The Allens Choose Peace

A Portrait of An Intentional Family

In this blog series, Portrait of an Intentional Family, we have introduced you to the Allen family, one of the first Intentional Families we interviewed as a part of the Intentional Family Project. The intention of this blog series is to share the story of how Intentional Families have walked through the four steps of the Intentional Family Process so you can get a glimpse of what it looks like in real life.

In last month’s blog, we uncovered the steps the Allen family took in order to recognize their family identity. Their shared values and goals, birthed out of their desire for an intentional life, led them on a journey to create a family plan so that desire could become reality. The first step of any family plan is to set goals.

Setting Goals

While general goals are a great start, Intentional Families have to set clear, measurable goals for family life that relate to their core values. For the Allen family, their family values of peace and freedom matched the short-term goals they set for family life, which included:

  • Eliminating debt,
  • Eating whole foods, and
  • Spending quality family time each week.

These goals were aligned with and motivated by the values they shared and the life they hoped to live. They planned to begin a family in the near future, and their short-term goals supported financial, physical, and relational well-being. Achieving these short-term goals, which they planned to continue in their way of life long-term, would allow them the freedom to make desired lifestyle alterations once they had children, including allowing one of them to stay-at-home with their children.

As the Allens set these goals, they had to ask important questions along the way to determine their ability to actually accomplish their goals, including:

  • Do we have the time, money, and capacity to achieve the goals we have set?
  • What are we willing to change about the way we do life now in order to accomplish our goals?

The Allen family had to realize the cost of setting and accomplishing their family goals, and collectively consider their ability and willingness to see their goals to completion. 

Setting Boundaries

Once families have accepted the cost and their capacity to accomplish their goals, Intentional Families have to think through boundaries that may be needed in order to achieve goals. As the Allen family shared with us during their interview,

“In order to be intentional in achieving our goals and maintaining our identity, we have to be clear about what we choose do AND what we choose not to do. There are things we have had to say “no” to and experiences we have chosen to live without in order to live intentionally.”

The Allen family talked about the importance of deciding up-front what they were going to say “yes” and “no” to in order to achieve their goals. They found that when they decided ahead of time together what they were going to do and not going to do, it helped them stay on-track and remain on the same page. This way, they kept their long-term values of freedom and peace first and foremost in their daily decision-making.

Preemptively and collectively deciding what they are and aren’t going to do helped them stay on track and on the same page.

Admittedly, though, one of the trickiest aspects of the Intentional Family Process is the leap between making a plan, and actually sticking to it. In our next blog, we will uncover the steps the Allen family took in order to put their Intentional Family plan in to action. Until then, we invite you to begin your own steps to an intentional family life. You can start here with our introduction to the four-step Intentional Family Process to begin the journey! 


Meet the Allen Family

How They Recognized Their Family Identity

As we embarked on the Intentional Family Project over three years ago, we desired to create a narrative that would help families create a great family life. We knew that we would need the stories of families who were examples of the type of family life we were studying. Not perfect families, but families who would help us understand intentionality in family life, and families whose story might serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration to today’s families. 

In this blog series, Portrait of an Intentional Family, we introduce you to the Allen family, one of the first Intentional Families we interviewed. We share their story with you – not to ask you to mimic their story or to compare yours to theirs. We believe that Intentional Families are powerful simply because they have the courage to live their family story. Each month, we simply want to share how they walked through the four steps of the Intentional Family Process so you can get a glimpse of what it looks like in real life.

Intentional Families are powerful simply because they have the courage to live their family story.

The Intentional Family Project

When we first sat down to interview the Allen family, they were a couple in their late 20’s about to celebrate their fourth year of marriage. They were both in established careers in the helping professions, and Mr. Allen had recently graduated with an advanced degree. They had hopeful expectation for future changes, with the desire for adding children to their family someday.

Starting Intentionally

As we have found through our research, families are most likely to pursue intentionality during seasons of transition in family life, such as marriage or the birth of a child. For the Allen family, their journey to intentionality began on their first date. The groundwork for their dating relationship was laid through their shared desire for a purposeful marriage guided by shared values and mutual support. These shared goals were further explored during their engagement through pre-marital counseling. It was during these counseling sessions that the Allen family created visual reminders of their shared values, goals, and commitment to mutual support on their journey of intentionality.

Why Intentionality

The Intentional Families we have interviewed have generally had some specific motivation for pursuing an intentional family life . For the Allen family, looking back to their family life growing up played a significant role in helping them recognize who they wanted to be as a couple moving forward. As they said in their interview with us:

 “Our families growing up really have played a big role in our intentionality. Our families had dreams, but never any goals or plans, so the dreams never came true. In our family, we want to live intentionally, not reactionary. We want our kids to know our values and experience our goals for our family.”

The Allen Family

The Allen family recognized their dreams were not just going to happen. Their family life growing up taught them that. They wanted to live a life where their goals and values were clear to everyone around them, including family, friends, and their future children. In order to accomplish this, they knew they were going to have to create a plan. 

In our next blog, we will uncover the steps the Allen family took in order to create their Intentional Family plan. Until then, we invite you to begin your own steps to an intentional family life. You can start here with our introduction to the four-step Intentional Family Process to begin the journey! 

Propensity to Plan: Family Time

At Intentional Family Project, we are studying the lives of families in order to provide your family with research-based information on cultivating intentional practices that benefit your family. In June 2019, we presented a finding from our online study on Intentional Families & Quality of Life. The study had over 900 participants across all stages of life.

In this study, we were able to see how families manage their time based on their current season of life. From this preliminary analyses, we were able to see that: Parents with young children (ages 2 to 5) are most likely to plan their family time for the immediate- (1-2 days), short- (1-2 months), and long-term (1-2 years) in comparison to families in other seasons of life.

Parents with young children (ages 2 to 5) are most likely to plan their family time for the immediate-, short-, and long-term.

In general, all families spend time planning their family time. Our finding just suggest that during different seasons of life, families may spend more time planning for the immediate- (1-2 days), short- (1-2 months), and long-term (1-2 years). So we will walk through the family life cycle to understand these trends in planning family time.

When couples are thinking about becoming parents they spend a lot of time planning long term family events. When children arrive (birth to 2), they spend less time thinking about long-term events and more time thinking about the immediate family events. During preschool (2-5), parents plan the most in all intervals–immediate, short, and long. Then as children go through middle childhood (6-12) parents plan the most for immediate events but do not spend as much time planning short and long term family events. As children becomes teenagers (13-18) parents plan more in short and long term and decrease in immediate family plans. Finally, parents whose children are grown (18+) are the least likely to plan their family time. In our future posts, we will unpack what these trends means for our intentional families.

The following poster was presented at the American Association for Family & Consumer Science (AAFCS) national conference in St Louis. We are also grateful for AAFCS’s financial support for this research project through the Centennial Scholars Grant.

Citation: Melton K. & McAninch, N. (June 2019). Intentional families: Propensity to plan family time across the family life cycle. Poster presentation at American Association for Family & Consumer Sciences. St. Louis, MO. https://intentional.family/?p=907

Exploring Identity

Have you ever been watching a show or reading a book and become so captivated? If you’re anything like me, you have the tendency to get caught up in a really great story. Great stories don’t just happen. They are generally the product of careful consideration and exploration. And there is a difference between an okay story or a great story. And you know which one you would rather be watching or reading.

In the same way, we believe that most families would choose a great family story over an okay story. And at the Intentional Family Project, we believe that the story of your family life can be great. We are confident that the Intentional Family Process provides the tools you need for thoughtful exploration as you create a compelling life. We encourage you to ask the question — “When it is all said and done, what do we want our family story to be?”

While there are variations in how the question can be asked, the heart of the question is the same. Some of our intentional families have asked the question like this:

  • When our kids are grown, how do we want them to describe our family life?
  • What do we want to say we accomplished as a family?
  • How will we know we have lived our best family life?

There is a difference between an okay story or a great story. At the Intentional Family Project, we believe that the story of your family life can be great.

Coming up with an answer to the question can be a daunting task. There is both enthusiasm in the possibility, and a bit of fear in the unknown. As we discussed in An Invitation to Identity looking in can be a useful method to begin answering these kinds of questions. Now, we invite you to look beyond the family you are creating to the role that others might play in the story of your family by looking back, looking out, and looking up.

Looking Back

The story of your family’s history is a powerful place for Intentional Families to begin. This is important because it helps you look beyond the family you are creating, back to the family that created you. Looking back helps you note how choices impact generations — both for the good and the bad. We can learn so much by going beyond the surface of our family’s story in order to ask difficult yet important questions, such as:

  • What do you think they did well?
  • What do you wish they would have done differently?
  • What do you wish they would have done more?
  • What do you wish they would have done less?

Whether you want to adopt similar values, adapt some values, or establish new ones, exploring and even honoring the choices of our family’s past can help you in creating a thoughtful present-day family story.

Looking Out

Certainly, we can begin to answer the question of what we want our story to be from the story of our family’s history. But in today’s connected world, Intentional Families can also learn so much from other families who are living their lives with intentionality. Many of our Intentional Families noted the role that friends and acquaintances have had on their sense of identity. Other families have read books and memoirs or watched documentaries to find inspiration for intentional family life. As you consider who might be your own inspirational examples, ask yourselves:

  • What families inspire us? What are they doing in family life that we like?
  • What stories have we read or watched that encourage us think about doing family life differently?
  • Who do we spend a lot of time around? What can we learn about family life from them?

Looking Up

For most of the Intentional Families we interviewed, their sense of identity and core family values were deeply rooted in faith. They discussed their choice to become intentional as an expression of their belief in God. They indicated that their beliefs required action, and that they sensed they were being called to live life in a unique way. These families found their identity and values being shaped by their faith. Consider how your faith and beliefs might influence your identity by asking questions like:

  • What are our spiritual beliefs? What values do we have as a family because of those spiritual beliefs?
  • What experiences have we had that have shaped our family’s beliefs?
  • What quotes or scriptures that are important to our family?

By looking back, looking out, and looking up, you are better equipped as a family to answer the question, “When it is all said and done, what do we want our family story to be?” To help you in this pursuit, we have developed this 2-page worksheet to help you talk through each set of questions, identify some words typically used for core family values, and begin writing those down. Later on, we will provide you with tools to work through and clarify these ideas. But for now, just focus on identifying all the words that best resonate with what you know to be important to your family. These words will become the thread by which you will create your family story.

Written by Nicole McAninch, PhD, CFLE, Senior Lecturer of Child & Family Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

An Invitation to Identity

Have you ever tried to search for something, but you didn’t quite know where to start? The other day my kids wanted me to find a certain nonsensical song on my phone. I was stumped. How do I begin finding this song that has words I don’t even know how to spell? I even tried singing the song to Siri, who presented to me a classical song I was certain wasn’t the song my kids were wanting. I felt at such a disadvantage — knowing something was needed, but not knowing where and how to look.

One of the most crucial searches a family can engage in is finding their core family values. Core family values are a handful of values that are shared by all family members. While every family member holds their own unique set of values, intentional families are joined by a set of values that link them together. Core Family Values become the avenue by which families better understand their collective identity. 

For Intentional Families, these core values help them determine each element of their Intentional Family Plan — from setting goals to daily rhythms, from allocating resources and evaluating their progress. You see, when families are aware of their core family values, they have better clarity for what is truly important to them. Core Family Values become the foundation from which families can make better decisions.

Core Family Values become the foundation from which families can make better decisions.

But finding core family values is not easy. Most families don’t know they need to be searching for their core values, let alone know how to find them. The road to identity is neither linear nor prescribed. Because each family has a unique identity and plan, their journey in finding their core family values will be unique. Our research suggests that intentional families seek out, and even stumble upon, their core family values.

Some Seek.

In the book Becoming & Belonging, the Scandrette family shares their journey to identity. If I had to define the Scandrette family’s journey to identity, I would call it purposeful. They actively searched for their family identity and core values by gathering resources and seeking wisdom of families they respected. They read books, listened to stories, and processed through everything they read, heard, and saw about family life. They paved a relatively uncharted yet focused path in order to identify and adopt their core family values.

Some Stumble.

Some Intentional Families uncover their core family values in less purposeful ways. These families come face-to-face with their core family values when stumbling through unexpected hardships in family life–including diagnosis, disaster, divorce, or death. These events have a way of stripping us bare of everything but what really matters, exposing what we truly value and the identity we want. For my family, the diagnosis of a life-long, life-threatening disease in our oldest child at the age of 4 proved to us that we couldn’t be content with just being a healthy family. We had to be an intentional family. We had to do life on purpose.

Regardless of whether you seek or stumble your way into your core family values, ultimately what is most important is that you find your family core values.

All Find.

The key takeaway here is that regardless of whether you seek or stumble your way into your core family values, ultimately what is most important is that you find them. Knowing your core families will revolutionize your family life. Identifying and living by your core family values will help you set goals and make decisions as a team because you know what your family is about and where you are headed.

As you embark on the Intentional Family Process, we invite you to begin exploring your core family values. We encourage you to explore the resource What’s Important to My Family, a values exercise developed by the Barrett Values Centre. We have also posted some questions on the Step One: Recognize Your Family Identity page to guide you in the process of discovering your core family values. 

Written by Nicole McAninch, PhD, CFLE, Senior Lecturer of Child & Family Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

 

The 3 Secrets of Succesful Intentional Families

It takes Time.  It takes a Family. It takes a Champion

Many families want to become an Intentional Family, but only some will be successful in their efforts. As you begin this process, we want to share the 3 secrets of the families who successfully become an Intentional Family:

  • They make the time to do the work.
  • They do it as a family.
  • They have a Champion that keeps them accountable.

Time. Intentional Families don’t just happen. Families who end up being successful in the Intentional Family Process are those who set aside time on a regular basis to talk through their Intentional Family plan. Remember, cultivating a family identity is a priority for Intentional Families, so they manage their resources wisely in order to achieve this goal. Don’t try to rush the process, but also make sure you are giving the process the investment it needs to succeed.

“…if you don’t have time for one night or at least one hour during the week where everybody can come together as a family, then the family is not a priority.”

-Oprah Winfrey

So find a regular time (weekly, every other week, monthly) that works best for your family to start having these discussions. Consider starting with a time that you already set aside for family connection, such as a family meal, bedtime routine, or weekend outing. We have seen Intentional Families who set up weekly family meetings, while others may set apart time on the next family vacation. One family even created an annual family retreat to review their Intentional Family plan. The main thing is to create a schedule that works for your family — and to stick to it.

Family. The Intentional Family Process is about cultivating a family identity; therefore, Intentional Families are committed to involving their entire family in the process. This is important for two reasons. First, if your family is not involved, then it is likely that they will not be committed to the Intentional Family process. Also, we have found that an identity and plan created by one person ultimately is a personal identity, not a family identity.

Everyone in the family should be treated as important as you cultivate your family identity and create your family plan. Encourage each person in the family to share what they think is unique about your family. Seek consensus from family members as you create your core family values. Collectively create family goals that move your family forward. The family that plans together is more likely to achieve their goals together.

Champion. If the family is a team, then the Champion is the Team Captain. The champion’s role is to cheer on the family as they make progress through the Intentional Family Process. A Champion rallies the team together, encouraging them when decisions are difficult and progress is slow. The Champion’s job isn’t to win the game — no one can win a game on their own. The Champion’s job is to keep the team in the game. They hold the family accountable to their Intentional Family plan.

The Champion’s job isn’t to win the game. The Champion’s job is to keep the team in the game.

The Champion of the Intentional Family is the facilitator that keeps the family moving forward through the process. They help set the pace and make sure everyone is on task. A Champion’s job is to see what needs to be done — and then connects the task with the family member who would do that task best. The Intentional Family Process works when we get everyone involved and working toward the win.

The goal of the Intentional Family Project is that all families would find success in becoming an Intentional Family. The journey is not always easy, but we believe it is always worth it. So we invite your family to begin the Intentional Family Process. Join us, and other families, as we cultivate our family identities and achieve our goals.

For more information on the Intentional Family Process and the IF Project, visit our website at intentional.family.

Written by Karen Melton, PhD, Assistant Professor of Child & Family Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Welcome to Intentional.Family!

Welcome to the intentional.family website and blog! Thank you for taking the time to check us out.

This website and blog is designed for families who want something more out of life than just getting by. Our goal is to connect with families who want to make their dreams of a good family life a reality! We want to partner with families who believe they can have a good family life. 

The intentional.family website was created by the Intentional Family Project team. We combined our years of studying and working with families with real-life applications from Intentional Families to provide families a resource where you can find information on how to live a good family life. 

The Intentional Family Project has interviewed families who do life differently. Families who were living life in pursuit of a purpose. These Intentional Families aren’t perfect, but they do know who they are and where they are going. They aren’t just hoping for a good family life — they are making it happen!

We are inviting you to become an Intentional Family. A family who lives life on purpose to become the family they hoped they would become.

Our greatest desire is to help you get there. Through the intentional.family website, you will receive:

  • An introduction to the 4-step Intentional Family Process, uniquely designed by our team to help you become an Intentional Family,
  • Real-life examples of Intentional Families who are moving through the Intentional Family Process, and
  • Access to tools and resources uniquely selected and designed to help you successfully navigate the Intentional Family Process.

Additionally, each month we will offer new resources as you progress through the Intentional Family Process, including:

  • A unique blog article outlining a specific part of the Intentional Family Process,
  • A monthly challenge on our social media to help you engage more deeply in the Intentional Family Process,
  • Encouragement and support to keep you engaged in the Process, and
  • Reminders to keep you accountable to the Process.

We invite you to join us on the journey! To stay connected with the Intentional Family Team, follow our IF Blog, stay tuned for upcoming Events, and connect with us on Social Media

To take the next steps with the Intentional Family Process, check out what makes The Intentional Family Difference.

We’re looking forward to the journey!

The Intentional Family Project Team, Nicole & Karen