Archive for the ‘Blogs by Gayle Swift’ Category

Navigating the School Year with Intention

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 @ 01:08 PM
Author: admin

navigating-the-school-year-with-intentionSchools have already reopened in my community which reminds me of the need for intentionality in how we guide our children through the school year. Parents and students all hope for a good year, one that filled with learning–both academic and relational–and grows their ability to be in the driver’s seat of their lives. (After all, the point of parenting is to put ourselves out of a job: to raise kids that can succeed on their own.) So, how do we accomplish this vital goal? Operating purely on intuition is not enough; we need a plan–a map–that shows the route we intend to take.

To design any functional map, we must know two facts: the departure point and the destination. The shortest route would simply draw a straight line from point A to point B. But life is never that linear, that free from unexpected obstacles and delays. We must plan for contingencies, pack supplies for “emergencies”, and draw out alternate routes “just in case.” What landmarks (benchmarks) do we want our kids to achieve? Keep in mind that our actions make a broader impact than our words. “Do as I say, not as I do,” never works. Our actions must reflect and embody our words and expectations. Make a list of possible goals.

We must exemplify whatever is on our “wish” list. This provides the model and the proof of our commitment to it. What behaviors do we wish to see? How do we encourage/reinforce these behaviors when our children demonstrate them? How are we modeling the same behaviors? How do we extinguish undesirable behaviors? Remember the distinction between discipline and consequences. The first aims to teach; the second aims to punish.

What skills do our children want to develop?

It’s important that they participate in goal defining and setting. This is an important mindset and is a skill that benefits from practice. Clarity helps to focus their choices and it strengthens their commitment and desire. We must validate and understand their goals, dreams and motivations, then discern how we can help them define, refine, and accomplish them. 

What skills do we want them to develop?


Getting self up in the morning

Completing homework

Putting forth full effort

Learning from mistakes

Playing a sport

Being physically active

Managing tech time

Expanding their circle of friends

Being compassionate

Helping others

Showing respect for teachers

Create a work/life balance

Be accountable

Admit errors

Identifying their personal strengths as well as growth points

Seeing school as a tool that helps them accomplish their life goals


What values do we want them to embrace?

Confidence, competence, courage, resilience,

persistence, compassion, service, open-mindedness,

curiosity, conviction, self-discipline, delayed gratification,

 emotional balance, joy, conscience, morality, humor,

awareness, creativity, forgiveness of others and self,

respect for self and others, truth telling and truth seeking

What habits do we want them to internalize?

Good nutrition,

Adequate rest,


Make time for self-reflection


When we demonstrate intentionality about our personal and family goals we show our children not only that planning is essential for success but also we prove it is a priority for us, it’s part of our approach to goal accomplishment. It also reduces the chaos of living with a seat-of-the-pants, handling brush fires as they come. Having a life blueprint alerts us to digressions that lure us off track; we can then decide if it is a welcome diversion or a distraction we choose to avoid. It’s important to note that our expectations may get “in the way” if they are not developmentally ready to achieve at the level we would like them to be. Staying “attuned” and in communication with our kids at all times is our ultimate goal. We must nurture the child before us and not expect him to be the embodiment of a “fantasy child.” that exists only in our imagination.





Everybody Is A Critic

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 @ 01:07 PM
Author: admin

everybody-is-a-criticWe’re all familiar with the old saying, “Everybody is a critic.” Feedback occurs regularly in life. People hand it out all the time. Often with negative results. Why? Because it is a skill that we rarely teach. As a result, feedback often results in fireworks, hurt feelings and damaged relationships. It should only be offered with permission and it should be free from any hidden agenda. This is especially true in families where we know each other’s hot buttons and vulnerabilities. This inside knowledge primes us for connection; it also means we know how to cut one another to the quick with a glance, a comment or silence.

And few people have been taught the essential distinction between a critique and criticism. A critique strives to analyze and evaluate, to identify merit as well as shortcomings, to strike a balance so improvement can result. Criticism, on the other hand, seeks to find fault. It can turn into shame and strike at our core identity. Most people slip into criticism when they offer feedback. It’s frequently delivered with anger or malice.

As parents, we have several chances each day to provide feedback to our spouses, partners and children. It’s important that we do so with an eye to strengthening the relationship and not on cutting the other person down. Relationships are fragile. As adoptive parents, we must attune to our children. Balance our interactions with our children. Make sure that the scale tips in favor of interactions that create connection. Spend time having fun together, creating memories that last a lifetime. Provide discipline when necessary. Share the wisdom and knowledge, coaching them on how to improve, but offer it sparingly; no one likes to feel constantly judged. (Before sharing any feedback, pause. Make sure that you are delivering information that will help them improve rather than venting your own frustration or anger.)

Before we let the words fall from our mouth we must identify our motive because it will have a significant effect on our word selection and tone of voice. These factors will shape the way our family members will receive our message. Let’s consider an example.

everybody-is-a-criticThink back to the last time you offered feedback to a family member. What was your mood? Were you “in their face” or calm? What was your true intent? How was your feedback received? How did each of you feel afterwards? Was it the result you wanted?

Now imagine a “do over.” How might you improve your result?

Before you answer, let’s explore some guidelines on how to frame feedback. First, it must be accurate, purposeful and empathetic. Second, identify your motive. Are you genuinely interested in helping them? Next, is the timing appropriate? Is the listener in an approachable frame of mind? Are other people present? Remember nobody enjoys having shortcomings pointed out in front of an audience. Children deserve the same privacy boundaries you would want for yourselves.

Before you dish out any feedback, set the stage for success. Choose a time when your child or spouse is like to feel receptive and open. Select a place that is conducive to having a sensitive conversation. Secure permission. Uninvited feedback is likely to be rebuffed or ignored. In fact, it’s apt to trigger conflict.

everybody-is-a-criticOnce you’ve ticked all these boxes, consider how and what you will say. Think H2O*. Begin and end with something positive. Be genuine. Then share your insight. Always conclude with something that is positive. Tackle one thing at a time, piling on the critiques is discouraging and counterproductive.

When offering your critique, follow the “FORMS” method. Ensure your feedback is Factual, Observable, Reliable, Measurable, and Specific. Base feedback on the current event and present moment not on past failings or actions. Avoid language such as always and never. Speak calmly and neutrally. Then let it go. Give them time to evaluate and absorb the information.

everybody-is-a-criticParental behavior provides a clear model for children to follow. In order to teach them how to provide feedback, make an important distinction. Are you offering criticism or a critique? Be brutally honest with yourself. Motive matters. A lot.

Like all skills, successfully providing constructive feedback takes practice. Create opportunities for children to do this. For example, name one night each week “Food Critics Night.” Tell them you want mealtimes to be better for you and them. (Mutual goal!) Remind them that they must frame their answers with kindness. (Empathy!) Pass out notepaper and ask them to rate the food. (This shows them you value their opinion.) Provide categories like, eye appeal, flavor, what they liked most, what they liked least, and if they’d like to have it again. (Helps them focus on specifics.)

Your response to their answers will show them how to receive feedback. Keep in mind that your request for feedback demonstrates that it is not to be feared. In fact, it can be a welcome and useful way to gather information. “Negative” feedback is one person’s perception, not an attack on you personally. Feedback is not good or bad, right or wrong. It is simply information about how we are in the world and how someone perceives us. Listen to the feedback. Evaluate it. Integrate it. Or, toss it!

Of course, if you receive similar feedback from several people, that might suggest an adjustment would be appropriate.

*Adapted from material    © 2003 Resource Realizations

Some Questions Don’t Deserve Answers

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 05:07 PM
Author: admin

All families need healthy boundaries, especially adoptive families because we encounter rude incursions into our private business with greater frequency than non-adopted families. People are curious about us, our bonds, our children and our “stories.” They yearn to know the inside scoop. And their interest is not always out of compassion. Sometimes people’s prurient curiosity seeks “dirt” not facts. Some people may have a genuine desire to understand how adoptive families are formed and how they grow to be a loving family unit but may fail to recognize how private and personal their questions are.

Regardless of their motives, when inquisitive folks ask questions they often pose them at inopportune moments or places and/or fail to consider if we would want to share the information they seek. Equally offensive, they may ask questions in front of our kids–questions that would be inappropriate or hurtful to discuss in our children’s presence.

We must train ourselves to remember this: some questions do not deserve an answer. They deserve only a return question: Why would you want to know? If we decide we want to respond, we should first get clarity on the questioner’s motives. Are they interested in becoming adoptive parents themselves? Or are they just nosey? There are times, places and people who are available to provide the information being sought. It isn’t always us, isn’t always at the moment they ask, and isn’t always information we care to share. AND THAT IS OKAY!  We have the right to withhold an answer. In some cases, we have an obligation to hold our personal boundary and decline to answer.

We must develop well-honed skills both in defining and holding boundaries. As Intentional Parents, we must model this skill so that our children can observe the process in action. Throughout their lives, they will encounter people who feel free to ask intrusive questions and/or offer them unsolicited and inappropriate advice. They must be taught how to respond in ways that preserve their privacy and their self-esteem.

So when someone asks us a personal question within earshot of our kids, treat it as a teaching moment. Imagine being on-stage at Carnegie Hall, spotlights aimed right on us. Think carefully about how and what we say and stay conscious not only of our words but also our tone and our body language. Each of these factors is an important element in our response and helps how it will be received. And it will color what our children will infer about our reply and how it reflects on them.

Although the children may appear to be unaware of the conversation, typically they are alert observers in such a situation. Feigning preoccupation with their own activity serves as camouflage for vigilant attention that takes note of the interaction in meticulous detail. This is our moment to demonstrate how to stand up for oneself, one’s privacy, and one’s boundaries. It can be done with courtesy and still be effective,

After the encounter, it’s essential we debrief our children. Make sure they understood what happened and why we responded the way we did. Point up how the person violated a boundary of common courtesy. Teach the distinction between private and secret. We should share private information only with those whom we trust and whom we know will respect and honor our trust. We don’t give personal information to strangers or casual acquaintances. Share details only with those who meet both the trustworthy test and who also have a genuine need to know. Our children’s information belongs to them; be very, very certain that this person needs to know it. Once shared, the information cannot ever be “unheard.”

Avoid telling children information is secret. This suggests it must be hidden because it is shameful. Adoptees are predisposed to feel shame about being adopted; they don’t need another reason to feel it. Labelling information as secret also teaches kids that it is okay to keep secrets. We don’t want either of these outcomes.

Children tend to think from a self-oriented point of view. In adopted children, this commonly results in their falsely believe that somehow they caused their adoption. So it is vital to ensure that children realize that any annoyance we displayed toward a rude questioner was aimed at that person and that it is not the children’s fault in any way.

It is vital that we never allow our need to please others or avoid awkwardness and confrontations to bully us into answering inappropriate answers. Rude questions deserve a response that clearly holds our personal boundaries. We can be pleasant and still be assertive, confident caretakers of our family’s boundaries and personal information.

Teaching our children how and why they should stand up for themselves is an important life skill. It molds them into compassionate people who respect others and who are capable of standing up for right instead of remaining mute in the face of bullying of themselves or others. Courage is something that benefits from practice. Acting with courage in the small moments of life help prepare and strengthen us for life’s big challenges.

Fireflies, S’mores and Star-filled Skies: Making Family Memories

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 @ 01:07 PM
Author: admin

fireflies-smores-and-star-filled-skies-making-family-memoriesAs adherents of Adoption-attunement, we believe that having fun together as a family is an integral factor in building successful connection and attachment. It is far too easy to get hyper-focused on the education and discipline aspect of parenting and to lose sight of the priority fun needs to serve. Summer offers a perfect time for reprioritizing our focus.

Ensure that the memories your family shares include far more happy times than times of anger and disconnection.

How can we best bring joy into our daily family life? Get outdoors! We all know that spending time in nature benefits us in both body and spirit. Children crave being outside curling their bare toes in the sand, digging in the mud, climbing trees and running with the sheer pleasure of being alive.

fireflies-smores-and-star-filled-skies-making-family-memoriesIf ultra-high temperatures dissuade you from getting out, why not try some twilight of after-dark activities? Remember the delight of catching fireflies? Here are just a few ideas:

Spread a blanket and admire the stars.

Have a picnic supper.

Set out a dessert bar and indulge. Let kids pile on the ingredients. (Resume healthier eating on the next day.)

Make s’mores, play squirt gun or flashlight tag.

Take a night-hike around the neighborhood.


Dig deep into your own childhood memories and rediscover the simple activities you loved to share with your family and then update them for your own kids.

Please share your ideas and family traditions so we can all have more fun being family.



The Emotional Connection between Speaking and Listening

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 @ 12:06 PM
Author: admin

the-emotional-connection-between-speaking-and-listeningEven without a caption, we can infer that the dad in this photo clearly wants his son to listen. This graphic explodes with emotion. Negative energy stirs within ourselves as we look at it. It awakens memories of similar conversations where emotion overwhelmed reason. We can hear our own personal “inner” soundtrack replaying the audio from our own experiences.

When yelling occurs, it supersedes communicating. Both persons involved in the “conversation” feel overwhelmed, angry and “injured” to some degree. Neither is listening. Resentment and anger amplify; each person focuses on the righteousness of his own position. This hyper-focus tends to negate or invalidate the opposing viewpoint. When emotion hijacks* our intellect, little or no communication occurs.

Effective communication requires mutual respect and openness.

As Intentional parents, we will want to practice ways to ratchet down emotionally charged conversations. Develop strategies for addressing frustration and anger in the moment. These skills take time and practice to master!

We must regularly remind ourselves of this intention. Save the earnest discussions for times when parents and children are not in meltdown.


The second photo, on the other hand, conveys the polar opposite emotional content from the first. Both father and son appear engaged and attentive to one another. They are emotionally open and available to hold a meaningful conversation. For most of us, the picture triggers personal memories of feeling heard and validated. It is in these types of interactions that communication and connection occur.

The point of this post holds true for all of our conversations, not only those between parent and child.

How will you use the insight gained from this blog to help you improve your communication at home and out in the broader world?,204,203,200_.jpg
*For more information about emotional hijacking, read Daniel Goleman’s seminal book, Emotional Intelligence