The Coach is In…
Raising confident, independent, and happy children requires us to give up the amount we do for them and help them to be more self-responsible and accountable.
This past weekend I experienced my daughter going through the process of finding the right dog. We had several conversations about the ‘right’ dog, environment, work schedule, roommates, training, but the first rescue dog was finally coming to her house. She has wanted her own dog for a very long time. If you know my daughter, you know that this is the type of decision that she would be likely to make from an ‘emotional’ state. That pattern in the past has often not gone well.
She took in a rescue dog for a trial period. What I heard her say after one night was, “Dad, I don’t think Dash is going to work out. He isn’t crate trained, nor totally house broken. Given my schedule and my roommates lack of experience with dogs, I think I need an older dog.” I sensed how difficult it was for her to say that. I also marveled at how she had found the ability to be realistic about this particular dog, knowing that the wrong decision could impact the dog in negative ways. She was demonstrating being more self-accountable and self-responsible. How did that happen? More on that later.
Now that I am a grandfather, I reflect on how my lessons as a parent apply to me as a grandparent. Parenting, or grandparenting seemed to be good ‘theme’ for August given that many of you have, or are in the process, of sending children off to school. There are many common themes between raising more responsible, accountable children and leading or managing individuals in a more productive, nurturing environment. Since we are in a “back to school” frame of mind, we’ll focus on our children. My guess is that you will be able to see the corollaries with leadership.
We are so used to making ‘statements’ as parents in order to get across what we want and expect, that we sometimes miss opportunities to really impact our child’s growth as a responsible, accountable person. Our parents are often our first model for our parenting style. This becomes alarming when we find ourselves saying, “I’ve become my father or mother” after a particular action with our child. How useful our parents are/were as role models is an important question to answer. Being a great parent requires not only love as the foundation, but a firm understanding of how we need to ‘respond’ to our child not just ‘react.’
One of the greatest ways to improve our relationship with our children, while making them more self-responsible and self-accountable, is through questions. Questions are designed for information for you and information for your child. When used well they convey respect and affirm them. They also help the child evaluate an action or behavior. Having the child self-evaluate is a critical transition on their road to being a responsible adult.
When attending my “Coaching Your Children to Greater Success” class, parents often assume I am going to give them some magical formula to ‘fix’ their child. I do, but it comes by way of change in the parent’s behavior. Ugh! Now it gets difficult, because giving up our behaviors that don’t help our child in favor of behaviors that will strengthen our child and give them more of what they need is very hard; many parents never see how their behavior is contributing to the behavior they are getting from their child, or they choose not to change. How sad. We agree that raising our children is really important, yet we are unwilling to do some things that would help our child because it is too inconvenient or too difficult for us. If this statement is uncomfortable I invite you to consider what kind of parent you want to be, and what you want for your child. Is your current behavior helping or hurting your desires? Are you willing to change? (I’ve had to answer these questions in my own parenting/grandparenting life (although the dynamics as a grandparent are different, the principles remain the same). They are/were not easy questions to answer, but they helped me become a much better parent.
Part of helping our children get clarity about who they are, who they want to be, and what they want starts with conversations over time. The magic is in our questions and in our listening. Was that okay (in response to something that happened at school or with a friend)? How do you feel about that? What could you have done differently? You seem to really like ________ (person/subject), tell me about that? Giving them a chance to talk and explore. Over time these conversations help them connect the choices they are making and the outcomes they are getting. Over time they begin to understand their choices in a different way. It isn’t just about pleasing someone, but the better choices are helping them become more of who they want to be.
By understanding more of what our children want we are able to help them reflect on behaviors that aren’t helping them. The act of reflection allows them the space to say internally that they need to change something. We can get compliance from our children through nagging, cajoling, yelling, threatening, or preaching, but often we do damage to the relationship and never really engage them in their own motivation. In the end, if we want them to be committed to their own change, we may need to find another way to approach them. That other way is through questions (coaching) that help the child explore and learn that if they want something different, they will need to change their thinking or their behavior for that to happen.
Back to my daughter. Her ‘evolution’ came over time. She would tell you a LONG time. She learned to not just ‘react’ to a situation, but to wait until she was in a better place to ‘respond.’ That took years. It is hard to unwire and rewire ourselves in order to get a better outcome.
What did I learn? To be patient, realizing that I didn’t have control anyway. To encourage, and to ask questions, and to allow her own learning to be her ultimate guide. That was very hard, because the learning took so long. Along the way, we managed to preserve our relationship during the difficult moments. That is the best part.
It is a new school year. How do you want this year to be different from last year? What change in your behavior would help this year be different for you and your child or grandchild?
Have a great year! If this has resonated with you in some way and you’d like to have a conversation, contact me. I’d be happy to help.
To a better you…