The art of parenting is more internal that you realize. Have you have ever thought, if my children would just behave I could be the type of parent I want to be? Well, it doesn’t work that way. Parenting is what you do when your children are giving you a hard time. It’s about controlling yourself, not controlling them. A great way I have discovered to do this is do adopt the role of a coach.
Yesterday I received a message on the Game of Diapers Facebook page from one of my readers. She said that she loved reading my posts and found them very motivational. She asked if I had ever thought about becoming a fitness coach. Ha! I laughed… Me? Fitness coach? No way!
But then I thought about it for a moment. What exactly does a coach do? Well, coaches are leaders, they are teachers, they are motivators, they draw upon their experiences, they make sacrifices for their team…hmmm wait a minute. This girl has me pegged! I love helping people and I think in another life I definitely could have been a fitness coach. Then as I sat envisioning what my life would be like if I worked in a gym, it dawned on me. Being a coach is a great approach to take to parenting.
Think of it for a moment and it’s easy to see how the two roles overlap. But, by thinking about the relationship in terms of being a coach it highlights some of the aspects that you may be neglecting in the parenting department.
1. Building a relationship. If you have ever watched any Olympic sport you can see just how strong the bond is between coaches and athletes. This is a bond so real you can almost see it physically! That bond is important because the athlete trusts her coach beyond a shadow of a doubt and would do anything they ask. Well, wouldn’t you want to have kids like that? I know I would.
Sometimes we are so focussed on controlling the situation and “managing” our kids we forget that the most important thing you can do is focus on creating that connection with them. If you can truly connect with your child, the rest will start to fall into place naturally. Listen to your child, don’t speak to them unless you have their attention, don’t yell, don’t repeat yourself.
It wasn’t until I actually tried to connect with my son that I realized whenever I speak to him I almost never look at him. Instead I am semi shouting at him while doing something else. No wonder he feels like he doesn’t get enough attention! Coaches don’t give feedback while doing dishes so now, I stop what I am doing and focus on him and only him before I start to open my mouth.
2. Staying Positive. Coaches are motivators. When you fall down, they tell you to get right back up. Coaches don’t discipline their students, or send them to their rooms because they didn’t make that double axle. They help them, give them tips, and empower them to get it right the next time. I have to admit, that even I personally have resorted to discipline techniques lately (read about the day I threw his toys away), but now that things have calmed down, I am really coaching my son on how to behave, by giving him lots of attention (not just praise). Yesterday, he got his stool out, went to the sink and started doing dishes because he wanted to help. First, I squealed with delight, then I ran over and asked him to show me what he was doing, and we talked about it, he asked my opinion as to whether a dish was clean enough, and I gave him some tips and of course I thanked him for being so helpful. It was an amazing moment where I felt we really connected and I was acting like a coach.
3. Coaches use their experience to benefit their students. I don’t know about most of you, but at this point much of my childhood is a big blur. I realized that rather than push it aside, this is valuable information that can help me be a better parent. If I can remember what it was like to be a child, I can better empathize with my kids. If I can remember what made me happy as a kid, odds are it will make them happy too. Finally, if I can acknowledge areas that were trouble spots for me in childhood, I can help my kids overcome them. For someone who spends so much time reading books, blogs and websites, it boggles my mind how I completely overlooked this library of knowledge I had inside me the whole time!
4. Coaches give athletes the tools they need to develop their skills. Many times I forget that my son is only three years old. I forget that he experiences thoughts and emotions that he doesn’t have the tools to handle appropriately. It is my job not to discipline or punish him for having these feelings, it is to show him how to cope with them. I can do this in two ways. First, by showing. It’s amazing how quickly arguments can escalate, and pretty soon it seems like there isn’t even an adult in the situation. So, by controlling my anger and approaching him calmly and rationally he can see that you can control your emotions, even if mommy has to give herself a time out. Secondly, by focussing on that connection we are building and helping him through these moments. Usually, the kids who need the most love, are the ones that least “deserve” it. Yesterday, when he was about to punch me, I grabbed him and hugged him and suggested we talk about why he was angry. At first he resisted, but I told him that it would be okay and I could help him feel better, and so we talked it out. Since I am just starting to work on #1 I am hoping we are on the right path.
5. Coaches can bring a bunch of people together and create a unified team. With three kids, we are definitely a team. Like any team, people don’t always see eye to eye or want to cooperate. But it is up to me as a coach to find ways to bring us together and unite us as a family. Right now it is tough, because they girls are little, but I work very hard at finding activities that can involve everyone. Since coaches don’t play favourites, I try to make sure I give the same amount of attention to all the children, and I am working on helping them to build bonds with each other. If my kids love and trust each other, they are less likely to want to hurt one another. Just because they have all heard my heartbeat from the inside (so cool) they don’t have an instant connection, it is something that has to be forged over time, and I am the one who can help them do it.
Going forward I am going to adopt the approach of being the coach of my team and see what happens. I like the idea of being a coach, I mean who doesn’t love a coach? Even when you hate them you love them because you know what they are doing is in your best interests. Will I go out and by matching team outfits for all of us to wear? Hmmm, actually I do like that idea…:-) Seriously though, I hope that you find this post useful and maybe next time you will decide to be a coach when you are feeling more like a prison warden than a parent.