As parents, everyday we find ourselves faced with the opportunity for life coaching kids. We can grab their shoes and put them on for our kids or we can let them take the extra 2-10 minutes to put their shoes on themselves and help talk them through it when need be. As parents, we walk the line of giving receiving constructive feedback and building their self-esteem. We negotiate through the difficult waters of saying just what we think and feel and saying what is most productive and constructive.
Today, I have a guest post from Leon Scott Baxter, the author of the newly released parenting book, Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting, and the founder of the website SafetyNetters.com. Kids all need life coaching but each to varying degrees and each will accept giving receiving constructive feedback from certain people better. Leon Scott Baxter shares with us his own recent personal experience on life coaching kids and learning when to offer the constructive feedback and when to focus on the positive feedback.
Constructive Feedback Can Be Hard To Take
Am I the only one, or does anyone else’s spouse second-guess their decisions only to embrace them when someone else brings them up? Here’s what I mean: I tell my wife, Mary, I think we should maybe take some of the money from our mutual funds and invest in a Roth IRA as a means of diversification. She shrugs and says, “Why should we change things up? Our finances are fine now.”
Two months later, our financial guy tells us we are heavy on mutual funds and we might want to diversify by opening a Roth IRA. She nods, smiles and says, “That’s a great idea!”
Or, I tell her that we should have smaller meals, but eat more often as a means to kick-start our slower metabolism rates. She says that it sounds like more cooking and a bit of an inconvenience, but then Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser says it on TV. Next thing I know, I’m eating seven meals a day, each of which I could fit in the palm of my hand.
Why is it that when the people we love offer advice, we just don’t really want to take it? It’s not just with spouses. Children are just as guilty of this as well. In fact younger children will usually interpret constructive feedback as negative feedback.
Life Coach For Kids
I have been playing basketball for a good thirty-five years (well, maybe a good thirty years…the first five weren’t all that good). I was the captain of my high school team. I was MVP for most of my years in school. And, I still play regularly a few times each week with some fellas that are half my age (doesn’t mean I can stay up with them).
So, I believe I know a little about the sport. My twelve-year old, Grace, has been playing basketball since she was in third grade. She’s not great yet, but she’s improved a lot these last five seasons. One year I was her team’s assistant coach, but other than that, I’ve merely been a doting dad in the stands.
I drove her to practice this week, and instead of dropping her off, I decided to stay and watch. I saw a few areas where she could improve. So, when I had the opportunity, I would feed her a few tips: “Stay up closer on your man on defense. Make it difficult for her to cross the lane,” or “Fake that shot, then take one dribble to your left and shoot the short jumper.”
She showed me respect when I gave her these pointers, but I felt like she didn’t receive the tips how I thought she would (with open arms and a huge, “Thank you, Dear Father”).
By the end of practice she had made some great strides on her defense. She was playing her man much better, but there were a couple of times she let her get by. So, on the car ride home I told her that she really got much better during practice, but that she’ll need to use her feet more and rely less on her hands.
Grace got upset with me. She became defensive (which is what I was looking for on the court). “I thought I was doing better on defense”. I tell her she was, but that I just want to help her get to the next level. Nothing doing. She doesn’t hear my praise. She can’t hear how pleased with her progress I am. The only thing she hears is that I’ve said that she has room to improve. In her mind these evidently translates to, “You’re no good.”
The Right Way To Give Constructive Criticism If You Must
Initially, this frustrates me inside. I did the whole sandwich-between-praise thing. I started with how great she did and I stuck in how she can improve. Then, I finished it off with an “I’m so proud with how hard you’ve worked” slice of whole wheat. My daughter is apparently blind to my bread and can only taste the pastrami of improvement that I’ve offered.
I notice that at the games and practices her coaches are constantly giving her tips, and she accepts them with ease…but not from me. That’s when it hits me. Her coaches are her “financial guys,” her Bob Harpers. She’s doing just what her mom does, what we all do (I suppose).
Loving Support And Positive Feedback May Be A Better Choice
I’m her loved one. It’s not my job to tell her how to improve. It is my job to tell her I am proud of her. It is my job to spotlight her improvement. Additionally, it’s my job to praise her effort. It’s my job to give her hugs and be her shoulder to cry on when things get tough. Because I am not her coach, I need to embrace the nearly impossible task of keeping my mouth closed when it comes to pointing out her flaws.
She already has a coach. I need to accept that it’s my job to be her cheerleader, and not her nitpicker. I’m going to work on this, right after I eat my sixth meal of the day, pastrami on whole wheat.
Life coaching kids is sometimes tricky business! You have to weigh the effects of giving receiving constructive feedback and offering positive loving support. You need to be able to decide appropriately when to do which. Do you want to share any stories about life coaching kids?
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donna richards says
Thank you, Leon. This was such a supportive article on how to respond to our children when they don’t want or need advice. I see it as taking some of the “weight off” of parenting and plan to practice and remember when I start to worry about achievement.