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Parent as Coach Approach
This is the story of how I learned to rebuild my relationship with my 14 year-old son.
Fourteen years ago, I had a successful career working as a professional coach to self-employed business people, helping them live their best life and achieve their dreams. At home it was a very different story. I was on the verge of losing my relationship with my 14-year-old son who seemed to change almost overnight from the loving, happy boy I had raised into a grumbling, distant, and mysterious stranger. Sound familiar?
Like many parents, I tended to respond to his teenage antics with eye rolling and sarcasm, and our connection was indeed in trouble. During his freshman year of high school, he said something to me I will never forget.
While getting ready for school one day, he stood up, turned to me and said, “Mom, you are like all the other grown-ups who talk down to teens. Anything you don’t like or approve of you call ‘teenage stuff’. Why do you act like all teens are broken? That makes me feel bad, you know.”
I have to tell you that I was stunned. He was right! Here I was, a successful coach who was trained to be supportive, to see people for who they are and to help them become who they wanted to be, and yet at home with my own son, it was like I’d forgotten everything I’d been taught. I did not know what to do next, so I sat down and remained silent…I had to think about all of this for a bit.
That is the moment I started using the coaching tools I had learned – knowing I had gotten results with adults – to start rebuilding our parent/teen relationship. I started listening deeply (meaning listening with my lips shut!) to what he and other teens had to say about what they wanted from grownups.. I found new ways to help him become who he wanted to be, rather than trying to make him into something he wasn’t. In short, I gave up the “parent-as-cop” and “parent-as-military-general” approach, and started using a coaching approach…and it worked!
Since then, my relationship with my son has been everything I hoped it would be. I have been able to use what I’ve learned to help parents around the world rebuild their relationships, and restore peace, love and harmony back into their family life. I know that by using the Parent as Coach® tools, strategies and information, you can do it, too.
As your new coach, here are some things you can do to start building, or rebuilding, your relationship with your teen. This process also works for children of any age, and family members as well.
1. Start a journal and write out what is really going on in real- time (today) with your teenager. Tell the truth about what is going on for you and what you perceive is going on for your teen. What thoughts and feelings come up for you when you think about letting go of the “parent-as-cop” or “parent-as-general” approach to parenting?
2. Start practicing this coaching approach: ‘listen with your lips shut.’ Simply be quiet, and yet totally engaged. You may have to put your cell phone away (just for a short time) to practice being totally present for your son or daughter. (Works with husbands and partners, too!) Keep eye contact, and rather than demanding that they share with you, ask open-ended questions and then allow the open space to develop as your young person gathers their thoughts.
The first time I did this with my son, he asked me, “What’s wrong with you, Mom?” I answered, “Nothing, I am just listening and here for you.” He looked at me oddly and said, “Oh…,” and then proceeded to talk for 30 minutes nonstop about something he was involved in at school. I sat listening intently with no cell phone, newspaper, or dishes to do, in sight. WOW!
3. Make a list of your teen’s top 10 finest positive qualities (not behaviors or accomplishments). While you are at it – make a list of your own. For example: creative, thoughtful, caring, friendly, good thinker…you get it. Begin to focus on, and give acknowledgement to, these qualities in your teenager and yourself. This allows a real connection, and shows you really do ‘see’ them.
Rebuilding your relationship with your teen takes time, but it is worth it! By the way – my son now asks me questions about my life and listens with deep respect. Our ‘rebuilt’ relationship is thriving.
Diana Sterling is the founder and author of The Parent as Coach Approach. She is known as a messenger of hope for families and an advocate for healthy parents, teens and children around the world.