Parent as coach

untitledA few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the critical role that parents play in youth sports.  In today’s highly competitive athletic landscape, it’s unfortunately become all too common for parents to overemphasize secondary greatness (i.e. trophies), thereby neglecting primary greatness (i.e. character development).  Click here to read the article.

This week, I’d like to share a broader perspective on parenting; one that transcends the world of athletics.  For the sake of understanding this blog, I’d like you to consider a new role of parenting – the role of coach (or guide).  It’s important to note that the most important game your child will ever play doesn’t take place on a court or a field, but rather occurs in a much bigger venue.  It’s called the game of life.  Your responsibility as a coach is to empower your child to achieve incremental success on this journey.  This success I speak of does NOT consist of a win-loss record, but rather a consistent path toward further character development.

Perhaps the biggest mistake parents make with regard to their child’s participation in the game of life is the endless pursuit to play the game for them, which often leads to heightened criticism and condemnation.  In some cases, they may even attempt to manipulate the rules in order to achieve a back door route to success.  In an athletic context, the notion that a coach would choose to play the game for his players or change the rules in order to ensure success is ucommon, yet when it comes to parenting we often fail to make this distinction.

The point I’m trying to make is this – if you’re able to assume the role of parent as coach, thereby taking yourself out of the game, you will be in a position to empower your child with tools and strategies to play the game more effectively.  You see, if you’re playing the game for them, you’re more concerned about the outcome than you are the process.  By standing on the sideline, you give yourself the distinct advantage of observing your child and subsequently developing a game plan to further empower their journey. 

Let me give you a fictitious example of how this might play out in real life, given the two different parental roles.

Jared is having problems getting along with one of his classmates.  They don’t see eye to eye on anything, which often escalates to intense arguments in the midst of a classroom lesson.  Needless to say, it’s becoming quite a disturbance for the other students, which has prompted the teacher to reach out to both parents.

Playing the game response: After hearing from the teacher, Jared’s parents decide to ground him for a week and take away all computer privileges for the same duration.  Furthermore, they choose to criticize him for his lack of composure.  In an effort to curtail these behaviors, they schedule a phone call with Jared’s teacher and ask for him to be transferred to another classroom, which will avoid any future problems. 

Coaching from the sideline response:  After hearing from the teacher, Jared’s parents ask him to share his side of the story.  They listen with the intent to understand (not judge) so that Jared feels safe to share all of the details.  After uncovering the root of the issue, which happens to stem from an incident a few years ago which was still unresolved, they decide to teach Jared about the power of forgiveness.  They try to impress upon him the notion that his classmate may be dealing with things that Jared knows nothing about.  Finally, they suggest to Jared that he makes an effort to see his classmate through a lens of empathy, thereby attempting to understand what he may be experiencing emotionally.  Finally, they notify the teacher that they’ve discussed the situation with Jared and he’ll be returning to school with a new “toolkit” to address these incidents.

I invite you to experiment with this new role.  Remember, it’s a journey, not a destination.  Instead of focusing on your power as a parent, try transferring some of that power to your child, which is the essence of empowerment.      

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