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Connected Families is Building Community in EXTENDED FAMILIES

building community in extended families

Thanks to your support and engagement, Connected Families has become more than a library of programs and resources for parents. We are a community. AND we are transforming communities.  

Today we are highlighting the impact Connected Families is making in extended families. You’ll be introduced to a family that is literally scattered all over the world, but tied together by common parenting goals to lead their families with grace. It’s a ripple effect you’ll want to read from beginning to end!

Meet Mark & Patti Foley (Grandparents to 18)

We’ve been a blended family since 2007, including 6 grown “children” who were all married by 2010, and now 18 grandchildren, ages 2 – 13. Although we’re rarely all together geographically, there’s a high level of love, concern, and shared values between us.   

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How did you first hear of Connected Families?

I (Patti) first heard of Connected Families from my son Matt and was intrigued by the title Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart.  It so clearly pinpointed what the longing in my heart had always been when I was raising my own kids. The book connected with so many of the concepts I’d reached toward, but had never clarified in such practical terms. It felt like coming home to my mother-heart! 

In what ways did you share Connected Families with your extended family?   

As a newly blended family, we were looking for ways to bring a shared sense of purpose. We decided to gift each of our adult children with enrollment in the Discipline That Connects online course.

Each of the families with children completed the DTC course and they are now using the Connected Families materials in a variety of ways:

  • One used the DTC materials to teach a Sunday School parenting class 
  • One (in Indonesia) translated it into Indonesian and is teaching it to others today 
  • One has implemented the concepts deeply into every part of helping their children through multiple difficult transitions 
  • One is using the Sibling Conflict framework to bring more growth to the way their family handles conflict

How have you seen the impact of Connected Families resources on your extended family when you are all together?

When the families are together, it’s such a blessing for everyone to have a shared language of how relationships are worked out. Concepts like do-overs, gifts-gone-awry, and making it right are already in place, making life together flow so much more easily. All the parents agree that they parent better when they’re putting CF concepts into their heads and hearts!  As grandparents, it’s hard to adequately express the deep joy we feel when we see our grandchildren growing in the knowledge of how to love God, others, and themselves right in the middle of the messy realities of family life.   

We keep the CF framework magnet on our refrigerator door, for our own reference when we’re in charge of child care. It is a huge help in remembering what actually matters in connecting with children. Since we don’t care for kids 24/7 anymore, we appreciate the clear reminders about making sure they know they are safe, loved, capable, and responsible.   We’ve noticed the more they’re treated that way, the more they act that way.

I love that Connected Families focuses on what’s going on inside the heart of the parent (or caregiver). It’s not just about the child. The CF framework supports the relationship growth of the parent and the child. It presents a world view with God’s love at the center, fleshed out in the closest human family relationships.  

As grandparents, we get the indescribable joy of watching our kids and grandkids gradually transform into the strong forces for good that God created them to be.  Thank you, Connected Families!

Meet Chelsea and Matt (Patti’s son)

How did you first hear of Connected Families?

I heard about Connected Families from a Facebook friend who highly recommended it. At that time, Matt and I were pregnant with our 4th child, living as missionaries in Indonesia, and desperate for parenting help. The direction our family was going was not a good one. We loved each other, but the number of stressors in our daily lives was overwhelming. 

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We began reading Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart and were amazed by the amount of Biblical references and the perspective of how God parents us. We had never thought of parenting in that way! It opened our hearts to a whole new way of thinking. We shared what we were learning with Matt’s mom, Patti, who immediately bought the book and read it (see story above) and then paid for all of us kids to take the online course which we absolutely loved.

How has Connected Families impacted your extended family?

Having the same parenting framework gave us a connection with our family on the other side of the world and gave us all a common parenting culture to work towards. We would ‘chat’ about what we were learning via telegram or email. We shared stories, and were able to give advice to each other with a common understanding. When we went on a furlough and stayed for 3 months with Mark and Patti (yikes for them!!), we knew we were safe as a family in that environment. 

How have you seen the Connected Families Framework impact your immediate family?

Early on in our learning, I had an ‘aha’ moment with our eldest and only daughter. She and I often clashed as she is a very independent and confident young lady. At 7 years old, this often came across as bossy and manipulative, especially towards her younger brothers. I remember being angry with her for being unkind to a brother and her being extremely upset. We were both tense and the last thing I wanted to do was hug her. I knew that’s what she needed, though, so I made myself hold and hug her on my lap. I prayed quietly and did not say anything. 

After a while, my heart toward her softened and I could physically feel her soften as well. She started crying and after a long time of us connecting without words, we were able to talk about what was going on. It was such a game changer for my entire relationship with her. Now, when she’s acting prickly, instead of taking it personally, I have learned that she just needs my quiet, calm, loving presence, and that eventually she will want a good solution. I am so grateful for her independence and confidence… that’s exactly what I would hope for in my daughter and I’m so thankful that I didn’t squash that out of her by demanding the right actions before her heart was right.

How has Connected Families made an impact in your local community? 

When we first learned about Connected Families we lived in a very close neighborhood with six immediate Indonesian neighbors. The parenting ‘way’ was passive and then aggressive. Kids could get away with anything until a certain age was reached. Then, when misbehaving, they would be suddenly yelled at and usually physically harmed.

Once, in our first year there, my toddler, baby, and I were sitting on our front porch watching in shock as about 20 neighbor kids ran wild in our tiny yard. A neighbor lady came out of her house and started yelling and throwing rocks at the kids! It wasn’t until years later that I realized this was her way of helping me because there was no other way she knew to get the kids to listen. 

After learning more about the Connected Families Framework, our home was still the community playground, but we implemented some ground rules: No violence and less kids at a time. Early on when we explained the rules, one kid hit another kid. I calmly asked him to leave our yard and told him he could try coming to play again the next day.  All the kids stared at me blankly… my words were not matching with what they considered an appropriate voice or action (yelling and hitting) so they didn’t know how to respond. Although I asked the boy to leave a few times, I finally had to gently and firmly lead him outside our gate. The kids continued to be confused, but over time understood that hitting was not tolerated in our yard. When our own kids were the culprits, they had to apologize, further confusing the neighbor kids!

Years later some of these same kids were in conflict and had both hurt each other. After asking them to make it right, I was filled with hope when they shook hands and were able to keep playing after that!

With Jim and Lynne’s support we have since translated much of Discipline That Connects into Indonesian and taught workshops to local parents here. Because it’s based on the whole Bible…it works in every culture!

What is your favorite impact of the Connected Families resources on your family?

My favorite impact on our family has been the foundation of safety and love. We now have a cushion to fall back on when things are tough around us. We trust each other.  I really, really love seeing my kids’ faults as glimpses into the gifts that God has given them. It’s an exciting challenge to work with God in helping bring out those gifts rather than being constantly annoyed at their faults. And I just love who my kids are and how Matt and I work as a team. 

Meet Kimberly (Mark’s daughter) and Derek

Can you tell us how you heard about Connected Families? 

We were given the gift of a Connected Families online class from my dad and stepmom.

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What resources did you use within your family? What was the context? 

We use the resources from both the Discipline That Connects online course and Sibling Conflict online course for our three elementary-age boys.

How have you seen the impact of our resources on your family? 

Discipline that Connects has helped us move from a punitive discipline style of making the kids “pay for their wrongdoing” to one that puts the heart of Jesus in the center where contrition and understanding are most important.  We are using the Peace Process (from the Sibling Conflict online course) regularly right now as we teach our boys how to be strong men with soft hearts for others and relationships. Everyone’s favorite step is “celebration.”

What is the favorite impact you’ve seen in your immediate family? 

Our parenting and family interactions now have specific steps that are biblically-based. We were always aiming at Christ-centered parenting and family relationships, but lacked concrete steps to implement daily.  

How has Discipline That Connects created a community in your extended family as a whole? 

This is such a great question for our family specifically! We are a blended family with 6 kids who love one another, but were raised in very different homes with unusual complexities. As kids, our parents didn’t get married until we were all in our twenties. We live all over the world, but when we come together we really want to enjoy our time and want our kids to get along. Most of us now have children and have implemented Connected Families resources. The dynamic of our time together shifted to a much more cohesive unit where the multitude of grandkids can play well together, work out their differences, and overwhelmingly enjoy one another while we do the same.

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Meet Naomi (Patti’s daughter) and Brendon

Can you tell us a little bit about your family and how you heard about Connected Families?

My wonderful mom and stepdad offered to pay for us to take the Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart class in 2014 when our kids were still tiny. We have three kids who are 9, 7, and 4. 

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What resources did you use within your family? What was the context?

We took the Discipline That Connects online course in 2014. And, since then, we have watched the videos from that course two more times. We have also taken the Sibling Conflict online course and are planning to take the The Power of Questions class this December. 

I also read your blog all the time and was especially helped by your free Anger ebook. It was a game changer for my son in a stressful season.

We had a coaching session with Lynne when we were really struggling with some out-of-the-box behavior from one of our kids. She helped us understand our son’s nervous system and it was the beginning of us learning about sensory processing. We were in the midst of a big transition and her wisdom was invaluable at that time and since. 

Lynne also coached us when our baby girl was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 and didn’t have long to live. Her wise counsel and care guided us through those challenging seasons with practical tools and solid truth about our relationship to God and our kid’s relationships with God and us.

How have you seen the impact of our resources on your immediate family? 

I think initially I was just so relieved to find a parenting resource that resonated so deeply within me as truly the way I wanted to raise my children. It is beautifully based on the gospel. There are so many books and philosophies out there and it can be kind of overwhelming and confusing. 

But, honestly, the Connected Families Framework has impacted the culture of almost every aspect of our family: 

  • daily sibling conflicts have become learning moments and have drawn our kids’ hearts closer to each other 
  • our anger has emotions behind it that can be honestly dealt with 
  • when we hurt someone, we have a way to truly restore that relationship and celebrate it 
  • when we struggle with negative feelings about ourselves, we can remember our best identity as children of the Most High God 

What I LOVE about Connected Families is that we don’t have to be perfect. We get to show our kids how to be “in-process” as we are “in-process”. I love that we, as the parents, have also learned to apologize, make things right, and have do-overs. When my husband and I explore any of the  resources, we always realize our parenting struggles are more about us than our kids! 

Can you tell us a couple stories of seeing the impact in your family in the day-to-day?

There was a season when my cheerful, sweet boy started being angry often. He would get really out of control and break things. I went straight to the Connected Families website and found your free ebook on anger. Because of the “Paper Plate” project, my son latched onto the fact that behind anger there is always another emotion. I started asking him what the emotion was behind his anger and it softened him. It only took a couple angry moments, with that question as the diffuser, and he stopped going to anger first. It truly felt like a miracle in our home. I’m so grateful for that! 

We’ve also been strongly impacted by the Gifts-Gone-Awry idea. It connects us so deeply with our kids in discipline and it gives them hope and vision and encouragement for being a blessing to others. One of my sons has a very loud voice. It actually hurts my ears sometimes. So, he is always being asked to talk more quietly. One day I added, “God has given you an amazingly loud voice and there are times when you could really help other people using that loud voice. But, when we’re inside it hurts people’s ears if you talk too loudly.” He was all over that and started listing off all the scenarios where a loud voice would be helpful. The next day one of the younger neighbor kids got hurt badly and my son yelled at the top of his lungs for help. He told me later, “Mommy, I got to use the loud voice God gave me to help someone!” 

What is a favorite impact you’ve seen on your family?

My husband and I have confidence as parents together. My husband and I grew up in very different homes and it has been so good to find a framework for parenting that we both believe in strongly. It helps us to be a united team and that brings so much peace to our kids and our marriage!

How has Discipline That Connects created a community in your extended family as a whole? 

It has been so good for our extended family to have a similar framework in parenting. I really can’t say enough for how it draws all of us together even though geographically we’re pretty far apart. I have seen how differences in parenting can often cause tension and misunderstandings between families because parenting is so personal. 

As a mom, I also feel supported instead of judged when I’m with my family which is an added bonus. Our kids also feel safer with their aunts, uncles, cousins, Grandma, and Grandpa because we all have similar goals and even use the same words to discipline, solve conflicts etc. It’s also so much more fun to be an aunt when I am comfortable with the ways my nieces and nephews know how to solve conflicts. All of our families are very different and have taken various different spins on the Connected Families Framework, but our goals and values are more similar because of Connected Families!

When Connected Families started in 2002, our primary focus was partnering with churches. Now we are excited to be able to partner with organizations from a variety of backgrounds! Whether you think Connected Families would be a good fit for your church, school, non-profit, podcast, blog, international ministry, business, or moms group, our resources are available to inspire and equip those in your community. We’d love to collaborate with you! Let’s get the conversation started.

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