Sunday, February 28, 2016

Setting Intentions as a Catalyst for Growth

Setting Intentions as a Catalyst for Growth
by Jennifer Perry

Welcome to March! Our theme this month is fittingly “Growth: Thought into Action”.  I love March and looking for the first signs of Spring. Small flowers that start to come up, even as they are covered in snow from a late winter storm. While it may not seem like it, according to the winds and bluster that accompany March, I think of the small snowdrops and crocus as Mother Nature’s intentions of Spring.   

Intention is defined in three ways: 1) a thing intended, an aim or plan; 2) the purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct; 3) the healing process of a wound.  This Spring, I have a new offering. It was once a thought, then an intention, and is now an action! I am offering a 10 week Peaceful Parent Coaching Program. One of my favorite pieces of the program is sharing with parents how to have “Empowered Conversations” that both honor the authentic reactions of all parties AND seek to reach a peaceful resolution.

Setting an intention for a conversation is remarkably healing. Even the old, chronic arguments in relationships that seem beyond resolution not only can be healed but can be a catalyst for a deeper intimacy and growth. The conversation starts with an intention.  Even in the most conflictual of impasses that can occur between spouses, parents and children, friends and other family members, an intention can reach out like a small flower in the midst of the iciest storm.

Imagine starting a conversation with: “My intention is … to clear the air with you … to come up with a solution together … to remember that we are on the same team and we love each other ...” Conversations, especially conflictual ones, have an energy all of their own. We often get caught up in the moment, saying things we don’t necessarily mean but say “for argument’s sake” or to prove our point. This dynamic turns what could be a collaborative-spirited, problem-solving, empowered conversation into one full of sharp words that invalidate each other and pits loved ones into the positions of adversaries. We don’t need to be too hard on ourselves about this. It is part of our human natures. However, we can consciously set an intention to help us remember where we are, what end we seek, and how we influence each other - keeping in mind the real prize: empowered, connected conversations with our loved ones with enough spaciousness for everyone’s feelings and needs.

In going through the 10 weeks of the Peaceful Parent Program myself with my own family, I know first hand how difficult old habits can be to change. But with intention they certainly can change.

Experiment with a few of the suggestions below for empowered conversations (adapted from the Jai Parent Institute and Non-Violent Communication: 
  • Breathe and notice ~ as you are talking to your loved one keep your breath and body sensations in your awareness. If you notice yourself getting hijacked by the argumentative process, stop. Take a sip of water, notice it out loud: “I’m getting worked up and unproductive, let’s take a break and come back in a few minutes.”
  • State your intention ~ and restate as many times as necessary. Your intention is a guide for the entire conversation. Encourage your loved one to state an intention as well.
  • Take responsibility for your part ~ own any fears that are pulling you into combative mode and anything that is affecting how you show up to the conversation. This also helps your loved one understand where you are coming from.
  • State your feelings and needs ~ we can argue about rules and points of view but feelings and needs just are. Get clear on what your own feelings and needs are and practice communicating them.
  • Offer empathy for your loved one’s feelings and needs ~ Imagine how they must be feeling and given who they are, how they experience the situation.  Ask them if your understanding is correct and resonates with them. This is fertile ground for intimacy and respectful problem solving.
  • Make a request ~ after laying down the groundwork (it gets easier and more natural with practice!) make a request in the spirit of collaboration toward a common goal. “Would you be willing ….” is an excellent way to clarify and move forward together.
Jennifer Perry, MA, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Mindfulness Teacher and Peaceful Parenting Coach. Using Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment strategies she helps clients relate to themselves and their experiences with compassion in order live full and meaningful lives. She builds on her clients’ values and strengths and teaches them mindfulness and creative problem-solving skills, empowering them to find authentic self-expression in the world. Her approach balances the desire for personal growth and change with acceptance and loving-kindness for self and others. Contact her at and 215-292-5056.

New 10 Week Peaceful Parenting Program
Is parenting more difficult than you ever imagined?  Do you react to your child in ways that you feel horrible about later?  Do you long for connection and cooperation with your child but find yourself relying on techniques that seem to pit you against each other, locked in a seemingly endless battle? There is help. You can learn the practice of peaceful parenting. You can learn tools and techniques supported by the latest brain science to infuse your parenting with more mindfulness, presence, attunement, and connection. You can parent from a place of love, not fear; cooperation, not coercion. A peaceful home is possible! Parenting is a journey, a practice. You can get support so that you can:
  • Learn to address your triggers as a parent.
  • Become your child's emotion coach and learn an empowering communication style based on feelings and needs.
  • Discover and articulate your family's values and use them to set limits that peacefully stick.
  • Explore and manage anger in healthy ways and repair the inevitable ruptures that occur.
  • Shift from a dominant, "power-over" paradigm to a peaceful parenting paradigm.
To learn more contact Jen Perry at 215-292-5056 or


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