A Research Paper created by Bill Mayes
(Transformational Coaching, UNITED STATES)
Elizabeth is a woman in her early 50’s who is currently on her second marriage. Between her and her husband they have two sons, both in their early twenties. Due to her job as a mid-level manager at a software technology ﬁrm, she is currently living on the west coast of the United States, while her family (husband and two sons) remain on the east coast. Although early on in this transition, it was the intent for all the family to move to the west coast, criminal legal matters arose with the oldest son that required the rest of the family to remain back east. Elizabeth has been on the west coast for approximately ten months now and the family will not be joining her out west. Being the sole income earner at the time of our initial coaching session, she felt obligated to stay and earn a salary to support her family.
During our ﬁrst coaching session Elizabeth shared this biographic information with me. She also presented her desire and willingness to discover and create new ways of interacting with her two sons. But of particular concern to her was the youngest son Robert. Robert is Elizabeth’s biological child, whereas Luther is her step-son as a result of her current marriage. Elizabeth expressed her concern and fears that Robert is going down the same path as his brother Luther, that of becoming continually criminally involved and that the involvement was a result of his continued use of illegal drugs and alcohol. She expressed her need to ﬁnd new ways of communicating with her son so that he may hear and understand her fears.
Up to this point Elizabeth had expressed her concerns to her son by attempting to talk with him and share her feelings. When she did this Robert would acknowledge what his mother said, but Elizabeth would see no behavior change from him. This was very frustrating to her and caused her to doubt many of the decisions she had made so far in raising him.
Our second session began with Elizabeth needing to explain to me the difference in how she chose to raise her son and what is the generally approved method here in the United States. Elizabeth and her husband are naturalized citizens of the United States. They both emigrated here from Romania after having spent most of their lives living in a communist regime. Elizabeth went on to explain that she gave her son all the freedom that she had as a child in Romania, but in hindsight that may have been a mistake here in the United States. She summed this view up by saying that while growing up in Romania she was not closely supervised by her parents and could go and do what she wanted with her friends when she wanted. She always returned home at the appropriate time and never got into any trouble. But after reﬂecting for a moment on my question as to what was the greatest difference between living in Romania and in the United States, the answer was the amount of choice available. She explained that while growing and living in Romania under a communist regime there was very little to do other than work, school and go home. So that the freedom her parents allowed her to have was already heavily restricted by the state. She realized that her choices of what to do during her free time was extremely limited.
By contrast, the amount of choice that Robert has is so vastly different than her experience, that she is unable to fathom the amount of choice he now has, let alone the types of choice (ie pro-social vs. anti-social). So all the freedom or lack of structure she gave to Robert and Luther allowed them to explore aspects of their community she did not ever know existed.