Archive for the ‘Faith and Values’ Category

Money Talks: The Connection between Spending and Values

Thursday, February 2, 2017 @ 03:02 AM
Author: admin

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?Americans have a cultural belief: Money Talks. What is yours saying? How strong is the connection between our spending and our values?

After tracking your spending for a week–or more–what useful information emerged? Dissect the information with a Learning Eye. instead of a critical or judgmental one. Using this neutral approach reminds us to look for leverage points for change and to step away from any inclination to fault-find or judge. (Information is power–and our friend–when we allow it to be so.)

In today’s post we will consider several questions. We’ll examine the data that shows how our cash was actually spent versus how we’d assumed and/or intended. Get ready to discover “golden nuggets” to which we’ve been previously blind. (Imagine that.) So …

What did your spending over the last two weeks say? First, the appearance of a disparity between expectation and reality is neither a good or bad thing. It is simply information. So, if your chart reveals this kind of gap, the next step is to identify what drove the financial decision. Was it a response to an immediate but unexpected financial priority to which you intentionally appropriated money? Or, was it an impulse expenditure.

If the latter, dig deeper to identify what drove the choice: stress, hunger, time constraints, loneliness, pressure from family, friends or co-workers, community or world issues, etc. By identifying the reason, the leverage point for creating better decisions in the future becomes clear.

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?How well did it embody your Core Values? This can be a more challenging inference to accept. Has habit led us to spend money in a way that does not reflect our Core Values? Which spending choices revealed an abandonment or weakening of our values compass? Examine each choice separately. Get as clear a mental picture of the factors that occurred at the time you spent the money. List who was present. Recall your emotional state as well as any other details that you can. How did that group of factors make it easy to veer away from your values?

When the chart indicated that an expenditure aligned well with your values, ask the same questions as above. This will help identify the thoughts, circumstances and systems that help keep you aligned with your values.

What role did impulsivity play?  Let’s face it. Modern life is BUSY. We never seem to have sufficient time, energy or money. Sometimes it is easier to spend spontaneously without first calculating if it is prudent or not. Once we’ve noted the factors that led to spontaneous (un-Intentional) spending, we can use that awareness to decide with more Intention in the future. Revealing the specific influence opens the door to new strategies.

For example, daily stops at Starbucks can add up quickly. What is this expense accomplishing for you? Perhaps it a dash of needed self-indulgence. How else might that be accomplished in a less costly way that also aligns with your values? Or it might be a way of denying that money is tight because “It’s only a few bucks” so of course it’s okay. It could be a reflection of many possible factors, e.g. poor time management, unhealthy eating habits, hunger, or a behavior that is part of a group-identity. Whatever the reasons, they provide valuable insight. What opportunities for change did it highlight?

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?

To what extent did Intentionality govern your spending? Again, look at the factors and circumstances that supported your decision-making. Identify how you can create those factors more often. Note which relationships and circumstances support your values-based living as well as those which divert you. What can you do to moderate any negative influences in a way that honors your Core Values, yourself and your family? How can you avoid or limit the occasions that draw you off from your commitment to your values?

What will be your first action step in response to this exercise ?  How will it benefit your family? How will you involve the entire family in raising awareness of the connection between your Core Values and your spending habits?
Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?

The Nativity through an Adoption Lens, Part 2

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 @ 06:12 AM
Author: admin

The influence of Christmas surrounds us whether it is part of one’s faith tradition and beliefs or not. Most people probably “know” the Nativity story— even non-Christians.  This blog written by GIFT coach and Lutheran minister, Sally Ankerfelt, continues our look at the Nativity through an adoption lens.  The Chrismas story may trigger questions and concerns for adoptees. Sally offers parents insights to help them reassure their children through the season. While her thoughts flow through a faith-based filter, there are insights for all adoptive families regardless of their faith tradition.

the-nativity-through-an-adoption-lens-part-2.Pregnant Mary holding stomach at manger on Christmas EveIn the next week or two, congregations across the nation will present the traditional “Christmas Pageant.” The birth of Jesus will be re-enacted by the youngest of the fold. You may even have a child who will be a part of this play, dressed up as a shepherd, a wise man, Mary or Joseph.

In our last blog, we asked, “What do our (adopted) children see and experience at Christmas?” We talked about the popular image of The Holy Family being tight-knit, cozy, warm, and a model of what a faithful family should be.

Yet, for our adopted children and, perhaps, for us as adoptive families, we may struggle to see how we fit into this picture. Even worse, adoptive children and families may see how they fall short of this ideal family.

But, a closer look at the story of Jesus and his birth reveals an almost opposite picture of The Holy Family. In fact, the real, non-Christmas-pageant family has elements that adoptive children and families may quickly recognize.

First, Mary and Joseph were not a traditional couple. In fact, from the human eyes of Mary and Joseph, this pregnancy was unplanned and scandalous. Joseph had the notion to “dismiss [Mary] quietly” and go on with his life. He was asked by God to parent this child which was not his. Joseph takes on the role of dad, loving and claiming Jesus as his own. Does this sound familiar? Already, we see in the story an element of adoption, that in the mind of God, a father can have a son whose parentage is different.

Mary also is a woman who is asked to bear someone else’s child. From the time the angel tells her she will bear the Savior of the World, she recognizes that this child belongs to God.

the-nativity-through-an-adoption-lens-part-2.Home in handsSecond, the Holy Family is transient. Mary and Joseph wander far from their home in Nazareth to  Bethlehem, a city of strangers. There, they look for a place to give birth and experience many closed doors before an inn-keeper sees their need. For adoptive families who have searched and traveled far, Mary and Joseph’s experience may ring true. For adoptive children who have been in foster care and moved from place to place, the transient and uncertain nature of where the infant Jesus will finally “lay down its sweet head” (from the carol, Away in a Manger) may bring a note of recognition.

When we tell these parts of the Christmas story, we as adoptive children and families may see ourselves.  From the beginning, this Holy Family is a family formed with people on the margins and in difficult situations. The story is layered with what it means to be family and with an understanding that “family” means more than just a tight-knit nuclear unit.

The amazing thing about this manger story is that it does not end on that Holy Night, when the traditional Christmas pageant curtains close. Jesus continues to introduce us to a new type of family, one defined by declaration, love, and loyalty.

the-nativity-through-an-adoption-lens-part-2.Happy multicultural family having a nice summer day

That baby in a manger and his parents are indeed a Holy Family. But, they are not the kind of Holy Family we often see at pageants and in pictures. This Holy Family is holy because it reflects the messiness of life while expanding our definition of what it means to be family. Families can be created in unique and haphazard circumstances. Families can be more than birth parents and children. They can include other parents, as well (foster parents, step parents, etc.). And families formed simply by declaration that shows they are, indeed, fully parents and children, and are just as much a family as any.

I encourage those who are celebrating Christmas to read your children the Christmas story. As you go along, pause in your telling, gently offering this background information to your children. Questions of curiosity can introduce the ideas, such as “Did you know that Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were like our family? Joseph and Mary were the dad and mom, but God was, too.” Or “Did you know that Mary and Joseph were afraid to be parents because they knew that they had a child that they had to share with God?” or “I wonder what Jesus felt growing up, knowing he had Mary and Joseph as his parents but God as his parent, too.”

The questions themselves can do the teaching while we, as adoptive parents, do the watching, listening and validating.

Letting our children know that they have a place in the Christmas story may bring a new experience of Christmas: inclusion rather than exclusion, a confirmation that even families that have loss as a part of their beginnings are just as beautiful, real, and holy as any other.

 

Empathy and the Intentional Family

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

Unselfie.41rIXftU6RL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200Unselfie._Americans value success. We believe our land of opportunity rewards hard work and determination. Last week we discussed Dr. Michele Borba’s excellent book, Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me WorldDr. Borba asked us to consider that we can focus on traditional success-producing skills and even increase the likelihood of success if we place equal emphasis on empathy. This allows us to raise children who shine both as human beings and as high achieving go-getters.

As Intentional Parents, how does fostering empathy influence our parenting priorities, practices and choices? What will we change, eliminate. add, or emphasize? How will it alter our expectations of our own behavior as well as our children’s?

EQ Emotional IntelligencePsychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman coined the concept of Emotional Intelligence and defined it in terms of five elements. Empathy is one of those foundational ingredients. When we parent with an awareness of the role emotions and emotional intelligence play, we can work with our children to nurture them to maturity as well-rounded individuals who succeed in all aspects of their being.

We cannot intimidate our children into behaving. Yelling will not elicit their cooperation. We must carefully nurture their internalization of family values and their decision to live by them. We do not want to be their wardens; we want to be their role models.

Frustrated mother behind angry daughter in provocative clothingHow does this look in action within our Intentional families? Imagine a moment of disagreement between you and your child … You’re frustrated, maybe even angry and worried. You are determined to hold strong and deny what your child has requested.

Now imagine their response… Most likely your decision evoked their anger as well as disappointment. This mutual anger feeds off itself and each of you digs in, amplifies your certainty about the rightness of your stance.

How might an Intentional Parent handle this scenario differently? Remember the recent topics of Deep Listening and Empathy. How might it look when Adoption-attuned parents embrace those two principles?

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Here’s a sample dialog.

First acknowledge the obvious: “Wow, you really feel angry and disappointed.” Expect them to double-down on this position and their anger. LISTEN. Do not debate our attempt to change their mind. At this point, do not reiterate your position or impose consequences for their behavior. They will probably keep blowing up, expecting push back from you. Your lack of resistance confounds them, alters their expectations, and, interrupts the pattern of arguing.

Second, deliver a second unexpected response: validate their emotions. Genuinely empathize with them. “I get angry too when things don’t go my way.” Anticipate an emotion-charged reply. And again, listen… Allow them to unload until their fury dissipates, the “emotional hijacking” ends and, they are capable of listening.

Third, maintain a neutral stance and repeat their position, enumerating their reasons and desired goal. Seek affirmation that you’ve expressed their position to their satisfaction. The goal here is not to create a winner and a loser. It is to sustain a relationship, model respect and to inculcate our Values. (Later when everyone is calm, address the issue of disagreeing with respect. Practice it; do overs are much more effective than shouting matches. Remember both parties benefit from this practice.)

Finally, restate your parental position. Include any adjustments only if you are now willing to consider them. Choose your language precisely. avoid the word “but.” It is a relationship killer. For example. if Trevor cannot attend his friend’s party, reiterate their  request, then express your stance like this: You had your heart set on going. Many of your friends will be there AND we stand by our decision that you cannot join them.”

At this point do NOT expect that they’ll slap on a happy face and enthusiastically accept your decision. Do expect them to abide by it. Allow them the time and space to be disappointed and vent their anger–in their room. Choosing empathy and Deep Listening does not mean parents stand there like a punching bag. Walk away and do not reignite the discussion. If necessary, reply once, “Asked and answered,” then disengage with calm and respect.

Recall a recent argument between yourself and your child (or spouse.) How might have this empathy based approach improved the interaction?

Planks, Platforms & Parenting

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 @ 03:07 PM
Author: admin

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As coaches committed to Intentional Parenting, we strive to support parents’ efforts to successfully fulfill their Purpose for becoming a family and to identify the Values that define them.

Adoption is a complicated process which usually involves much soul-searching, lengthy waits, and the revelation of a great deal of very personal information to outsiders who sit as both gatekeepers and judges of our worthiness to parent. Once we’ve completed the process and our wonderful kiddos have joined our families, we exhale in relief. Many of us never reexamine the home study materials.

What if we revisited the questions posed during the home study process–without the sword of failure hanging over your head? How might this lead to important conversations with your spouse? Now that children actually are part of your family, how has your parenting philosophy changed? Consider these questions and discussion points with your partner. Where do you agree and where are you conflicted?

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What are the five Primary Values by which you live?

What is your Family Purpose? (Write it down. Post it conspicuously)

Look for inconsistencies in parenting style. Create a unified plan.

Examine faith matters. How will faith be lived within the family?

Clarify behavioral standards. What and why are they important?

Choose disciplinary techniques. (Be sure they are adoption-                 appropriate, Time In not Time Out)

Set family priorities and individual priorities

Identify individual attachment styles. Understand why/how they are important.

Identify preferred Love Language  (further reading)

What patterns recur in your families of origin? In your children’s family of origin? Which are “keepers” and which do you want to eliminate?

How will you handle conflict? How will you repair damaged relationships?

How genuinely do your extended families accept your children?

What measures will you take to ensure your children get the love,     respect, acceptance and attention they deserve.

How “high” is your Adoption-attunement Quotient?

Any signs that “rose-colored glasses” might be hiding some hard truths?

Also discuss these ideas with your children. Learn what they think and believe. Explore with genuine curiosity. Be careful not to suggest that their ideas, feelings and goals are silly or wrong. They have value because they are important to them!

Use the Deep Listening strategies we’ve discussed in previous blogs; strive to understand their dreams and motives. (This level of attentive connection is rarely experienced. If you’ve ever shared that kind of moment, it feels almost sacred.)

Study the graphic that headlines this post. This is one example of the “planks” on which parent(s) may build a family. What are the elements of your family “platform”?

 

Listening to Understand, Not to Refute

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 @ 06:07 PM
Author: admin

Listen to understand

Authentic listening is one of the most essential communication skills and one of the hardest to master. Often, we listen with an ear to refute or rebut what the speaker says. This is especially common when we listen to our kids. We seek ways to convince them of the rightness of our own position, and/or the unreasonableness of theirs. We focus on getting our point across instead of listening to their point of view.

Imagine what might happen if we chose to turn off the Gotcha! mentality and decided to listen deeply, to attend to each point the child is making. Without interrupting them. Without predetermining our response. Without telegraphing judgment, doubt or other negative response in either word or body language.

Imagine asking for clarity until we truly “get” their point and can respectfully repeat their points precisely.  How many of us have ever delivered that level of deep listening? Whaaat? You might be thinking, “I’m not letting the kiddos run the show.. I’m not giving in to their whining, etc.” That is not what we propose.

understand not agreeHere’s the pivotal distinction: listening for authentic understanding does not promise agreement; it promises a respectful, open heart and mind. Once we genuinely hear each of the speaker’s points, we can see both the position and their intended goal.

From this point, we can seek to build agreement, compromise of even disagreement. People will be more inclined to accept your response if they feel fully heard. Of course, there is no guarantee they’ll be happy but they will have had an experience rooted in respect. That interaction builds connection, teaches them  good communication skills and affirms the Family Value of respect. Have you ever been the recipient of this kind of listening? Recall how affirming that felt. Now imagine choosing to be that kind of listener. Imagine the potential impact on your family…

Distinction.Think Speak Hear From the vantage point of Intentional Parenting, we strive to engage in ways that build attachment, embody our Family Values, and successfully communicate our points of view. Stack the odds for a successful conversation by following these steps to mastering Deep Listening.

Consider timing: Deep Listening requires that both listener and speaker be fully engaged. Choose the time for your conversations; the immediate moment might not be your best option. For example, the middle of a play-off game, during one’s favorite TV show,  etc, probably won’t attract the most attentive or cooperative response.

Rephrase their points in your own words Then ask for affirmation that you have stated their point of view correctly. Repeat this sequence until they confirm that you’ve “gotten” their position.

State your response with empathy and respect. Monitor your tone and body language. Resist the temptation to be dismissive, irritated or, patronizing; these will undermine the entire process. Attitude will directly affect your effort to communicate respectfully.

1 conversation 3 POVsBe aware of the distinction between what you intend to say, what you actually say and what the listener thinks you said. An entire universe of misunderstanding can take place in those spaces. Note the graphic on the left for some examples of how conversations can be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Both parties have interior conversations with themselves about what is spoken, what was intended and what they inferred was being said. Often the “history” between the two colors the interaction more than what is actually said. Both parent and child need to periodically update their inner transcript to reflect and acknowledge changes in behavior. In the absence of this updating, any efforts to change go unnoticed and former, less healthy patterns will most likely reestablish themselves.

Track progressTrack your progress. Observe how this level of authentic listening impacts your family dynamics. Acknowledge the small improvements. Every step is valuable. Notice the changes in your feelings, family morale and the effectiveness of your conversations. How has this positive focus spilled over into other areas of family dynamics?

Review any less-than-successful interactions to identify the points at which your Intention fell apart or fell short of your goal. Make those leverage points your focus as you recommit to improving family communication.

Courage beginner

It takes courage to be a beginner. None of us like to look or feel inadequate.  But it is worth the struggle! Acknowledge that it is not easy to master new skills. It will take many times at bat before consistent improve occurs. Allow yourself–and the rest of the family–time and practice to accomplish this goal. Remain steadfast in the face of any failures and turn those shortfalls into stepping stones to success.

When will you take on this mindful communication practice?