My parenting journey began 24 years ago, with the birth of my first child. Like most new parents, I knew nothing about children except for my own experience of having been a child. I parented the best I could with the little I knew, and during the first 14 years of raising my first 4 children, I felt like I was doing a decent job of being a father. Then my wife and I adopted two children from foster care, and my world was transformed.
It was evident right away that our foster care training had not adequately prepared us to parent children from hard places. Nor were we prepared for the challenges that adoption would bring to our biological children. Before long, our previously calm and well-ordered family environment sank into chaos. Our adopted kids were floundering, our biological kids were floundering, and my wife and I were floundering most of all. We needed help, but we didn’t even know what questions to ask.
Thus began my journey to discovering connected parenting. At a conference on parenting kids from hard places, I was challenged to re-examine my parenting from an unfamiliar perspective: what if my children had been telling me what was wrong all along, but I hadn’t been listening? I soon had an opportunity to put this new idea to the test. When my 6 year old didn't want to go to soccer, I suppressed the impulse to shove his cleats on his feet, and hustle him out the door. Instead, I sat with him, and asked him what was wrong. After 20 minutes of gentle coaxing, he was able to share that he was afraid of losing another game. Losing hurt, and he didn't want to feel that again.
Then I told him something I never would have done before I chose to listen. I told him that I would not make him go to soccer if he was scared, and that it would be his choice to go or not go. Three days later, he went to his soccer game with a smile on his face, and I never again saw so much as a hint of being afraid to go to soccer. As I watched his game, I marveled at how affirming my son's feelings, instead of dismissing them, had transformed my frightened and worried boy into a happy and confident boy.
In the same way that tugging on a loose thread will unravel a piece of fabric, this new perspective began tugging away at everything I thought I knew about parenting. The past 9 years has been an ongoing process of weaving together a new understanding. I sought to understand everything that I had been missing. I attended more conferences. I read books. I watched videos. I found the research that the conferences, books and videos cited, and I read the raw research as well. Although I found that the studying was helpful, I still struggled to incorporate what I learned into my parenting.
To remedy this problem, I found coaches who had lived this same journey of parenting kids from hard places. They were able to observe what I could not see in myself, and gently point out what I needed to change about myself to be present with my kids. They also modeled what I was missing, so that I could observe the application of parenting strategies first hand. But most of all, they helped me to turn the knowledge I already possessed into action. Apart from the initial discovery of connected parenting, coaching was the single biggest turning point in my parenting journey.
Around the same time, I joined a Facebook group called Parenting with Connection, and I was not surprised to see that most parents found the transition to connected parenting every bit as difficult as I had. As I participated in the group, I used my lengthy experience in software engineering, product management, and project management to take the information I studied, organize it, identify patterns, and communicate what I had learned in a way that made complex and intimidating topics understandable and approachable. Now a moderator in that group, I have read and commented on thousands of posts from parents just like you. I have also absorbed the wisdom from tens of thousands of comments by the many other experienced connected parents in the group.
I left behind a prosperous three decade career in software engineering and management to start Seen and Heard. I did so without a single regret. Because of the profound impact connected parenting has had on my own family, my passion for solving technical problems has transformed into a passion for helping other families who are struggling. I love to see families break free from the chaos, conflict, and battles for control. When families learn to navigate the challenges creating discord and heartache, they are no longer stuck in disharmony, and are able to build deeply connected, fulfilling, healing relationships.
At the beginning of my adoption journey, I wondered if our lives would ever be normal again. As time went on and our struggles increased, I accepted that my family would never again return to the "normal” we once had. Instead, we found our way to a new normal, and discovered that where we arrived was way better than where we started. Perhaps you are reading this because you or your family is struggling. Maybe you also need to find your new normal. I believe that you can. It won't be easy, but you don’t have to find your way alone. To get my help, just click here to get started. You, too, deserve to be Seen and Heard.