Although Thanksgiving has passed, we are especially grateful for our good fortune as we note that great numbers of folks who have experienced traumatic hardships this year. Many have lost their homes due to the ravages of nature. Fire, floods, and hurricanes remind us how quickly our “stuff” can disappear leaving behind only memories, relationships and our courage to pick up the pieces and go on.
Once again life reminds us that the truly important things have no price tag. Their value is not measured in dollars in cents but in sentiment, caring and commitment. As Intentional Parents, we expend immense energy, effort, and thought on how to build and sustain relationship connections and attachments that can weather any challenge life throws at us. We seek to raise children who are resilient, kind and capable who know in their bones that true worth is not measured in dollars and sense. Our commitment to Intentional Parenting reminds us that the way we spend our time, money, and attention is a clear indication of how we prioritize and embody our family values.
As our neighborhoods come alive with the sparkling decorations of holiday lights we are reminded of how welcome light is whenever we darkness surrounds us—literally or figuratively. Let us challenge ourselves and our children to be sources of light, connectivity, kindness, and generosity.
Avoid the pitfall and stress of overspending when selecting Christmas gifts.
Resolve to spend less on stuff and choose gifts that create ways to spend time together as a family.
Help children to develop a reasonable awareness of your family’s specific financial limitations. As always, our behavior sets a model for our children that will become their template throughout their lives.
Consider what a blessing it is to inculcate financial self-discipline as a family value. It's a gift that lasts a lifetime. #FinancialSelfDiscipline #LifetimeGift #FamilyValues
Make it a priority to participate as a family in at least one activity that helps others. Your group effort will bless both your family and the recipients. This too, is a way we can reinforce family values and bring them to life so they are more than mere words.
As we think back through our childhood holiday memories, most of us cherish the emotions we felt more than the specific gifts we received. Let us strive to create a month that our children will recall through the decades ahead with a full heart and a broad smile. Our time, attention, and affection are the real treasures they need.
Schools 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
Putting forth full effort
Learning from mistakes
Playing a sport
Being physically active
Managing tech time
Expanding their circle of friends
Showing respect for teachers
Create a work/life balance
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?
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.
Lately it feels like disaster looms everywhere. Wildfires burn in the west. Hurricanes assault our coasts. Earthquakes shake the continent. Floodwaters burden Texas. The potential for war with Korea feels possible. Puerto Rico struggles to recover from apocalyptic devastation. White supremacy, racism, civil rights, freedom of the press, health care--all swirl for our attention. Human rights. Civil rights. Personal rights. Adoptee rights.
How do we balance it all and ensure some resolution?
Intention. Values-based solutions. Action. All are necessary.
Choose to resist the pull of trash talk, social media diatribes and finger-pointing. Instead, focus on formulating a well-reasoned stance that partners with an action plan. Whatever your views and values, move beyond talk, complaint and criticism. Change results from action.
Our families are directly affected by all this chaos. Our kids hear the news. They draw inferences. Often they rely on minimal information and sources with questionable accuracy. We all know kids tend to fault themselves like when difficulties such as divorce or adoption occur. Convinced that something about them caused the event to happen, kids shoulder a heavy emotional burden. We can and must help them understand that these circumstances result from adult choices and actions (or inactions.)
As Intentional families, we have a responsibility to help our children understand what is happening within our families, communities and country. Do this in age-appropriate ways. Discuss how your family values affect your thoughts, decisions and actions. Then follow through with ideas for how your family can "do" something to effect the desired results. Get as creative as possible. Choose activities to do as individuals and as a family. Find a way to have fun while you are making a difference.
Develop a family pattern of helping out in the community. Here are a few things you can consider:
Because we are committed to Intentional Parenting, last week we invited readers to consider a time-tracking practice to help identify the way we actually spend out time. We also revisited our Family Values to remind ourselves of their role in identifying priorities. Actions, words and Family Values must align. Our words must reveal and reflect our values. More importantly our actions must bring both words and values to life. When a disconnect occurs between these factors, it makes family life stressed and chaotic. This is why a tracking exercise offers an excellent window into our reality.
One week has now passed. Perhaps you "intended" to take on the practice but then forgot. You still have time. Do it this week. You will still accumulate useful data. (Visit this blog for details on what and how to track.)
Sally Ankerfelt, another of our GIFT coaches reflected on my blog post and made a great suggestion for expanding the scope of our "practice." In addition to tracking how our family spends time, she proposed tracking how we spend money.
Think about it. For almost all of us, money is a finite quantity. We must make conscious choices on how we use it. Every "Yes" is also a "No." While we may think we manage our money thoughtfully and according to our priorities (which emanate from our Values,) a reality-based exercise like this may reveal some surprises. Download and use this graphic to get you started.
For those who did begin the exercise, what have you noticed? (We'll explore those observations in detail next week.)
For those of you who are hesitant, examine what is really behind your reluctance? Some emotions that might block us are: self-doubt; resistance to change that comes from more informed awareness; feeling like your plate is already overfull.
What if you're correct? Wouldn't it make sense then, to identify what can be deleted? When we are too busy, things always fall off our radar, get forgotten or shunted to I'll-do-it-later status. Often this leads to more crises. We then face a barrage of family "fires" that drain us emotionally, financially and consume too much time and energy.
So ... take a breath, start tracking time and money and prepare for some surprises. Most likely you'll find some positive and some negative data. Armed with this information, you can outline a better plan that is more aligned with your Values, dreams and intentions for your family.
Imagine how that might shift the mood of your family. Imagine and then begin! Will you be pleasantly surprised or shocked into Intentional change?
As a first-time grandmother, I watch my year-old grandson with fascination and amazement. Like all babies, fierce determination drives him to learn. He takes trial and error in stride and innately understands that failure is the cost of mastery. I watch him and imagine how amazing we all would be if we retained that unflappable determination.
Experience tells me that eventually, his confidence will diminish. Self-consciousness will compete with his willingness to risk trying new things. Saving face will become more important than working through the embarrassment of being a novice long enough to develop proficiency.
Fear of failure presses kids--and adults-- to avoid trying in the first place or to quit early in the process. This causes the loss of faith in ourselves and we succumb to discouragement.
As I write this blog post, the 2016 Olympics plays in the background. I consider these competitors. They did not fall prey to fear. They did not give up on their dreams. They embraced hard work and commitment, tolerated frustration, achieved success via the information distilled through failure and held onto their dreams of athletic excellence.
As parents, we can help our kids cultivate determination, persistence and acceptance of failure as an integral part of any learning process.
Another figure well-known for his determination comes to mind. Inventor, Thomas Edison who famously quipped, "I know several thousand things that won't work." His life serves as a wonderful model for persistence through failure. What made him so resistant to discouragement and surrender?
As Intentional Parents, how can we help our children be strong, confident and determined? How do we teach them not to fear failure? No surprises here. No magic. Our most effective tool is the way we live our lives so that we model what we wish our kids to learn. All parents know that toddlers study us to learn about their world (flush things down the toilet, unlock baby gates, open cabinets, etc). This learning-through-observation never stops. Whatever their ages, kids watch us and learn. We must always remain conscious of this fact and be very intentional about what we are modeling.
How does this look in action? Consider these steps:
First, set an expectation that success will NOT be easy. Emphasize how often we practice, rehearse, refine and repeat our efforts to learn and perfect our skills. Make clear that we expect to see the similar fits and starts in their lives. Assure children that we do not expect their proficiency to come easily, quickly or without stumbles and resets.
Second, show kids that learning is a lifetime process not just something that happens in the classroom. Let them hear about the challenges we face as adults which require our persistence and determination until we succeed.
Third, encourage effort. Talk about the tasks and skills which we are committed to learning both for work and for personal pleasure.
Convey that learning is valuable for its own sake, something we choose for ourselves, and not simply a burden imposed on us by others. Clue them in to the many tasks we face at work, home and in the community so they are aware of our efforts in action. Unless we call attention to our struggles, kids assume everything is effortless for us. (Obviously, we must use discretion so we avoid burdening our kids with worries that should sit squarely and solely on adult shoulders.)
Fourth, value failure as the road to success. As adults we know that instant success is a myth. Achievement results from effort, commitment and occurs in steps. Each attempt refines our learning and improves our skill, product or understanding. Comment on our own recognition of our incremental progress. ("Wow, I'm able to do that better than my previous time.")
Remember to note our own encounters with the reality of "two steps forward, one step back." Talk about failure in terms of how it propels learning instead of with an eye to fault-finding, comparing to others or belittling the lack of success. Convey an attitude of confidence that says success is possible. Do not play the blame game. It's a dead-end that distracts our attention from revising to fault-finding.
Fifth, share our own struggles to learn. Even if it feels a bit silly, we can take a page out of the toddler play book and speak our inner conversations aloud. This allows kids to hear healthy, respectful self-talk. (It also ensures that we practice what we preach: encourage ourselves. Too often our inner critic is the worst bully we encounter.)
Dreams are important. They spark our creativity, however, they are "future oriented” only. We must help them move beyond "magical thinking" and exemplify for our children that it takes energy and discipline to accomplish dreams--for children and adults.
We must model through our own lives that continual practice eventually lead to “unconscious” remembering and doing. Utilizing feedback fosters flexibility that bends us in the direction most needed. Instead of regarding mistakes as disastrous and dream-ending, we can teach kids to regard them as a way to expose needed adjustments that inch them closer to the fulfillment of their dreams.
How might your family benefit from this five-pronged approach to life as a learning conversation. What possibilities might it open? How might it strengthen relationships? Practice this for two weeks and notice how it influences family morale and then share your thoughts with us.
For a fun family read, that focuses on learning through failure, check out this review of Timeless Thomas written and illustrated by Gene Barretta. It opens with the lines, "Have you ever thought about inventing something of your own? You're never too young to try." What a fun invitation to spark a dream in a child's mind. Heck, I will paraphrase that quote and say, "You're never too old to try."
Sally: 612-203-6530 | Susan: 541-788-8001 | Joann: 312-576-5755 | Gayle: 772-285-9607