The purpose of this paper is to examine how coaching can be a useful parenting tool. While many parenting tools look at fixing behavioral and developmental problems, this paper focuses on preparing children to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It argues that taking a coaching approach serves two general, long-term goals of parenting – developing a child’s ability to grow its own capacity and to learn effectively.
In conventional coaching there is an equal relationship between the coach and the coachee, whilst in parenting, relationships are of a hierarchical nature. However, the coaching objective of developing an individual to his or her full potential coincides with that of the higher goal of parenting. The unique way of communicating in a coaching context promotes self-belief, self-motivation and self-discipline. It nurtures creativity, resilience and problem solving skills. All of which are vitally important in preparing our children to face an ever-changing world full of new challenges.
21st century parents face the challenge of preparing their children for a fast changing world. Parenting has gone beyond looking into behavioural and developmental issues. More concern is now put on how to raise confident, competent and compassionate children. What are the qualities and skills that are essential in developing independence and self-generation that will ensure sustained motivation, discipline, well-being and the desire to learn? How can parents instill these qualities and skills into their children?
Communication between parents and children is no doubt a key issue in carrying out the task at hand. Coaching not only provides a new set of skills in communication, but also a radically different approach to interacting with children. The coaching approach nurtures the psychological needs outlined by the self-determination theory, encourages intrinsic motivation and develops cognitive and metacognitive skills in children.
Daniel Pink (2006, p.49) names the modern era the Conceptual Age, as opposed to the Agriculture Age, the Industrial Age and the Information Age in the past. Characterized by affluence, technological progress and globalization, the 21st century has turned into “a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers” (Ibid. p.50). Certain specific skills can become obsolete, be transferred elsewhere or taken over by technology. What are the universal skills and qualities that can equip a child to face on-going change and new challenges?
Educators, psychologists and other experts have identified various skills and qualities as essential for preparing a child for the future. Published and well-received books on resilience (Brooks & Goldstein, 2001), mindset (Dweck, 2006), creativity (Robinson, 2009), character (Berger, 2004), problem solving (Shure, 2000), motivation (Pink, 2009), and self-discipline (Tracy, 2010) provide many guidelines for parents to follow. This paper focuses on two key areas of developing such skills and qualities: self-generation and effective learning.
What Is Coaching?
Doug Silsbee, PCC, (2010, p.4) defines coaching as “that part of a relationship in which one person is primarily dedicated to serving the long-term development of effectiveness and self-generation in the other.” The foundation of coaching is an equal and trusting relationship. This relationship is based on the belief that the person being coached is naturally creative and resourceful. “The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has” (ICF website, 2012).
The essence of coaching is believing in people (Stoltzfus, 2005). The coaching relationship evolves around the coaching conversation, which is based on mutual trust and respect. It focuses on the person being coached, validates their issues, dreams and perspectives, and explores opportunities and their options. Coaching ultimately facilitates the solutions that are generated by these conversations. As a result of this process, the coachee assumes ownership of these solutions and is responsible for taking the requisite action. Coaching is communicating in an empowering way.
The coaching approach puts building awareness, responsibility, and self-belief as its goals (Whitmore. 2009). In other words, coaching aims at building up people, helping them learn instead of teaching them or solving their problems. It is future oriented and applies to functional individuals for the purpose of improving performance and personal growth.
Key coaching skills include active listening, asking questions, building rapport, giving supportive feedback and using intuition (Starr, 2008). A coaching conversation sets an environment that enables the person being coached to think more clearly, to articulate their issues or agenda, to set goals, to consider different perspectives, to evaluate challenges and opportunities, to generate options, to make choices and commitments, and ultimately to take actions. The desire to change and the responsibility for the outcome do not come from the coach but are in the hands of the coachee.
Self-Generation and Effective Learning
Self-generation means taking personal responsibility for developing one’s own capacities (Silsbee, 2010, p.6). The ability to acquire knowledge as well as the ability to examine one’s own knowledge and thoughts is crucial for effective learning.
Self-determination theory (SDT) embraces the Aristotelian view of human development, which assumes that all individuals have natural and innate tendencies towards growth, self-construction and inner coherence. The discrepancy between this inherent tendency and the observable human behavior is due to the lack of certain social-contextual factors. SDT identifies three basic or fundamental psychological needs – the needs for competence, relatedness and autonomy. These three needs are crucial in providing a supportive environment for the growth tendency to eventuate (Deci & Ryan, 2002).
According to Professor Edward L. Deci (1995), autonomy in the sense of choice and being in control, and competency in terms of having both strategies and capacities for attaining desired outcomes lead to self-motivation. And
self-motivation, rather than external motivation, is at the heart of creativity, responsibility, healthy behaviour, and lasting change (Deci, 1995, p.9).
Deci champions the autonomy-supportive way of intervention as opposed to controlling in various forms, i.e. support people’s autonomy, yet still provide structure or set limits. Autonomy support means
being able to take the other person’s perspective and work from there (Deci, 1995, p.42).
It provides the necessary environment in developing a child’s self-worth; it’s perceived competence, self-discipline and self-motivation.
The principle of believing in people makes coaching an autonomy supportive approach.