Posts Tagged ‘Intentional Parenting’

Intentionality and Parenting in a Time of Social Unrest

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

Intentionality and Parenting in a Time of Social Unrest-bullying-social unrest

The tragic events in Virginia this past weekend have left the entire country reeling. Violence has taken root in America at a degree never previously seen. As a country we are at a crossroads. Each and every one of us must determine how he or she will respond. Distinct from any one political stand, the current turmoil offers an opportunity for parents to practice Intentionality.

As Intentional parents we commit to pro-activity instead of reactivity. We must decide how we will walk our families through these challenging days, weeks, years. How will we interpret these events to our children and help them understand what it means for them, our families and our communities?

What will we do to ensure that our country reflects our personal values? The obvious first step is to clarify the values by which we choose to live. Then we must inculcate those values in our children.

We do that in two ways. One is through our words. Language matters, has emotional “weight.” When chosen well, language can bridge divides. It can also damage relationships, intimidate and incite violence. Language can be balm or flamethrower, be gentle or cataclysmic. Life-giving or life-taking.

We get to choose and our choices serve double duty. Not only do our words convey our stance to our kids, they provide them the vocabulary to talk about it with others. Our family discussions will provide a forum for them to learn, to test and to question. These explorations will prepare them to hold conversation with others outside the family. Knowledgeable, intentional conversations. That is a good thing.

Intentionality and Parenting in a Time of Social Unrest.Dad talks to sonThe other way we hold and work for our values is to take action. We must move beyond platitudes and lip service. If we assert that health is a family value, the way we live, eat and, exercise must reflect that. If we espouse respect for the earth, our household habits must embody that.

Whatever values we espouse, people should be able to infer them from the way we live our lives. Our actions form the most effective curriculum for teaching our kids and for shaping our country.

Let us take time to pause, reflect, and assess our “job performance” on teaching/living our values. Where are the successes? Where are the best leverage points for change? What will be the first step? What has to stop? What has to begin? What will be the evidence that the adjustments have been effective?


Our Job as Parents

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 @ 12:05 PM
Author: admin

Our Job as Parents.puddle jumping familyMother’s Day and Father’s Day focus attention on the importance of our job as parents. To our children, we are the life raft in which they find security, love, affirmation, and shared history. We educate, coach, and counsel. We serve as confidants and strive to instill a conscience. We represent the nurturing and care which provide children a sturdy foundation on which to build their lives. For all the love and commitment we bring to our families, we also bring our humanity, character flaws and imperfections. How can we be the parents our children deserve?

One of the most important things we can choose as parents is to ensure two things. First, we must work at our relationships with our spouse (or significant Other).  Our relationship serves as our children’s template when they begin selecting people to date and ultimately when they choose a life partner. Our children will study the way we treat each other. Their observations will outline what they want and expect from a partner. (It will influence how they choose and treat their friends as well.)

Taking care of ourselves is the second, essential thing that we must choose as parents. Everything we do, serves as a role model. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred-and-sixty-five days a year we are always “on stage.” There’s no getting around it. Our kiddoes are always watching. And learning. When we over-give or engage in perfectionism, they notice. When we comment on our looks, belittle ourselves or disparage our abilities, they absorb the message.

Equally true, when we practice good mental hygiene, make time for exercise, eat well and nurture our talents, our kids take note as well. Intentional Parents periodically remind ourselves of this fact. We are the hub of the family wheel. If we break down, the family journey experiences a rough ride. In the long run, it is a greater kindness to our kids to ensure that we take adequate care of ourselves. Making this a priority blesses the entire family.

Our Job as Parents.Mother's Day quote

While observing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day recommit to this AAQ* process which focuses on the unique needs of our families.  While adoption profoundly reshapes our children’s lives, it also permanently changes us. Adoption is fundamentally a family experience. Each of us is changed by it. Forever.

In last week’s blog we talked about the importance of sharing family fun. Consider these questions to help you get started.

How will you celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day as a family?

How will you create a space for your children to share their feelings about/with their birth parents?

In what way will you remember and honor their birth parents?

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?


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?

Detoxing Language: Becoming Conscious of the Power of Words

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 @ 10:04 PM
Author: admin


family differences captionedAll families have differences. We are after all, not clones but individuals. Adoptive families are even more likely to have areas where preferences and inclinations don’t quite synchronize. Most of the time we can appreciate the zest and spice that our children’s differences add to our families.

Sometimes, however, their aptitudes and inclinations challenge us. A family of sports nuts, for example, may be utterly confounded by their child’s total disinterest in things athletic. Or, a family whose generations have been steeped in the arts, music and dance may be frustrated with their child’s refusal to engage while they focus their complete attention on sports.

As Intentional Parents we make an effort to nurture our children’s talents and interests. We strive to respect the spectrum of the entire  family’s aptitudes, successes and struggles with mutual respect. Sometimes we utter language that undermines our good intentions.

Little girl having a temper tantrum with her desperate mother in background

What happens then? Words have power, convey emotion and often carry unspoken judgment hidden between the lines. Consider the distinction between these pairs of words: slender or scrawny; lazy or easily distracted; assertive or bossy, confident or arrogant. Each conveys a different emotional tone–one accepts, the other criticizes. The listener is sure to feel the distinction. At best they receive a mixed message; at worst they understand and absorb the implied criticism.

Although the old adage says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” we all know the truth that contradicts this old saw. Some words cut to the core, flay the spirit, and destroy self-esteem. Once spoken and heard, such toxic words cannot be taken back, “unheard” or forgotten. Forgiveness may follow, but the memory of such verbal poison and the emotional message they convey, will linger. The scar will remain as a permanent memory of a painful experience.

When our child pursues an activity which we find dull, uninteresting or even not “worthwhile,”  the judgmental part of our consciousness may undermine our best intentions. For example, a sports nut mom, may find it excruciating to listen to her child drone in minute detail about a piece of music or favorite film. She might make an auto-pilot comment like, “That’s interesting.” That phrase commonly operates as code for BORING. At best it damns with “faint praise.” Often our body language conveys our authentic feelings: eyes roll or avoid contact, mouth gapes open or we continue to focus on our own task rather than fully engage with our child.

Why is this important? In our families, we dedicate ourselves to s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g our family culture to include not only our generational patterns but also those which our children introduced. We commit to a higher standard of connection and communication with our children. This requires a conscious awareness of both the literal and emotional meaning to the words we share and a strict dedication to avoid outright toxic words and phrases. Adoption World is rife with potential hand grenade words.

toxic talk croppedIn an earlier blog about Toxic Talk we explored the quicksand of harsh words and the damage they can inflict on our children. Adoption has its roots in loss–for parent and child–and this reality can leave us vulnerable to feelings of shame, self-doubt and, inadequacy. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, when people feel hurt, they tend to lash out in response. It is helpful to remind ourselves of this when our kids dish out hurtful or rejecting comments. The heat of the moment is not time for a rational discussion.

We prepare for these conversations ahead of time and remind ourselves that though the words are directed at us–and may be intentionally hurtful–they’re usually  our child’s effort to unload pain and to shift it to parents.


From GIFT coach, Sally Ankerfelt: “Slipping up” is bound to happen. Hopefully, the negative phrases mentioned in the blog  will not be part of the slip-up. But, our slip-ups can be an opportunity to model How to make an effective apology:
Effective apology.cf4ddf8a327ea4b93474122cf9b135e81. State specifically what was said or done that was wrong. (i.e. “I called you a name and that was very wrong.)
2. State the hurt you caused. (“I see by your reaction how that hurt you.”)
3. State how your actions made you feel. ( i.e. “I feel sick that I said that because that is not how I truly feel about you.”)
4. Explain how you will act in the future. (i.e. “Next time I get so angry, I am going to count to five and take five deep breaths. If I need
to, I am going to take a short walk around the house to calm down before we talk it out.”)
5. Be good on your word and follow through with the plan.
6. The final step is for us as parents not to dwell on or continue to beat ourselves up for what we have said or done. We have to forgive ourselves, too, so that we can move forward with confidence and be the parents we seek to be. This step, too, is very important for our children to witness so that they can learn self-forgiveness and moving on when they falter in their own lives.





Growing Intentional Families

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 @ 04:09 PM
Author: admin

People help each other to achieve their goals, desires and aspirations concept

No one accidentally adopts, right? We pursued adoption with passion. determination and single-mindedness. It required significant, time energy and commitment to become adoptive parents.

We must pursue parenting with equal intensity, one that is infused with a thorough awareness of the challenges unique to adoptive parenting. This requires a redesign of the parenting templates which our own parents used to raise us. We must replace these strategies with ones that consider our children’s needs–those common to all children, plus, those which emanate from their being adopted. This requires parenting with intention.

Intentional Parenting is both an attitude of the heart as well as a well-informed, well-educated approach. It is steeped in adoption-attunement* and respects the reality of our children’s needs, sensitivities and dual emotional loyalties. Intentional Parents (IPs*) understand we are not rivals with birth parents; we are teammates who love the same child and  are all committed to that child’s well-being, happiness and personal growth.

directionIPs* recognize  adoption did not cure infertility nor does our child’s secure attachment to us erase her connection to, or interest in her birth family. Moreover, intentional parents have a clear vision of their Purpose, Values and Goals as a parent and for their families. (Note that these terms are capitalized to indicate that these are not generalized, communal ideas. Instead, these concepts result from careful thought and discussion which distilled them to a core group, one that deeply resonates with us as individuals. These criteria then become the basis of our parental blueprint.)

In our coaching, we have frequently found parents have not paused to actively engage in a process of identifying, Purpose, Values, and Goals. Instead, they operate on intuition and “autopilot,” assuming their partner agrees. This is unfortunate because it leaves mismatches between the partner’s unexposed and can lead to division in parenting approach. Remember, each partner was raised in a separate family of origin. Their experiences may parallel their partner’s. But it may vary–a little or a lot. Children are experts at “divide and conquer,” so this Purpose, Values, and Goals defining process is a vital task for parents.

compassExplore these sample questions with a partner. Even if this discussion has already been held, it is worth revisiting periodically. It alerts  us to where we have slipped off-course, fallen short or forgotten something entirely.

Purpose operates as one of the points of our parenting compass. It is a soul-steeped awareness that creates the reason why we chose to be parents. It goes beyond simply wanting to follow the natural cycle of life, of wanting to be equal participants in the parenting world of our friends and relatives. Purpose connects to a core spirituality.

What is it about being a parent that infuses meaning in your life? How does parenting reflect your philosophy of life? Of a child’s role in the family” In the world at large? How do your faith and spiritual beliefs influence your parenting?

Create a list of values that are important to you. Keep in mind that Values go beyond a moral code. They define who we are.  We suffer internal conflict when we are not upholding these Values.  It is imperative to identify the values on which you and your partner align as well as those on which compromise cannot occur. Which ones actively guide your thoughts, choices and behavior?  These are your core Values, the ones that infuse your parenting philosophy and goals. Identifying  core Values establishes another compass point for your family life.

 smooth familyIntentional parents also spend time refining their parental Goals. Most parents want to raise children who are happy, healthy–both physically and emotionally– and who grow to contribute to society. Think “roots and wings.” Parents want their children to build a firm foundation which provides the launching pad that propels them into their adult lives. Intentional adoptive parents also commit to nurturing a child’s natural talents and abilities even if they are different from patterns typical in the history of our family. (Highlighting the ways are kids are similar to us is a common “claiming” behavior but it is essential that this be balanced with an appreciation for the many ways our kids differ from us. We must ensure that our children believe that their differences enrich our families lest they infer that they must hide or be ashamed of their differences.)



Make an actual list of your Goals. Ask yourself how your parenting philosophy and strategies serve these goals. How fully are you living them? What blocks you from living them 100%? Which create the greatest challenge for you as a parent? For your children? Revisit the list on a regular basis to identify progress as well as opportunities for changes in strategy and priorities.

How will intentional parenting help your family? What will be the first steps you will take? How might working with a GIFT family coach assist you?