The Child Has The Answer (Part 1 of The Parent Coach Series)
As parents, we often feel the urge to teach our children what we know and to pass on the lessons we have learnt from our personal experiences. We are naturally driven by a loving intention to prepare them to meet the challenges life.
As parents, we often feel the urge to teach our children what we know and to pass on the lessons we have learnt from our personal experiences. We are naturally driven by a loving intention to prepare them to meet the challenges life. However, as coaches, we might at times need to withhold that parental urge to impart knowledge. Instead of teaching, our primary task as coaches is to create opportunities and structures that promote and support the process of self-discovery. By harnessing the sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness in the child, even a five-year-old can know more about dinosaurs or the importance of honesty than an average adult.
Coaching works on a presupposition that the child has the answer, and that the parent has the questions to facilitate its discovery. This applies to coaching our children in any area, be it solving a mathematical problem or figuring out the best move in a game of chess. The answer might be obvious to us but not to the child. It is tempting to simply spoon-feed the child with the answer we have in mind so as to end his ‘struggle’ and get him to carry on with the task at hand. But we must not deprive the child the experience of discomfort. Confusion, struggle, and discomfort are often necessary for the expansion of the mind so as to accommodate new knowledge or ideas.
Guiding and supporting the child through the process of discovery might require immense patience, but that is both essential and worthwhile. In guiding the child, strive to be non-directive and avoid the use of leading questions. For example, a question such as “Don’t you think A is better than B?” tends to lead him to the former. Instead, ask questions that help him gain awareness of his thought patterns (e.g. What are you thinking about now?) and encourage the exploration of new lines of thought (e.g. What else is possible?). Give the child ample time and space to explore his own thinking.
Learning by self-discovery is undeniably more effective than being told what the ‘right’ answer ought to be. Its benefits go beyond knowledge acquisition for the child. In essence, coaching is about bringing out the greatness within the child. By allowing a child to explore freely and find his own answers to his problems, we effectively create a safe space that draws out his inner qualities such as curiosity, resourcefulness, creativity, independence and confidence. The ultimate victory is when the child feels, “I can do it by myself!” It builds confidence and nurtures his self-esteem.
Remember, the effectiveness of coaching lies not in what we know, but the questions we ask. We need to trust the process and believe that, with proper guidance, they are able to find their own answers.