A Coaching Power Tool Created by Supreet Oberoi
(Parent Coach, INDIA)
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives /life means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm, tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a person who cares- Henri J.M. Nouwen
The ability to observe without evaluating/ judging is the highest form of intelligence – Jiddu Krishnamurti
Dear friends, I am going to explain my power tool in a child- parent relationship situation.
Are parents able to see their child’s point of view vs parents own point of view? I feel parents should mentor/guide their children with empathy and without being judgmental. Do we want our children to blossom/grow or do we want to prove our point-which feeds our ego of being parent, wise and sensible. Empathy is a feeling from the heart while being judgmental is from the brain. We need to create a positive inner partnership between these two – the emotional and the reasoning mind. By making both work together (in alignment and harmony) the person feels in peace and has more energy to take right action it is every human being’s inherent desire to be seen and heard and have our needs responded to. That’s the essence of empathy. Empathy is understanding the context in which the other person lives. Keeping your curiosity open and not judging until you really understand where that person is coming from.
Dear all, love and compassion are necessities and not luxuries. We all need to understand each other to bring out the full potential in others. Most people need to have their specialness reflected back in the eyes of others in order to see it themselves.
No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Roosevelt.
If we look up the word judgmental in the dictionary, there are generally two meanings, which help us sort out the issues. One has to do with making judgments; this involves using our discretion to effectively assess/ evaluate a situation or options available to us in an objective manner. So, yes, at a basic semantic level making judgments is being judgmental.
The other meaning of judgmental has to do with being overly critical in an unhelpful way, and it is this separate meaning that allows us to get to the heart of the issue. It is when we make judgments in ways that have harmful or negative consequences that we are being judgmental in ways that are best to avoid.
Now whenever we are judgmental, we separate YOU from ME. Judgmental behavior puts up a wall wherein it seems to be saying that I am me and you are you and, you are different from me.
You know how this person with the judgment (parent) comes across? It is like as if he is standing on a pedestal and looking down upon the other person (child) he is judging. This other person (child) feels hurt at the way his contribution in a situation has been evaluated. Now love, affection and empathy can’t be expected from the other person/child either. The child is now gripped in a state of disempowering emotions and frustration. Our children require their parents most of all to love them for who they are, and not to spend their whole time trying to correct them. So we as parents have to first understand what our child did and why he did it. Everything about our child is not a matter of discipline and discourse. There is also an element of gleeful conspiracy in a child’s mind that must be much appreciated.
A child named Gaurav is 10 years old. He is a good, compassionate and a sensitive child. The only issue he faces is his anger bouts and lack of control on his anger emotions. Everyday he diligently does his homework but is not a great performer in exams. His results never match his own and his parents expectations. One day in school after his weekly math exam he was very happy and excited and confidently told all his friends about his expectations of getting full marks in that particular test.
After few days he got the result. To his shock he scored only 65% instead of 100% that he was expecting. At this point a boy from his class comes and starts teasing and humiliating Gaurav for his overconfidence and getting much lesser marks than what he was expecting. This incident instigated adverse behavior in Gaurav and so the otherwise calm and composed Gaurav lost his cool. He hit the other boy so hard on his face that his nose started bleeding and was rushed to the medical room.
Gaurav was reprimanded by his class teacher and taken to the principal’s office. His parents were then called to the school by the principal and the entire incident was narrated to them. The parents were very upset as they felt humiliated and embarrassed by the act committed by their son. After coming back, parents got very angry with Gaurav, reprimanded him for behaving irresponsibly and cruelly. They accepted that the other child did wrong by humiliating him but at the same time expected Gaurav to be more patient and resilient. And then came the final judgment by the parents and that is- had Gaurav studied harder and was more careful in writing his exam, he would have scored much better marks and so not given any opportunity to any child to humiliate him. At the end of the day, according to Gaurav’s parents, it all happened firstly because of Gaurav’s mistake and secondly because they as a parents failed in giving the right upbringing.
If I had my child to raise all over again, I’d build his self esteem first and the house later. I’d finger paint more and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes. I’d take more hikes and fly more kites. I’d stop playing serious and seriously play. I’d do more hugging and less tugging.– Dianne Loomans.
As a coach we are also human. We may disagree with the way Gaurav’s parents handled the situation and their way of dealing with him/ his behaviour. This disagreement comes from our values and beliefs being different from theirs. If we operate out of this feeling that what the parents did was incorrect, we (as coach) will likely be ourselves caught up in judging their behaviour and actions. Then our biases of what is right and what is wrong (based on our values and beliefs) will interfere with our ability to coach the parents.
Therefore I need to deal with myself to ensure that I am providing empathy to the parents/clients in understanding their fears, feelings, anxieties, awareness or lack of awareness, clarity or lack of clarity in their thought process etc behind their action/judgement.
Hence, so we as a coach (after understanding the above), should engage with the parents in a manner where we are “with them” in empathizing with their anxieties/ concerns and show that we understand their thoughts and feelings. Accordingly we need to formulate questions to the clients on that basis:
- How are they feeling?
- What made them do what they did?
If our questions to the parents come across as an inquisition of “why did they do what they did” it indicates that somewhere we are still being judgmental. We would be able to have more effective and constructive conversation if our questions show interest in:
- Encouraging the client/parent to talk about what happened.
- Share what feelings and concerns they experienced during the situation.
- What may have triggered the reactions and emotions they experienced during the incident?
- Their reflection on Gaurav’s response to their actions and behaviors, and what he may have been feeling about the same.
- What would they like to change about the way they handled the situation.
Empathy plays a very important part in coaching. An empathic coach first comprehends the clients’ feelings, fears and anxieties. This can be done by asking powerful questions, active listening, acknowledging and legitimizing the parents’ feelings/emotions. The answer/response to the above not only provides understanding of the client’s feelings to the coach but it also makes the client hear his own thoughts. This way we as coach give our clients the opportunity to offload their anxieties. Thus their very fabric of self-being would be now addressed and realised. Once their anxiety levels have gone down (after sharing it with an empathic coach), the client/parent will have clarity of their own thought process. They will now realize that maybe their being judgmental was out of sheer habitual thought process. Now they are in a position to ask and answer the question WHY-“why I did what I did?” Answer to this question gives them more clarity and this creates a space in their mind. A coach facilitates the creation of this space and a feeling of lightness and this may bring about a shift in the form of changed reaction to the situation or a better understanding of their present reaction that is equally important.
Now with this clarity of thought and the creation of space and feeling of lightness, the client is in a position to judge for themselves between alternatives- what will work and what will not work. The client will be able to discern between right course of action and course of action that is likely to create more trouble than being helpful. So, now as a coach, we can facilitate them through this journey of selecting an approach that they are comfortable with and which the client can also see works better with their child. That would be empathic response on parent’s behalf.
So from the above we observe that with some clients we need to create a feeling of empathy while with others we may have to work on their proactive judgmental behavior. In the above situation, Gaurav’s parents are empathic in accepting and feeling the humiliation their son suffered and in acknowledging the wrong behavior of the other boy. BUT their reaction was not truly a reflection of their empathic understanding of the situation. The parents’ reaction showed some limiting belief acting as a block and stopping empathy from being expressed in their reaction. Their limiting belief was “Due to the lack of right upbringing given to Gaurav by them, he behaved irresponsibly”. Hence when Gaurav was being reprimanded by his teacher and the principal, his parents took this as an indirect accusation on them by the school for being BAD PARENTS.
This was a magnified self created humiliation [due to their limiting belief] for them. In the above situation, parents felt the wrath of their humiliation more than their child’s humiliation. Thus the parent/ client here could not actually play the role of a parent to their child by calming him down and helping him to overcome it as they were busy fighting their own battle.
Here we as a coach can articulate our observation about the clients’ situation without any judgment. Our observation or the reflection of their own act can help the client to see the big picture of what they are doing or creating by their action. This will make the client/parent have an access to their own self and so help them to reframe their perspectives or get rid of their limiting belief.
- How do you think parents’ empathic reactions to various situations in everyday life define their children’s perspective?
- Think of a situation where you were judgmental. What triggered that judgmental attitude and behavior? What prevented you from being empathic?
- How can parents guide their kids towards success without pressurizing them?