My morning routines used to be pretty streamlined. My older daughter knew to do her “three morning things”: brush hair, brush teeth, get dressed. My younger let me bathe and dress her in whatever I chose.
Sometime between those days and the present, which finds them both opinionated in the ways of fashion, I’ve slipped into the role of nag.
“I am not going to ask you again to put your shoes on,” I’ll say for the fifth time, before noticing that the shoeless girl’s sister has a head of hair that resembles a trash heap with a headband plopped on top. I’m not sure exactly how I allowed this slide, but I know I’m the only one who can end it.
Now comes a book that suggests my solution should be to do nothing. Or, really, do nothing and say nothing.
That’s the approach advocated by Vicki Hoefle in “Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible and Resilient Kids.” She has creating a five-day “challenge” that is a sort of short-term, shock-the-system diet.
The purpose is “to give up all interfering ‘parenting strategies,’ including nagging, reminding, lecturing, punishing, threatening, doing for, saving, bribing, counting or time-outing, for five days and watch what happens.”
The below edited version of Hoefle’s seven-step “Do Nothing, Say Nothing” Challenge lays out the guidelines:
1. Decide how many days you will engage in this exercise. Hoefle suggests five; any fewer and the kids can hold out until you revert to your old ways.
2. Make a list of your worst-case scenarios and specific fears.
3. Sit the kids down and tell them you’re not judging or “grading them,” you just want to stop your nagging.
4. Discuss the hangups and worst-case scenarios with your family: What will the day look like? Go through the day just to get a feel for where the kids might actually require your assistance, but don’t give them last-minute notes on what to do.
5. Expect chaos but don’t give in to it.
6. Every day, take notes about the interfering strategies you’re using, what you are “doing for” your kids and what your assumptions are.
7. Discuss how you can make the family work better for everyone.