What exactly is “smart parenting”?

June 27, 2016 Attachment, Kelly, movies, Parenting Special Needs 9 Comments

I figured when I shared here on NHBO about our decision to wait to see Finding Dory on DVD that it would be a well read post. The movie had just come out which meant that there were a whole lot of mamas and dads perusing the web for reviews and the like before a family night out at the theater. What I did not expect was that the post would be so widely shared and that it would generate as much dialogue as it did right here via comments and on other associated social media platforms.

Dialogue is good. It connects us, makes a one-way conversation an interactive one, challenges us. This time was no different. Some parents appreciated my take on things and approach with our kids as described in that post; some were glad to have the heads up about the movie; some not so much. I’m quite okay with that really. I devote a lot of time to researching and processing and being intentional when it comes to parenting our kids — after all, I actually get paid by the hour to help other adoptive families do that sort of thing, so I better be doing it myself, right? But, in the end, I’m just a mom trying to put what I know to be true into practice who often feels like I need the support and coaching that people come to me for. It’s by God’s grace that I get things right when I do. So, yeah, to those who said I was overthinking it; you are right, I totally was. And, to those who said I was sheltering our kids, I can see that, sure, I might be.

While I didn’t read it all, I did read a good bit of the dialogue about the post. One particular comment made me take pause:

“…I am so glad my parents weren’t like you. I mean seriously, come on, you honestly think dosing out a movie to your children with constant ‘let’s explore our feelings’ barrages is smart parenting? I emphatically disagree….life is never so soft and safe as your delivery method. Our children are in for hard times and heartbreaks, no matter how we try to warn, prep, or train them to deal with. I’d rather mine have a little more ‘hide’ on them, and some room to discover themselves and their emotions without mollycoddling them like you mention….”


I don’t think that drawing any sort of conclusion of my parenting skills based on one explanation of my approach to a single movie is not “smart logic.” But, this man’s comment did lead me to ask myself how I would answer the question: what exactly is “smart parenting” anyway?

When I come alongside parents who are looking for some help with strategies to help them help their kids, I always emphasize message over the strategy itself. The message drives the strategy. As I approach our own kids, I do my best (which is far from perfect) to do the same and consider message over strategy. What am I telling my kids? What message am I sending them when I do a, b, or c? And, what message are they receiving? Do they match up?

Whether I am seeing a less than stellar report card for the first or twentieth time, responding to a tantrum, breaking up a sibling argument, catching him or her in a lie, responding to another unreasonable demand, facing a breakdown over something seemingly insignificant, or being proactive to give my child a little extra support to better set her child up for success, I want my child to hear the following messages:

There is hope. Always. You are never stuck where you are.

You are capable. This may be a challenge; it may be hard; but, I believe in you.

I am for you. I may not always agree with choices you make but, I am on your side. And, I not only want what’s best for you; I also am your biggest cheerleader.

My love for you is not shaken now and won’t ever be. It’s forever, baby. It’s no matter what.

Challenges will vary; strategies will vary; the messages should not. Twenty years from now, my kids (both those who joined us via adoption and biologically) may commiserate when they talk about me when I’m not around (and maybe when I am around). In fact, I’m sure they will; that’s what kids do. I’m nearly positive they won’t recall that I didn’t take them to the theater to see Finding Dory. And, I’m nearly positive they won’t specifically remember any little comments I may make about my own feelings and potentially theirs when we eventually watch it at home on DVD.

They will recall my approaches in general and how I tried my best to use opportunities to crack open doors of conversation. I don’t do it everyday; though they might laugh, roll their eyes, and say I did. They may say I was always overthinking and that my approach was overly “soft and safe.” If they do, I’ll just smile and take it because I’ll know that the messages I intended to send in all those “soft and safe” approaches was received.


Twenty years from now, I pray that my children who already know more about hard times and heartbreaks than many adults are able to look back and say, “My mom didn’t do everything just perfectly. There are some things she did great; some things not so great. But, even when she did things not so great, I knew she was doing it because she wanted us to know that there was always hope, that I was capable, that she was for me, and that she loved me no matter what.”

I will continue as best I can to be intentional in my responses to my children and consider what each one can handle alone, what he or she can handle with support, and what he or she cannot yet handle. I will continue as best I can to ask questions and make observations when I see an open door because sometimes they walk right through those doors and we have amazing conversations that leave me in awe that even in my frailty, I get the exclusive and significant task of mothering these specific children. I will continue to parent forward, keeping in mind not only the here-and-now but where we are headed as a family and as individuals. If you want to call all that “mollycoddling,” you can. To me, it’s “smart parenting.”

– image by Tish Goff

9 responses to “What exactly is “smart parenting”?”

  1. Stephanie says:

    Very well expressed, my friend. As someone who actually knows you, you are exactly the parent your children need. I love and respect your intentionality and heart and “smart parenting”. And, in light of the overtly bold, brash, and sometimes rude comments your online writing sometimes receives, I respect and admire your ability to respond with far more thought and wisdom than such comments deserve. You always invite conversation and dialogue and are very open to differing opinions, and this proves you don’t shy away from the judgemental opinions either. Love you and your heart and yes, even your overthinking.

  2. Csmith says:

    I think “smart parenting”, is knowing your kid well enough to anticipate how something they see may make them feel, and helping them navigate those feelings. Especially really big ones like loss and abandonment.

  3. Tracie says:

    Well said! We waited until Kung Fu Panda 3 came out on DVD for the same reasons as those you expressed in your post on Finding Dory. Why is Disney so obsessed with adoption story lines?

  4. Jennifer Talbott says:

    I, who happen to be a parent of two adopted children, very much appreciate your post.
    I could totally see my kids picking this out at Redbox, bringing it home, popping it in the Xbox and watching it without me thinking anything more than “my kids are watching a Disney movie”.

  5. Just this weekend, Jason and I found ourselves befuddled by some situations in our family with one of our children… and one of my first thoughts, was, I should write Kelly! She would have some insight for us!

  6. Melissa says:

    Your thoughtful words and desire to approach this subject–mindfully parenting children exposed to hard situations–has taken a step toward greater understanding between those outside the adoptive community and adoptive families.

  7. Terri says:

    Amen. Well said.

  8. Alisa says:

    Thank you for both posts. I know many kids who can watch a Disney movie like this without a second thought, but my oldest adopted daughter, had a very emotional response to Inside Out, which is why we won’t be seeing Finding Dory in the theater. She has different reactions and different needs and to me, recognizing those differences and honoring them, rather than trying to force our kids to be like everyone else is smart parenting. I’m also learning that for me smart parenting means ignoring the criticism of others who don’t know my kids. Good for you for looking out for the needs of your kids and giving the rest of us more info so that we can do the same!

  9. Erika says:

    I really appreciated your posts. I have four children – all biological – and yet, I feel the same way about movies. One of my children has autism, spd, and anxiety – another child has severe anxiety, selective mutism, and a few other issues. We’ve found that going to movies for my children is, in general, no fun for us. They do so much better watching on a small screen at home, when they can take breaks, leave when the movie gets too intense, etc. I absolutely support and understand your reasoning behind both your original post and this one. It’s easy to find judgmental people – especially ones who have no walked the road you’re on. Keep your head up and keep doing what you’re doing – you’re doing a great job!!!!

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