Teaching our deeply-held values to our children is one of our most important parental tasks. It is a truism that our children learn more from our actions than our words. But children often remain oblivious to the values-based thinking that governs our actions. Instead, they hold their observations under an umbrella of that’s what parents do. They rarely ponder the reason which might have driven our decisions. In fact, they are often convinced that we decide out of meanness, spite or a general desire to make their lives miserable!
To ensure that kids get the lesson behind every choice we make, we must make the thoughts and choices visible to them and share our reasons for doing these things. Even if we feel silly or self-conscious, let's choose to do it anyway. Imparting our values is too important to leave to chance or the wavering attention of children. Here are just a few examples:
We visited Tom in the hospital because he’s our friend and we wanted him to know we care about him and value his friendship.
We’re attending this community fundraiser because we believe in their efforts to help provide food for people in need.
I’m taking this class because I always wanted to learn….
I’m working on behalf of this candidate because I think he/she will serve us well.
I recycle because it is good for the environment so you can grow up in a clean world.
Even if you get the biggest eye rolls, not only will they have seen your actions, they will understand the reasons that motivated you. Over the stretch of time, they will begin to observe a pattern of behaviors and choices that will serve as a template of values in action that they can follow.
I celebrated my birthday this month and my son gave me a pair of earrings, long dangly ones, exactly what I like. But what made them reallyspecial was they bore this tag: “100% Socially Reinvested to Transform the Lives of Women. One Bead. One Hope.” I took note of the tag line and my son said, “Yeah, well… I know you go for that kind of stuff.”
This tickled me because I do try to shop at businesses that make a difference. And my son noticed.
Perhaps our kids will embrace the same values or causes that we hold dear. Perhaps not. But if we allow them to become aware of how we live a values-based life, they will recognize the importance of values as our guiding compass.
One of our family values is “to be a contribution.” As I try to teach this value to my little grandson, I talk about how important it is to be a helper. He now understands that we value helpfulness. Yet he has not fully learned the many ways one can be helpful. Our job is to teach them how to be helpful:
Thank you for getting your plate out of the cabinet, that was helpful.
Thank you for getting my water shoes out of my closet. You are a helper!
It is also important and effective to point out the ways in which we help them. This further expands the ways in which helpfulness occurs and it increases their awareness and appreciation for the ways we help them. This in turn highlights the warm feelings which we/they experience when someone helps them. A win/win for all of us!
I found the toy car you lost and I put it on your shelf. I feel happy when I help you.
I fixed your bicycle tire; you can ride it again. I enjoy watching you ride it.
Another benefit of intentionally making our values visible is that it brings them to consciousness. We automatically become more aware of them andwhen we succeed or fail to live them well. Our actions become more aligned with our intentions and our children become more immersed in our values.
Choose one core value to focus on this week. How will you exemplify it? How will your children be able to experience it? How will you help them to live it within their own actions?
Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.
Read these book reviews by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift. They are written with an Adoption-attuned perspective.
Reweaving connection...so much of life depends on our ability to accomplish this. Families built via adoption live this reality in a unique life-redefining way! We understand the effort and importance involved.
Whether a relationship breach exists between spouses (or significant others,) between/among friends or, among larger social groups like classrooms, offices, communities and countries, repair is an essential part of keeping relationships alive and healthy. Relationship repair takes work, requires accountability, cooperation and, commitment. It is challenging to admit we've messed up, fallen short or, failed. While not easy, it is worth it.
The many horrific weather events that have confronted the world recently, remind us that working together smooths the pathway to rebuilding damage. It is impossible to do it alone. We need every skill set. Every contribution is valuable. None of us can sit back and do nothing. Each of us can contribute something.
Sunday night in Las Vegas redefined ghastly. Evil.
When moral and social values completely collapse--as in the case of this massacre--we reel with shock, despair, anger and helplessness. However, we must not succumb to these emotions. Yes, they have their place and time. We must move beyond the outrage and DO SOMETHING. Channel the anger and frustration into productive directions.
Move beyond outrage. DO SOMETHING to create change. Channel the anger and frustration into productive directions. We all belong to the human family.
Contemporary society focuses too much on difference, division, and viewing other people as obstacles to our goals and happiness. While practical steps are essential, we must recast the conversation of negativity, disrespect, hate and "othering." We must upend this destructive paradigm and embrace a world view built on respect, cooperation, empathy and common purpose. We must resist petty distractions and focus on doing what is right instead of what is easy or comfortable.
How can we become part of the solutions? Sending donations and writing checks certainly helps, but we must do more. The adage "Think globally. Work locally." must guide us. Family is the most "local" place on which to focus our attention. Do an honest gut check about how well we are exemplifying and teaching our children our values. Then, expand our assessments into other layers of our lives: work/school, community, country, etc. Let us be brave enough to ask the hard questions and acknowledge the reality. This allows us to identify shortfalls or disappointments and then focus on creating the change we desire.
Here are a few questions to consider.
Do I practice the "Golden Rule?"
Do I speak and interact with respect?
Do I welcome and absorb feedback without arguing why it is wrong?
When I offer feedback, is it free of any hidden agenda or petty emotions?
Do I encourage and acknowledge the efforts of others without tacking on criticism?
Do I respect differing viewpoints?
Do I listen to understand without formulating a rebuttal?
When expressing my own viewpoints do I allow space for divergent positions?
Can I disagree without making it a personal attack on the other person?
Do I work to improve the inequities around me?
Do I feed conversations that inspire and encourage?
Do I disparage and complain, dismiss the struggles of others as their fault or not my concern?
Do I look beyond overt differences to see the common humanity of others?
Am I amplifying convesations that reinforce hate and anger?
Am I advancing conversations that build solutions instead of simply venting anger?
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.
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?
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?
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.
In 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.
Second, 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.
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.
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 World. Dr. 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?
Psychologist 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.
How 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?
Sally: 612-203-6530 | Susan: 541-788-8001 | Joann: 312-576-5755 | Gayle: 772-285-9607