Parents-as-Coaches is an approach to parenting founded on the premise that our primary role as parents is to bring out the unique greatness in our children.
As parents, we play many different roles in our children’s lives. We provide for their needs, guide them when they are lost, teach them new skills, become their source of comfort and support when life gets tough, and discipline them when they misbehave. The list seems endless, but there is one thing for certain; all are driven by the intention to give them our best as well as bring out the best in them.
Today’s children are developing and growing at an alarming rate and posing parents with new challenges that traditional approaches to parenting fail to address.
The authoritarian approach that demands children to do or behave as told fails to foster mutual respect, while the disciplinarian approach is overly skewed on correcting external behaviours such that we overlook the innate goodness in our children. On the other extreme, permissive or laissez-faire parents who give in easily to their children’s demands in a frantic bid to be liked often fail to instill the necessary values that are essential for raising self-reliant and socially responsible children. A fresh perspective to parenting that is relevant to raising today’s children is certainly needed.
Most parents want to bring out the best in their children, but many do not know how.
Unfortunately, love and good intentions are not enough. Apart from that, children also need lots of guidance, encouragement and support. Within each child lies a seed of magnificent potential, waiting to be nurtured or nourished to fruition. Hence, amongst the many hats that are available to us, the one that is highly appropriate for helping our children uncover, develop and actualise their potential is that of a ‘coach’.
Parents-as-Coaches is an approach to parenting founded on the premise that our primary role as parents is to bring out the unique greatness in our children. Powered by love and centred on the well-being of the child, it integrates the heart of parenting with the practical disciplines of personal coaching, enabling us to evoke the confidence, resilience, independence and compassion within our children. Our task is to guide them to uncover and manifest their innate potentials through being who they are, who they can be, and who they want to be.
A child’s development is a function of nature and nurture. Apart from being the source of genetic constitution that determines our children’s nature, we also play a critical role in shaping the environment in which they are nurtured to develop and grow. Pre-schools, schools and enrichment centres fill only one part of our children’s environment for growth. A larger part depends on the nature of interactions between parents and children.
As a start, parents who aspire to coach their children effectively may begin by applying the following set of powerful and enduring principles.
The seven principles of coaching for parents are as follow:-
1. Lead by Example
Children learn through modeling and the most effective way to influence them is not through our words, but our actions and behaviors. For example, it is not uncommon to spot a parent yelling at a child “Don’t scream!” The incongruence between our behaviours and our message can send a conflicting signal that causes confusion in their learning. This principle reminds us to first be what is desired of them ourselves, and let them model after our way of being. In other words, it calls for us to ‘walk the talk’ and lead by example
2. Be Powered by Love
In Parents-as-Coaches, we view love as an unconditional acceptance of our children and a willingness to extend ourselves to nurture their growth. Accepting our children as who they are liberates us from the common tendency to mould them into who they are not. To truly love a person with full acceptance is no easy task. Each child has its own strengths and weaknesses, and accepting the latter is challenging especially for parents. A natural tendency is to work on the weaknesses, trying to eradicate or fix them as if the child would be ‘perfect’ when that is accomplished. But coaching is not about turning our children into what we think they should become. It invites us to take a more expansive and generative view. Instead of focusing on our children’s weaknesses, we help them to harness their strengths such that the weaknesses become irrelevant.
3. Nurture the Nature
To nurture means to cultivate from within, and not impose our values from the outside. All children begin with a seed of goodness and our job is like that of a gardener, nurturing the growth of the seedlings by providing the proper nutrients, and weeding out negative influences where appropriate. The critical nutrients that we provide our children include love, encouragement, support, and guidance. This principle directs us to pay attention to understanding the nature of our children, and explore ways to nurture their unique gifts and talents.
4. Be Guided by Vision
Being result-oriented is one of the distinctive features of coaching. Begin with a clear vision of what your child wish to accomplish, and then translate it into specific goals that are worth pursuing. Goals are important guideposts that make the journey of growth meaningful. Children are naturally inspired and motivated towards attaining goals that they have set for themselves as opposed to meeting expectations that parents place on them.
5. Focus on the Actions
Action transforms reality. A key aspect of coaching is about guiding our children to feel sufficiently empowered to take actions so as to realize their goals and aspirations. Through actions, they get the feedback and lessons that are necessary for learning and growth. Without action, there is no result, and dreams remain simply as dreams.
6. Engage the Heart and Mind
To influence and guide our children, establishing and maintaining rapport is critical. We need to constantly engage their minds and their hearts, paying attention to their thoughts and emotions that are may not be reflected clearly in their behaviours. Seek first to engage their heart, then the mind, for they seldom care about how much we know until they know how much we care about them.
7. Enjoy the Journey
Parenting is a privilege for a life-long journey of joy and growth shared between the parent and the child. This last principle reminds us to be present in our children’s lives and enjoy the journey with them. Often, the quality of time spent together is in the quantity.
Coaching our children effectively does not require a university degree or a Ph.D. in child psychology. What is required is a commitment to continuously learn and apply the right principles and practices that will enhance our effectiveness in bringing out the best in our children. It is a practical discipline that most parents get lots of opportunities to apply daily. Begin with a shift in mindset. Start by being a coach, thinking as a coach, and acting as a coach. When in doubt, be guided by the seven principles!