Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Adoption Ethics: What It Means, and Why It Matters

Many who are new to adoption or who are choosing to embark on another adoption journey have asked me, what does "adoption ethics" mean?  How can someone have an ethical adoption?  Why is an ethical adoption so important?

I cover this topic extensively in my latest book, and in fact, ethics is the central theme and foundation on which everything I write is built upon.  

Today, I break down for you what each letter of ETHICS stands for in adoption.  

E : empathy

Empathy is absolutely crucial!  Can you put yourself in the shoes of another, feeling their pain and joy, validating their feelings, and supporting their choices?

Empathy can be complicated when you're trying to empathize with your child's birth parents or expectant parents with whom you are matched with.  It's easy to judge their choices and circumstances from your lens of privilege.  I know you might have just winced at that.  But listen, if you're in a place to adopt a child, you are privileged.  Period.  You, as the hopeful adoptive parent, also hold a lot of power.  These this combination of power and privilege, puts you in a place where you are more vulnerable to be tempted to render judgement.  

You'll not only need to be empathetic to your child's birth parents, but to your child. You CANNOT parent an adoptee in a healthy manner without empathy.

How do you develop empathy?  That's a GREAT question.  The following parts of this post should help you.

T:  timing

You've probably heard "timing is everything," and I would agree that timing is VERY important. 

The thing is, not every adoption opportunity is for you.  Not every path is going to lead you to a placement of a child.  And you MUST be OK with this.  You have to decide that ethics is most important:  not a quick or easy placement of a child.  

Timing means slowing down and considering, is this ethical or not?  Timing means praying.  Timing means that even if something takes a long time, that's OK. Timing means sometimes things happen very quickly, and you have to be as prepared a possible.

H:  healthy boundaries

When I went to counseling after my breast cancer surgery, the therapist taught me something important:  boundaries are gifts. 

We tend to look at boundaries as barriers, as rudeness, or as avoidance.  But the truth is, healthy boundaries make for great relationships! 

You have to know where you stand and then stand that ground, even when your "feelings" are telling you otherwise.  The thing is, ethics isn't about feelings.  It's about a standard, an understanding, a foundation.  You need to lead with ETHICS, not fleeting feelings regarding circumstances and situations.  

There's no one-size-fits-all for healthy boundaries between members of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents).  There's a lot to consider.  But a relationship without boundaries is very likely to fail.  

Healthy boundaries make expectations very clear.  A lack of boundaries means there will inevitably be confusion, resentment, and miscommunication.

I:  information

You cannot make ethical decisions without being informed. It's really important to get educated on the specific aspects of adoption.  Great resources include articles, blogs, research studies, conferences, documentaries.  But mostly, I've found face to face conversations with adoption triad members to be the most beneficial (a "village").  Being part of an adoption support group is one way to be able to have safe face to face conversations.   

C: commitment

Adoption isn't just a one time event when the judge declares the finalization.  Adoption is a life-long journey that requires commitment from you as the parent.  It means you're always willing to learn more and new information and apply that to your parenting.  It means being committed to parenting an adoptee (and how to go about doing that).  It means following through on your promises to your child's birth family.   And it also means committing to taking care of yourself so you can be the best parent possible to your child.  

S:  sacredness

Sacredness refers to your recognition and respect for your child's adoption story.  Yes, the story involves you.  But the story isn't about you.   Your child's story is THEIR story.  This means you don't tell it to every random who asks about it.  This means you don't post all your child's business on social media to be "consumed" by those casually scrolling.  This means you speak wisely and intentionally about adoption without compromising your child's privacy.  This means you also respect your child's birth family by not airing their "dirty laundry" (meaning, you aren't handing out information and you sure aren't doing so with an air of judgement about their situation).   

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The 5 Questions Hopeful Adoptive Moms Ask Me the Most


I'm on year #13 of being part of the adoption community.  When a hopeful adoptive mom learns I've had quite a bit of experience, I'm often asked one (or more) of these five questions.

What I tell these women first is that what I experience will not be what you experience.  Every adoption journey is unique.  But I know what they want:  a sense of security, a source of knowledge, and a voice that says, "I get where you are, sister." 

1:  How long did you wait?

We waited the longest during our first adoption journey:  14 months.  During that time we probably had 15 profile showings.  Interestingly, almost all our showings were for white baby boys.   Then, on a balmy November, while painting our kitchen, we got THE call.  A baby girl already born.  

Our second adoption journey was quite different. We assumed we would wait a long time, perhaps even longer than our first time, because we were no longer a childless couple.  But we were wrong.  On our very FIRST day of waiting, we were chosen for a baby girl already born.

Our third adoption journey, we assumed, again, that we would wait longer because we already had two children.  Within two months, we were matched, and then within another two months, placed with our son.  

We waited four years to adopt again, and we were matched BEFORE we officially started waiting, got a homestudy done, and waited four months for our daughter to be born. 

It might seem, on the surface, that we've had an easy road.  But as I've shared previously, we had four "failed" adoptions

2:  How do you choose an agency? 

This is a BIG question, one I cover in my latest book and in several blog posts, including this one on Christian adoption agencies.  I encourage people to read these.  My #1 piece of advice is to choose wisely and not on numbers (stats of the agency placing babies).  We were very fortunate to find small, ethical adoption agencies that were affordable.  I am a big advocate of using an agency vs. trying to find a placement on your own, mostly because going rogue can lead you to be scammed or to engage in an unethical situation.

*I do not recommend agencies.  Because of the turn over in staff, policies, and laws, it's my policy not to make recommendations to families.  Rather, I offer advice on how to CHOOSE an agency. 

3:  What does an open adoption look like?

Open adoption is different for every relationship.  For us, our open adoptions include:  snail mail, texts, FaceTime calls, e-mails, and visits.   Open adoption is NOT easy or simple; it requires a lot of work, commitment, and flexibility.  You also need empathy and grace in order for the open adoption to be successful.  And there are certainly times the adoption should not be open (or wide open).   We believe open adoption, when healthy, can be great for adoptees.  

4:  How could you afford to adopt?  

We used small, ethical, affordable adoption agencies.  We did not choose to fundraise for our adoptions, though I do encourage families who choose to fundraise to do so graciously and appropriately.   Many families apply for grants as well as fundraise.  I cover fundraising in my new book.  Preview:  my #1 tip?  Don't be tacky.  It's not cute.  

5:  Why did we adopted transracially? 

For the first year of our first adoption wait, we were open to a white child.  It was a rather thoughtless decision.  After a year of waiting, we decided to get educated on transracial adoption.  Once we spent many months researching, reading, and talking, we felt that adopting transracially would be a possibility for us.  I write extensively about being a multiracial family (the joys and challenges).  Race absolutely matters!   Adopting transracially is not a decision one should make lightly.   

And despite our family standing out, we are a real, regular family.  

If you're an experienced mama-by-adoption, what are you asked often by those new to adoption?  If you're a new, waiting parent-to-be, what do you want to know more about?  Hit me up on Facebook or Insta and share/ask away! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

When Your Adoptee Asks You the Hard Adoption Questions

"Why can't I see my birth mom?"

This was the moment.  The moment when your child looks at you with large, brown eyes and wants to know, right then and there, the answer to a soul-sinking question.

And you, the mom-by-adoption, are the one responsible for answering it.  And you know, you KNOW, that you how respond matters.  It matters a lot.  

In this moment, your heart is pounding, your breath becomes shallow, and your mind races.  

What will you say?  What will you do?

Have you been here before?  

Your question may have been different:  Why didn't my birth dad want me?  How much was my adoption?  Why did my birth mom keep my sister but not me?  There might be questions about rape or abortion or drugs or special needs. 

The question itself carries so much weight.  And behind it, you know there is so much, starting with the precious human being who didn't have a choice in being adopted.  

You might want to sugarcoat your response.  Maybe "pretty it up."  But you know that's not right or healthy.  Yet you want to spare the feelings of the precious child who is asking something big and important.  Perhaps the answer is beyond the child's maturity and understanding, yet the child was intuitive enough to ask. 

First, please know, you should be thankful.  Yes, I said thankful.

Your child trusted you enough to ask.  Your child was brave enough to ask.  These count for something.  These might count for everything.  

Second, you have the honor of being your child's chosen parent.  Someone chose you:  a birth parent or a social worker or a judge.  Someone decided you were worthy of carrying the title of Mom.  

So what should you do in this precious moment where time both stands still and speeds up?   When your child is looking at you with imploring, hopeful eyes?  

You tell the truth, steeped in empathy.  

Perhaps you don't know the answer.  Say so.  But offer to help your child search, when the time is right, for the answer.  If possible.

Perhaps the answer is beyond your child's ability to comprehend.  Then tell your child, I have the answer, and I will give it to you when you're older.

Perhaps the answer is OK to give now.  Do so.  

Put a gentle hand on your baby, look into his or her eyes, and respond.  Ask how the child feels about what you said.  And then respond with empathy:

-Yes, that's sad, isn't it?

-Yes, that's really difficult to hear.

-Yes, this is hurtful.

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

However your child feels, that is the right way.  And you empathize with that.

Don't make excuses.  Don't avoid.  Don't tamper.  Don't stutter.  Don't embellish. 

Just speak the truth.  

And then be there for your child.  Be the mommy.  Be the steady, secure, serene figure on whom your child can lean upon, continue to trust, and return to time and time again. 

You can do this.  It's not only your job, mama.  It's your sacred honor. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Reasons Why You Should Not Adopt a Child

Yes, you read that correctly.

I know what you're thinking:  there are so many children in the world who need a "good and loving" forever family.  Why would I discourage people from adopting?  

The reasoning is this: when you choose to adopt, the child must be the #1 priority.   

Here are 10 reasons why a person should not adopt, and why: 

1:  You are anti-connective and attachment parenting.

Arguably, adoptees have experienced trauma to some degree (the separation from their biological parents, at birth or later, causes trauma).  That's why parenting based on the understanding of trauma is so important when you're raising an adoptee (person who was adopted).  You cannot parent an adoptee the same way you would parent a biological child, though I think Empowered to Connect (that is, parenting based on "connection and then correction") is reasonable to use on all children.  Want to learn more?  Check out The Connected Child.  

Attachment parenting helps a child, who has had the "break" from their biological family and/or subsequently others they have attached to (foster family, another biological family member, etc.), adjust to his or her new family.  Attachment parenting includes actions such as babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding or "bottle nursing," cocooning, and much more. 

2:  You believe "love conquers all" and "love is all you need."

Love is an essential foundation for any healthy relationship, but it is not "all" that a person needs.  To believe that love will tackle and heal all struggles is naive and does adoptees and disservice.  Of course, love is critically important, but it is a base to build upon, not the "be all, end all" to parenting a child who was adopted. 

3:  You want a child to fulfill your dreams.  

Listen, we adopted because we wanted to be parents:  period.  But we DID NOT adopt a child expecting them to be a certain way in order to fulfill our dreams.  Adoptees come with their own genes (that aren't yours), personalities, preferences, needs, talents, gestures, and physical appearance.  They are who they are, and your job is to embrace them, not seek to change them to fit a "mold" you dreamt up.  Some adoptees struggle with feelings of rejection, and to have you, his or her parents, further "reject" him or her would be detrimental.

4:  You believe a newborn baby or young child is a "blank slate."

A woman is pregnant, full-term, for 40 weeks.  That is 40 weeks of development, growth, and learning for the unborn child.  You are not receiving a child with a "blank slate."  Not even close.  Adoptive parents who have been parenting awhile can confirm this for you.  Again, our children are who they are.   

5:  You don't have the support of your "nearest and dearest."

Adoption is a tumultuous journey.  There are so many ups and downs, and you are going to need support.  And not just general support, but specific support that not only embraces the child to come, but also embraces adoption in general.  There are some great resources for your "nearest and dearest" including In On It and Adoption Is a Family Affair.  I highly recommend that you purchase these books for family members and close friends.

6:  Your circle of friends doesn't include people who will be like your future child.

If you plan to adopt, it would make sense to be friends with people in the adoption community who can help guide you for the long-haul.  These individuals include adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents.  Joining an adoption support group will help you make connections and friends.  If you're adopting a child of color, do you have friends of color?  What about a child with special needs? 

7:  You plan to "tell all."  

Your child's adoption story is his or her story.  It's not yours to share to satisfy the curiosity of others or to give you "all the feels."  Of course, your child's story overlaps with your story, and you do have a family story.  But you need to be very, very careful to never compromise the trust your child has in you to protect his or her privacy.  Your most important job is to raise your child.  

8:  You believe "color doesn't matter."

If you're adopting transracially, it absolutely matters and will matter forevermore.  There is no blowing off race or pretending not to see it.  Race should be celebrated, not ignored. Acknowledged and embraced.  

9:  You see adoption as "plan B" or "second choice" to having your "own" children.

Sometimes, adoption IS your second or third or fourth opportunity to build a family.  However, it is not, or it should be, labeled as something "less than" to the "best" option of having biological children.  If and until you are at the point in which you can pursue adoption with the heart-set that adoption is the way you want to build your family, hold off on adopting.  It's not fair to your future child for you to see him or her as "less than" anything. 

10:  You see adopting a child as a moment in time and not a lifelong journey.  

Adoption is forever.  It doesn't begin the day you start your homestudy process, and it certainly doesn't end the day the judge declares the adoption final.  Because adoption struggles - and joys too - are lifelong.  Just ask any person in the adoption community!  Because adoption is lifelong, you'll need to be prepared to learn about adoption always!  This is an opportunity, not a chore to be dreaded.   Make sure you have the right mindset before embarking on an adoption journey.  

For more on the domestic infant adoption process, from beginning to forever, check out my latest book.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

How To Support Your Loved One Who Is Adopting a Child

Your friend or family member has announced some BIG news:  adoption plans!   And if you're wondering, how do I support him or her on this journey?  What are the right words and actions?  

If you're feeling perplexed, you are aren't alone.  

When we were waiting to adopt, especially the first time, we received a lot of well-intentioned responses...but many of them just weren't helpful.  Instead, they were often awkward, uncomfortable, or just "off."  

All is not lost.  You CAN support and support well.  

1:  Ask how they're doing.

Avoid always asking, "Have you heard anything?" or "Anything new?" (both of which is baby-focused).   Instead, ask, "How are you doing with the adoption journey?" and "How can I best support you right now?"  Then, support!  

2:  Offer to host a waiting-for-baby shower.

So many times, adoptive parents are overlooked.  Just because we are building our family in a non-traditional, less-common way, doesn't mean we aren't real parents with true desires to celebrate.  A shower might be more appropriate after the child is placed in the family.  And speaking of baby-showers, don't forget that a shower might be appreciated for an older child.  

3:  Learn as much as you can.

Learn about adoption:  the terminology, the process, the post-adoption needs, and parenting adoptees.  Two great books to check out (for friends and family) include In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You to Know About Adoption and Adoption is a Family Affair.  Attend an adoption conference alongside your adoptive-parent friend or family member.  Ask your friend or family member for resources. 

4:  Be honest, yet balanced.

It's OK to have your own parenting struggles, to have a biological child (and announce the pregnancy), etc.  If you avoid all "child talk" with your friend or family member who intends to adopt, it will be sensed (AWKWARD) and become an issue in your relationship.  On the other hand, going on and on and on about your breastfeeding struggles gets annoying and uncomfortable for your loved on.  Be sensitive to your friend or family member's journey, but don't hide behind your own.  

5:  Be thoughtful.

Send a "thinking of you" card, buy them an adoption book or a book for their future child, take them on a coffee date (just because), etc.  You know your loved one well:  what would best minister to them as they wait?  

How have you learned to support those who are choosing to adopt? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

5 Ways You Can Love Adoption Differently Than The Majority

Happy Valentine's Day week, dear one!  I thought it fitting that this week, we talk about how to really love adoption, by treating it with the respect it deserves, vs. being "common" like the majority. 

1:  Let the open adoption relationship grow organically.  

Do not rush.  It's not natural.  It's not healthy.  

I know sometimes there are "deadlines" to these things.  Maybe you've been chosen three weeks before the baby is due.  This doesn't mean you're in a state of relationship emergency where you throw all common sense to the wind.  

Remember, the best relationships are ones of quality, not quantity.  The number or texts you exchange doesn't equal the intimacy and commitment needed for a long-standing relationship.  

2:  Say no, even when it's difficult.

You will make many, many decisions along your adoption journey.  Some may seem like no big deal or "easy," while others will be obviously major.  However, all decisions you make are important.  

I've shared many times, every single decision you make today can very well impact your child, the adoptee, forever.  

This is why it's critical that you have a comprehensive understanding of what an ethical adoption is and how to be part of one.  Without this foundation, you'll be subject to making unethical choices, even if these are unintentional.   

When you know something isn't right, you need to have the courage and conviction to say "no" without apology.  You won't regret doing the right thing.

3:  Carefully select an adoption professional to work with, not being easily fooled.  

I've shared so many times that just because an agency has "Christian" in their title, doesn't mean the agency is ethical.  Just because an agency offers you short wait time, because they are "busy," doesn't mean they are a good fit.  Just because an agency has a posh website and maternity home, doesn't mean they are worth the money they demand of you.  

Be a critical thinker.  Choosing an adoption professional isn't solely a heart decision.  It's a head decision, too.  

4:  Commit to a lifetime of adoption education.

Your education is just beginning, because your child, an adoptee, will have needs throughout his or her lifetime that are related to adoption.  How do you get educated and keep getting educated?  You are part of an adoption support group, you are befriending adoption triad members, you are connected to an adoption-competent family therapist, you are reading books and blogs and articles, you are attending conferences.  You do these things so that ultimately, you can give your child what he or she needs.  

5:  Learn as much as you can about connective parenting.  

Connective parenting is gold.  There are solid reasons for parents who have adopted to choose this way of raising their children:  because it works.  Trauma changes the brain.  And honestly?  Connective parenting works for any child.  The methods (eye contact, voice control, re-dos, time-ins, etc.) make life at home more predictable and peaceful.   Even though my four children are very different from one another, they are also all in need of the same things:  connection first, and then correction.  And, of course, love.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

To the (Adoptive) Parent: You are NOT Enough for Your Child

Yep, you read that correctly.

Now before you hit me up on social media telling me what a jerk I am, please allow me to explain.

Adoptive parents spend a lot of time proving themselves.  It starts when they are simply considering adoption and start applying to adoption agencies.  Those applications are like ten pages long and ask some intimate information. 

Once accepted, a longer application, plus background checks, fingerprinting, interviews, home visits ("inspections), financial forms, a physical, and much more.  Then it all has to get approved. 

Once approved, an adoption profile book.  Then the wait.  Then the profile showings and "rejections." 

Then, eventually, a match.  Perhaps a relationship with the expectant parent(s). 

Then the baby is born, and then more waiting. 

Once a placement happens, the six month (give or take) waiting-to-finalize period in which there are post-placement home visits by the social worker, more physicals (of the baby), and reports. 

Finalization:  the ultimate "are you worthy" moment. 

It's a lot of holding your breath.  Of wondering, worrying, and confusion.  Walking on eggshells, even. 

And if you have an open adoption with your child's birth family, you continue to prove yourself forevermore...

It can be exhausting.

I'm not complaining.  I'm stating the truth.  Proving yourself is HARD.  It's mentally draining.  It might even contribute to post-adoption depression

The "prove yourself" is a necessity, of course.  No ethical social worker is going to place a baby with a family that isn't capable of parenting an adoptee.   But that doesn't change the difficulty of always being "on."

Once you've proven, time and time and time again, that you are worthy of parenting, then comes the real life part:  actually parenting.

And I know sometimes (oftentimes?) you want to DIY.  You have yearned, planned, waited.  You are READY to DO THIS! 

But I'm here to tell you, after my decade (plus) of parenting, you are not enough for your child. 

Yes, you read that correctly. 

You are NOT enough for your child.

When you chose to adopt, you chose a very serious, honorable role as a child's mom or dad.  But not just ANY child's mom or dad, an adoptee's mom or dad.

Some argue that there's "no difference" between biological and adopted children.  I do not have the experience of having both.  All of my children were adopted.  However, adoptees tell us, time and time again, that we need to parent our kids in a way that is empathetic to their experience as adopted people. 

What does that mean, exactly?

In essence, adoptees do not share the same experience as biological children.  They often have gaps or mysteries in their pasts, how they "came to be."  They have big feelings and questions about adoption.  Holidays can be hardTraumaversaries are real.   Family tree projects can be challenging.  These are just a few of the many examples. 

And because you didn't conceive, grow, and birth your child, there IS a difference in parenting an adoptee vs. a biological child.  Biological ties are STRONG and innate for some adoptees, and that should be respected. 

What can you do about it, knowing that you aren't enough for your child? 

1:  Always respond with empathy. 

This is my #1 piece of advice.  Your child's struggles SHOULD NOT be met with anger, a brush-off, defensiveness, offense, or anything else besides empathy.   But in order to be empathetic, you MUST understand your child's position.  Therefore, you have to get educated on adoptees:  proactively!   Of course, there is no "one size fits all," but you should explore resources created by adoptees (blogs, books, articles, documentaries, conference speeches, etc.) in order to be prepared!   Two of my favorite adoptee resources are Michelle Madrid Branch's site and Madeleine Melcher's book.   I frequently suggest adoptee-created resources on my Facebook page, too.  (You can grab my free e-book that talks about the importance of empathy here.)  Have plenty of adoption books on-hand like these transracial adoption children's picture books.

2:  Befriend adoptees. 

NOTHING beats face-to-face, hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart conversations.  Social media is awesome, as it can connect people across the world that we may otherwise never know.  However, those relationships aren't intimate or sacred. 

3:  Have an adoption-competent counselor on stand-by.

Again, be proactive.  Find an adoption competent counselor you/your family can check in with when need-be. 

4:  Have a mentor for your child.

I talk about this often in my writing and speaking engagements, because it's so critically important.  Ideally, this person is a same-race (as your child) mentor or an adoptee (or both). 

5:  Understand and appreciate your child's racial culture and implement it.

For our kids, we have a hair braider (for the girls) and a barber (for our son) who are both Black adults.   We also frequent Black owned businesses and historical sites/festivals, and buy books/movies/art/music/toys that feature Black people.  For ourselves as the parents, we read Black written articles, subscribe to Essence magazine, watch movies that educate us, etc.   The learning NEVER stops.  The connecting NEVER stops. 

6:  Speak the truth.

Tell your kids the truth:  that you are SO thankful to be their parents, and you invite others in to your "inner circle" in order to make sure your children feel appreciated, supported, and racially/adoptionally confident. 

How have you supported your child?  

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

5 Successful Parenting Phrases I Use Over and Over Again

I grew up in the days of discipline that involved standing in a corner, a spanking, and/or grounding.  When I was a teen and college student (often working as a babysitter or nanny), parenting evolved to include "time outs," clip charts, and not telling children "no" for fear of ruining their self-esteem.  

Today there are many different types of parenting, often a mix of whatever the parent is feeling on any given day and what they've been raised to believe is best.  But I'm here to tell you, consistency and science-based parenting works! 

The number one book I recommend won't come as a shock to many of you.  If you've been in the adoption or foster care community for any amount of time, you've heard of The Connected Child (and check out the free videos on Empowered to Connect).   When a hopeful or new parent asks me what they need to know, I tell them, read The Connected Child first.  Learn what trauma is and how it changes the brain.  Grow to understand that connective parenting is SO important. 

The main idea of The Connected Child is that we, as parents, first and foremost connect with our kids, and THEN we correct them.  It's a parenting approach that helps kids who have experienced trauma (which arguably CAN extend to children adopted at birth) grow up to be adults who know how to connect with others in a healthy way and succeed in life.

Given our connective-driven approach to parenting, you won't be surprised (though maybe inspired?) by these five successful parenting phrases we use on repeat.

1:  "Try again with respect." 

I say this dozens of times per day.  Granted, I have four kids, so yes, lots of attempts at disrespect.    

This phrase comes directly from Empowered to Connect.  Karyn Purvis encourages us to prompt our children to correct their original attempt by re-stating, in a respectful way, what they need to say or ask us.

The more we have used this phrase with our kids, the more they know EXACTLY what to do next.  Here's an example:

Child:  I'm hungry!  Get me a snack, mom!

Me (acknowledging the child's blood sugar is low after a four-hour gap between lunch and arriving home from school):  That's not how we speak.  Try again with respect.  

Child:  May I have a snack, please?

Me:  Good words!  Absolutely!  What can I get for you?  We have yogurt, or I can get you some trail mix.  

Note that I used a few Purvis/ETC phrases here (I bolded them for you.)  I also offered two choices for my children, so I don't overwhelm them with choices, I give them the power of choosing, and I don't create a situation where they ask for options that I either don't have or don't allow (as a healthy snack).

Why use this phrase?  It trains kids to ask the RIGHT way for what they want or need.

2:  "I'm feeling ____."

When my child is struggling, I offer a prompt.  I say, "I'm feeling..." and the child fills in the blank.  (Sad/mad/angry/hurt.)  Then I say, "Ok.  Why are you feeling sad?"  The child can articulate the events leading to the feeling.  Then we work together to solve the problem and meet the child's need. 

There is NO reason to tell a child how he or she should feel or try to dismiss those feelings.  Rather, addressing them head-on and as a team works!  Plus, we don't want to raise children who are constantly working to repress their feelings OR allow them to build and build until they explosively manifest in unhealthy, inappropriate actions.

Note: a child might be in a place where he or she is too dysregulated to articulate their feelings.  If this is the case, utilize a calm-down space, or lead by saying something like, "I can see you are upset right now.  Let's take some deep breaths together and then talk about how I can help you."  Remember, with ETC, you don't isolate your child or rep reprimand them for having feelings.  You work through the struggle WITH your child. 

3:  "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." 

Sometimes I get really sick of saying, "Try again with respect." (Point #1).  My kids LOVE the fact that they know how to spell respect (thanks to Aretha), so a simple spelling of the word is a great reminder for them to "straighten up."  Plus, spelling a word can be fun and silly, and thus, attention grabbing. 

There's been many times I'll say to my kids, "Come on!  You know!  R-E-S..." and they say, "P-E-C-T." 

4:  "I'm sorry for _____."

There's a lot of apologizing around here!  A lot. 

When I usher my kids into an apology session, we first discuss what happened so I can get to the bottom of the situation.  I give each child a chance to tell his or her side of the story.  I always ask, "Tell me what YOU did wrong, not what your sibling did wrong."  This prompts the children to take ownership of their own actions.  

Then the offender says to the other child, "I'm sorry for ____." (The blank is for the offense.)  They must be making eye contact with each other, and they must use an appropriate tone and volume of voice.  If not, I go back to, "Try again with respect."  After an apology is offered, the receiver says, "I forgive."  Then we move on.

I find that many parents see something happen between kids and force the offending child to "say sorry."  It's superficial and ineffective.  

Take the time to work through the situation.   And keep in mind, not every situation means you have a big come-to-Jesus conversation.  But some situations are certainly important enough to focus on.

5:  "Get it together." 

I know this sounds dismissive, but truly, it's a simple reminder that shenanigans won't be tolerated and instead, will be called out, but in a way that's direct and a bit silly.  Sometimes playful love is exactly what a child needs:  a reminder to be brave, be strong, and act appropriately.   This is NOT a phrase to use when a child is dysregulated for any reason (sensory, fatigue, low blood sugar, etc.).  Rather, this is something I use when a child is on-the-edge of making a series of poor choices, and I don't feel it's serious enough to share #1 ("try again with respect").  

Also, don't get caught up in "correction" so much that you never have fun with your kids.  Affirming your children, spending time with them, cheering them on at their concerts and games, oohing and ahhing over their impressive test score or art project, etc. are all important.  

Remember, you're working to CONNECT and then CORRECT (when needed).