When I talk about Duct Tape Parenting to my friends, I often do so with a little giggle, explaining that the duct tape is for our (the parents’) mouths. This is funny in so many ways, especially when envisioning it in practice, but there is so much truth to this idea: when we parents keep quiet, a world of possibilities can open up to our children.
The idea is simple, yet often requires super-human strength to carry through. Is it really possible for us to not butt in, micromanage, judge, suggest, or otherwise interfere with our children as they move through the world from ages 1 to 21?
I don’t know about you, but the idea of leaving my children to their own devices in certain areas can give me the willies. What if they mess up, don’t get it right, or their actions have a poor reflection on me?
Yet think about it this way: What if they discover who they want to be without fear of my judgment? What if they learn through experiencing the outside world what works and doesn’t work for themselves and in relation to others? What if their creativity and ingenuity teaches them that they can solve problems on their own? What if they fall down and learn they have the courage to get back up again? What if they learn how to take care of their responsibilities so they feel capable when they leave our homes? What if…?
Duct tape is exactly what our kids need in a world where parents are bribing their children’s way into college and where anxiety and depression are on the rise for our teens. What our children need when they leave our homes is to know how to navigate all that life throws their way, and it is hard to learn this if we are micromanaging, telling our kids what to do and how to do it, warning them about all the pitfalls, and paving the way for them.
Of course the duct tape isn’t out 24-7. We are there to love, encourage, support, and teach our kids. We are there to connect with our children, have fun, and create a solid relationship. We are there to invite them in to begin navigating and exploring what life has to offer. And importantly we step in if things are morally or physically dangerous, because even though we use duct tape, we are there to maintain boundaries.
The balance between knowing where to step in and where to hold our tongues in everyday moments is what can be the challenge, but if you believe in the premise and can calm your fears and strong emotions, your gut will show you the way.
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Vicki and I are thrilled to reinvigorate Duct Tape Parenting, and we are here for you.