? I “should” know how to do laundry at age 17, and she forbade me from even TRYING, because I would probably make a mistake and ruin the whole load. When I arrived on campus three weeks later, I triple-checked the directions on the detergent bottle and washing machine, then pressed the little “start” button…and heaved a huge sigh of relief when I didn’t blow up the machine. I was competent enough to do a load of laundry! Who knew?!

    Additionally, my parents always complained that I was “lazy” and “never did anything around the house.” I specifically remember asking my parents when I was 7 for more chores (I’ll admit it’s because I wanted more allowance. That, and I was tired of being labeled “lazy” even though I worked hard and got straight A’s in school). My parents laughed it off, saying even if I asked to help around the house, I still wouldn’t do it. And on the occasion where I did do chores (like cleaning the bathroom), my parents would often barge in and “correct” whatever I was doing. When they did that, I always slunk back to my room and stayed there, because even if I did “get up and do something,” it was always done wrong. It was better if I just sat in my room and did nothing and listened as my parents complained about how much work they have to do.

    So my message to parents (and myself as a future parent) is that your kids WILL make mistakes doing chores. Maybe they will accidentally tie-dye your laundry, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ever attempt it. Maybe they will miss a ton of spots while cleaning the bathroom counter, but you can’t expect them to do better if you just yank the sponge out of their hand and tell them what a sloppy job they’re doing. Raising confident children is not about telling them “great job” at every minor achievement. It’s about making them feel like they matter, and that their efforts are needed to sustain the household – not like they’re just some lazy lump who is begrudgingly waited on hand and foot.

    Again, great post. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Interview with Vicki Hoefle: Author of “Duct Tape Parenting,” PLUS a GIVEAWAY! | Abundant Life Children