It's not easy having kids, especially in a city as youthful as SF (that's a nice way of mentioning Peter Pan syndrome). But just because you've got little ones in tow doesn't mean your favorite city spots are off limits to you. It's just a matter of taking a little Urban Parenting 101.
To get to scoop on parenting, we talked to Vicki Hoefle, author of the forthcoming book Duct Tape Parenting. Vicki is a parenting expert and she's bringing all her knowledge to the city on August 28, when she'll throw a book launch party at The Office at Churchill, including free food and booze and tons of parenting advice. (It's from 6-9pm, in case you need to schedule your babysitter).
The biggest problem in parenting today? Vicki says that parents tend to talk and do too much, when they should be backing off and taking a "less is more attitude" (the name of her book stems from her experiment putting duct tape over her mouth so that she could really watch and listen to her kids).
In the land of perfectionist parents, Vicki's advice to back off and let kids be kids has a nice ring to it. But how to implement in specific situations, especially out and about? We turned to the expert and compiled this list of specific how-tos for positive parenting your young child in the big city.
Last Minute Shopping. The next time you find yourself running out for a last
minute shop at Whole Foods or Bi-Rite, ensure that you and your toddler return home with
smiles instead of tears.
1. Instead of bribing your toddler with a treat or threatening with a
punishment to ensure cooperation, enlist their help. Ask them to hold
your list, or cross off the words as you throw your ingredients into
the cart (it’s okay if they can’t read, they just want to be part of the
2. Hold up pieces of fruit and ask “Which one do you think looks the
best?” Then put it in your basket and watch the smile explode from
ear to ear.
3. Ask them to weigh the specialty items and then put the tie around the
cellophane so the mushrooms don’t fall out (this might take a minute
or two which will keep him interested and engaged).
4. Ask them to help you scour the shelves for a mystery ingredient and
give them clues with color and size (if you have a child old enough to
catch or throw, ask them to toss it to you or catch it).
5. Bring a calculator they can bang away on and read them numbers to
punch in explaining how important the job is.
Eating Out: Eating out with kids doesn’t have to include nagging, giving the
evil eye or giving in to demands. The next time you find yourself at Park Tavern or Mamacitas:
1. Start your meal with a quick game of I Spy to engage your child and let them know they
will be included in the conversation, but not in control of it. This
also allows them to look around and notice what other people in the
restaurant are doing (and not doing).
2. Talk about the menu and what your child might want to order. Make
this a slow interesting conversation. No one likes to be rushed into
ordering noodles with butter. If they are verbal, let them order when
the waitress arrives at the table.
3. Play a game of tic-tac-toe or hangman and put the focus on the child.
4. When the meal arrives, let your child at it. Better they make a mess,
but do it themselves, then you get into a power struggle trying to coax,
plead or force feed.
5. Engage in an interesting conversation that you know will catch the
interest of your child – a vacation spot, what movie to see next week,
what book to read when you get home.
6. Allow your child to handle paying the bill.
Park Etiquette. We all know that a day in the park isn’t always, a day at the
park. To ensure you have a date with your child worth remembering when
you next visit Koret’s Children Quarter or Dolores Park follow these simple
1. Dress your child for mud, water, dirt and anything else the park might
offer up (this is no time to parade your child in that decidedly cute
outfit from Giggles.
2. Limit snack choices by packing 2 so you aren’t spending time fighting
about which food, or digging in your bag every 5 minutes – (if you
have the child pack the snack himself you are sure to experience
success when they complain of hunger pangs).
3. Don’t worry about the hairy eyeball from onlookers as you give
your child space to explore this great environment. Remember, kids
are curious and this is how they learn. Leave your hovering, over
protective, neurotic mothering at home in the closet. And if you must
say something to the hairy-eyeballer, let them know you are raising a
thinking child and thinking kids are messy.
4. Let the bumps and bruises, scrapes and scratches go without too
much fussing. Carry some band aids and antiseptic and let your child
take care of his own boo-boo. Remember, this is part of the adventure
of going to the park.
5. Instead of giving 10 reminders that you will be leaving in one minute
(not), invite your child to help you get ready to go and plan on being
in the car within 2 minutes of your preparation. The more time you
waste talking – either to friends or your child, the more chance there
is that things will go wrong.
Cool Kids Activities. This is always both a blessing and a curse in life with
kids. The next time the Academy of Sciences or Discovery Museum offers a
great child friendly class for kids, make sure you:
1. Check your expectations at the door. Kids live in the here and now
and are more concerned with indulging their curious natures than
sitting quietly listening as the “nice lady tells a story”, or painting in
the lines, or forming their clay into the pretty pot.
2. Make sure you are ready to leave at a moments notice when your
child first indicates that she is bored, distracted, distressed or angry
you brought her here in the first place (it will make the next outing
even more pleasant as your child begins to connect the dots).
3. Be ready to ignore parents who like to give other parents the “tsk tsk”
if their four-year-old acts like a four-year-old. Smile nicely and know
that you are raising the kind of child who is going to chew up all life
has to offer, not sit on the sidelines quietly.
Big Adventures In a city that offers big thrills, Giant’s games for instance,
it’s important to plan accordingly. What might seem like a great time for
an adult, could look more like a nightmare to a child. To ensure a magical
memory try the following:
1. Make sure it’s age appropriate. If there is a lot of sitting, and you have
a toddler who is learning to walk, you might want to sit this one out.
2. Know your surroundings. Kids get bored and when they do, they
make mischief so be ready for frequent walks and provide other
3. Keep them hydrated. The number one reason kids melt-down can be
attributed to dehydration and fatigue, so watch for both.
4. Like adults, kids like to “eat-out” at big events. Be ready to buy, try
and throw as they taste their way through each vending station. Hey,
it’s part of the magic. And don’t worry. One day of junk food won’t kill
them. You survived didn’t you?
5. Tuck a cozy blanket into your back-pack in case they fade and need a
quick nap in between innings.
6. Be ready to leave the ball-park when the outing looses interest for
your child. Remember, you want the memory to be a fond one.
Raising kids in an electric, diverse and interesting city like San Francisco is a dream
for many parents. Enjoy it!