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Parents Coaching Kids: Helping Your Children Become Great Problem-Solvers

Apr 6th, 2009 | By | Category: Parenting

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage. 

Marriage and parenting go hand in hand.  Most couples still either have or want to have children.  First they love each other and then they love their children. No, this isn’t a lesson on the birds and the bees, but it is interesting that one precedes the other, at least ideally. It appears that God wants adults to have the opportunity to learn to love each other before enjoying the privilege of having and loving their offspring. 

In the context of Marriage Coaching, Jill and I have enjoyed brainstorming with couples that come to us to learn how to love each other through better communication. Once they experience the power of listening, asking and goal-setting they begin to think about other ways they might use their skills. “Does this work with kids?” they ask. “Absolutely, this has become the primary way we try to interact with our own children because it works really well to help them open up and talk about their honest thoughts, feelings and desires. Understand that they are older, 21, 18 and 14. We’ve become more like consultants to them as they’ve grown older, but still we can’t sit by and not act if they are about to make a bad decision. Still, as much as possible, we try to respect them by exercising their minds by asking and listening to help them explore their thoughts and feelings and to generate solutions.”

 Jill and I vividly remember the night at the dinner table that we both made a concerted effort to listen, reflect and ask open questions to our youngest.  Laura Beth was eleven at the time, and was experiencing some tumult with a friend.  “I don’t know what to do about Nikki”, she said. “What’s happening between the two of you?” Jill asked. “She does things that annoy me and won’t stop even when I ask her in a nice way” Laura complained.  “Honey, I hear you saying that Nikki is doing some things that you really don’t like and that you’ve tried in a nice way to ask her to stop”  Jill said cautiously as if Laura might see through the simple paraphrase to the ‘technique’ of reflective listening; that somehow she would feel tricked into talking, and stop sharing. But no! She didn’t even break stride! She seemed to love being listened to and seemed to feel understood.  

 After several more rounds of sharing (Laura) and reflecting (us), Laura wanted a solution.  “What do you think I should do?” she asked.  It was our second test as parents. “Do we tell, or do we coach her through it?” we wondered.

 It was a moment of truth and temptation. Our relationally congenial daughter was being mistreated a bit, and it bothered us. We don’t like to see her hurt, and we wanted Nikki to stop. “Could we trust coaching methods to be effective in helping Laura to a good decision?  Wouldn’t it be better for us to tell her a sure-fire way to make things better?” While our desire to tell Laura what to do was strong, our commitment to ask instead of telling was stronger. We believed in it for ourselves and for others, and couldn’t rationalize abandoning it just because of her age.

 We wanted to convey confidence in Laura and to honor her intelligence by challenging her to think through a situation and to generate solutions. So, instead of advising, we continued to ask and listen. “What do you see as some of your options?” we asked.

 Incredibly, she went with it. Every so often she asked again what we thought she should do; a habit we assumed that we had helped her to form by being ‘tellers’.  “How much more quickly and less painfully we might have strengthened our older children’s ability to think through challenges and to develop and choose creative solutions?” we wondered together later.

 Laura eventually came up with a few strategies to attempt to solve her problem with Nikki. She enjoyed a brainstorming process to come up with as many solutions as possible, “Even if they seem crazy”, we coached.  She then proved our trust in her and the coaching process by evaluating the solutions, and choosing a few she liked. Then, just like a good coaching client might do, she asked for some time to think about her options before committing to try one.  We gave her space and checked in a few days later. She’d already done a variation of one of the options, and it was effective.  Wonderful!

 The definition of parent coaching described here is, the discipline of believing in our children that engages them where God has initiated growth or change that keeps them responsible during the process and gives them responsibility for the outcome of their choices. 

 A second form of parent-coaching is parents being coached on their parenting. This version is defined as,
The discipline of believing in parents that engages them where God has initiated growth or change in their parenting that keeps them responsible for the process.

 Has this article motivated to coach your children?  Do you know how? Do you want to learn? Currently there are only a handful of known Christian coaches emerging with interest in parent-coaching.  Hopefully, they will be writing some future articles in this section of the website.  

 If you are interested in parent-coaching, but haven’t been able to locate a Christian parent coach or coach-training program, consider learning coaching for another application such as marriage, business, leadership, etc., and then bring it home to use with your children. It might be a process for them to cooperate with it if it is a significantly different approach than they are accustomed to from you, but we urge you to keep trying. Coaching is a highly effective process to consistently open and hold our children’s hearts, to build their character, and to strengthen their problem-solving abilities.

 What do you think about that, Laura?

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One Response to “Parents Coaching Kids: Helping Your Children Become Great Problem-Solvers”

  1. mstruble says:

    I am really interested in this topic and any resources available. I am currently developing/conducting a coaching program called Moms With A Mission and want to expand it from helping moms find themselves and move toward their purpose into helping their children learn to discover their unique giftings, and purpose. I will look forward to more posts on this topic.

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