Coaching instead of controlling: Does it work?

Last week, we talked about a new way to define parenting: as coaching instead of controlling.

What came up for you as you turned this over in your mind?

Clare wrote, “I like this idea but must admit I struggle to implement it on any given day. I find myself frequently telling my child to do things, because asking doesn’t get anything done and frankly things need to get done! … I fail to see how to get things done whilst only ‘coaching.’ Maybe I just don’t know how to coach because I’ve never done it before?”

That’s right, we haven’t done it before. Most of us — including me — don’t naturally default to coaching. We weren’t raised that way, so we don’t have a model for it. We’re not going to hear the phrase “coach instead of control” and just know what to do with that.

We have to see it in action and then try it out ourselves.

(Later this year, some of us will do that together! Maybe you?)

It doesn’t matter if we coach imperfectly or only occasionally. We can gift ourselves the space to learn and try and play. When I first learned the specifics of how to coach as a parent, it was challenging to shift my instinctual first reaction. It still is sometimes. But what keeps me going are the results.

I shared a few unexpected experiences during a summit interview recently. The time my daughter vowed to hurt her friend. The time I walked in to find her sitting on the bathroom counter, spraying the mirror. The time a little boy crawled toward me and spit. The surprising thing was what happened when I responded from a place of coaching — starting with the child’s need instead of only my own.

You can listen to the stories today and tomorrow. (If you miss that window, all of the interviews will be available for replay at the end of the summit.)

What does “coaching” mean to you? What questions come up for you? If you listened to the stories, what surprised you? Reply in the comments below.

Copyright Betty Udesen / Pear Press
Written by

Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, a public speaker, and a creator of places to speak and be heard. Sign up for her newsletter here.

4 thoughts on “Coaching instead of controlling: Does it work?

  1. My kid is 3, and once in a while he likes to play with valuables such as my keys or my rings. My instinctual reaction is to take them away in panic and forbid play with them in any situation. But when I overcome it, and I explain that these items are very valuable and he should give them back to me the moment he is finished playing with them works SO WELL. I usually say “I trust you.” The kid who throws and kicks his toys walks back to me and hands me my keys or slides my ring back on – “I am finished, mam mam.”

    1. You were coaching, Yana, and it worked for you. You noticed your initial reaction and used that moment to overcome it. You followed one of the “four rules about rules” I talk about in my book. And you focused on a strength, trustworthiness. You could reiterate that strength for him, too, after he gives back the keys. Naming strengths for our kids is so important because, as Peggy O’Mara says, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” We act according to who we believe we are.

      I’m curious: Is it OK with you for him to play with your rings? Panic is a pretty useful signal our bodies send us that “this doesn’t feel right.” Sometimes that is worth overriding, when we have a stronger purpose in mind. (I know I’ve breathed through my butterflies when my daughter climbs up high, because I believe she can trust her own body and I want that confidence for her.) And sometimes it’s just that we become so used to giving ourselves for our babies, it can be hard to realize when it’s time to reclaim our own likes and wants. Something to think about.

  2. I like the “coaching” term. Having raised my own three children with Montessori principles of “guiding” in mind, and now having my grandchild with me 5 days a week, I continue to strive to lead, not push. Resistance melts away when you remove the obstacle of your will. It is not always easy for me to avoid just reacting, but being mindful pays dividends and is worth the effort. The coaching from people like you is a constant help to me to be better at that effort.

    1. Glenna, it’s good to hear from you. I remember your name from your Amazon review. 🙂 Beautifully said: “the obstacle of your will.” I am honored to be a help to you, and I know you have so much wisdom — thank you for sharing it with us.

      P.S. For anyone curious why will is an obstacle, read The secret to stopping power struggles.

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