Better Late Than Never: Coaching to Repair and Protect Relationship with our KidsJul 4th, 2009 | By Jeff Williams | Category: Family Coaching Center Guest Posts, Parent Coaching - Guest Posts
Do you feel like you’ve messed some things up with your kids? Does their life seem to give evidence that you were too hard on them, too lenient, too something because they aren’t living the life you dreamed for them? Is your relational connection strained? Do you wish you could go back and do some things differently? If any of this resonates for you, then a Christian Coaching approach to relationship can give you a way to repair, strengthen and protect a loving relationship with your kids, starting today.
I’ve heard it a hundred times…”I wish I would have known about the coaching approach before I started raising kids (or before I got married). Things might have gone a lot differently. We probably could have avoided some of the pain and the problems we’ve had.” This may be true, but it’s not too late. It’s never too late. Today is the first day of the rest of your relationship with your children. “As soon as you take responsibility for your half of the relationship, the relationship begins to change.”1
A coaching approach is a great way to steward a relationship and to free our children to take responsibility for their relationship with us and their decisions. Clearly the degree to which we can do this is a progression as they mature, but it is something I am convinced we can do with our kids to some degree as soon as they begin to talk. Asking what they think, how they feel, what they want and what suggestions or solutions they’ve come up with for their problems can exercise their minds and build their self-esteem from an early age.
Our youngest was eight when I first brought the coaching approach home. She kids about “coaching” but admits that she has integrated some of the skills into her own conversations. Recently we visited a family friend at the airport during a layover. On the way home she said, “I know how to conduct myself in conversations like that to find out what has been happening in people’s lives and what they care about because you’re my dad and I’ve watched you do that for a long time.” It is gratifying that Laura has “caught” a way of being in relationship through observation. The fact that she has some great skills is easily verified as we watch/listen to her with friends, and even conduct conversations with us. “What did you think about that movie, daddy? What would you do if you were in that position? How do you want today to go?”
But how does coaching work when a relationship is challenging or strained? Things haven’t always been easy with our firstborn, now 21. Clearly he inherited a bent for strong-willed mischievousness from his parents. A recent conversation illustrates how the heart and skill of coaching can protect relationship when things are tense. The following exchange took place at the end of a momentous day for Carly, her high school graduation. Sadly, Josh didn’t make it to the ceremony due to a series of decisions that ended up proving very costly, financially as well as relationally. Honestly, I was furious. “How could he fail to make the proper arrangements to ensure that he was present?” I asked myself silently and began to rehearse all of the things I wanted to tell him.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit set a guard on my lips, which gave me time to pray and ponder until our family dinner was concluded. As I reflected on what the day might have felt like to our son, I felt compassion. This is the heart of the coaching approach with our kids; setting ourselves aside to consider their perspective and to engage them where God is doing something in the situation. It was clear that Josh had a lot of feelings about how the day had gone. He didn’t need anyone to tell him what they thought or how they felt. It wasn’t time to pile on, but rather to compassionately engage him about what was going on inside of him. “I’m sorry for all of the frustration and the consequences that you experienced today” I said. “Thanks dad, I guess if I would have been where you guys asked me to at the time I needed to be there then maybe all of these things wouldn’t have happened” he said. EUREKA! Grace created space for learning and self-correction. After a few more compassionate exchanges we said goodbye with a hug and “I love you”.
Conversations that repair and protect relationship with our kids begin with compassionate hearts that are willing to hold and nurture their hearts instead of crushing them with advice that we need them to know or requirements that we need them to do. In parenting there is certainly a place for teaching and mandates, but it is better for these to occur in the context of compassionate conversational explorations about what God has put in their minds and hearts as well. A Christian Coaching approach can help us to do that.
Tips for Quality Conversations with our Kids:
- Make time to listen. When they are ready to talk lay down the paper, shut the lap-top, etc. Give them undivided attention.
- Reflect what you hear them saying as they share. Listen for thoughts, feelings and desires.
- Ask open questions. Watch out for “solution-focused” questions (“Have you thought about completing your scholarship application before going to the mall?”, vs. “When does the application need to be completed, and how do you plan to make that happen?”
- Have a conversation with God and yourself first when you are upset with them. Words are like arrows. They can’t be retrieved after we let them fly. Vent to yourself, in prayer, or in a journal instead of venting your anger, sadness or even fear to your kids. It may be appropriate to share all of it, but give God time to shape your message and your approach before you fracture the relationship or miss an opportunity to repair it with a compassionate response.
*Jeff and Jill Williams are parents of three children (21, 18, 14) and grandparents of one-year-old Gabby Anne. They are excited about what the heart and skill of coaching is doing for relationships with their kids. Write to Jeff.firstname.lastname@example.org or Jill@gmail.com, 301-515-1218, or www.graceandtruthrelationship.com.