Learning Skills

Coaching at Home

See also: Lifelong Learning.

Our pages What is Coaching? and Coaching Skills focus on using a coaching approach at work, especially in leadership roles.

What about at home? Do the same approaches work with family relationships, including with children? The answer is very much ‘yes’.

This page looks at how you can use a coaching approach at home to help your family and yourself to learn and develop.

If you think about this, it’s obvious. Coaching is all about believing in people, and particularly that they have the potential to solve their own problems. It is about helping people to learn, rather than telling them what to do. A good coach will be saying ‘Try it’ and ‘Give it a go’.

Generally, people like to be given the freedom to try things out for themselves rather than being told what to do.

This page looks at how you may adopt a coaching approach with:

  • Children
  • Teenagers and Adults
  • Yourself

A Coaching Approach with Children

Children are natural experimenters. From the moment that a baby first picks up a toy and puts it in their mouth, they are experimenting with the world.

Sometimes these experiments can be, or seem or be, downright dangerous, and sometimes they’re just inconveniently messy for parents. Experimenting at an early age is a fundamental way in which babies and children learn about the world.

As a parent, if you can overcome your concern about the mess, and give your children the freedom to try things out, you are well on the way to adopting a coaching approach to parenting.

WARNING!


Obviously, some things are intrinsically dangerous.

For example, there’s no way that any of us would allow young children to experiment with playing in the road, or with electricity, without supervision. But with supervision, most things are possible.

For example, do your children want to know what damage a car can do? Put a cardboard box out, and let them push toy trucks and cars over it, then ask them what they think a ‘grown-up’ car might do instead, and might do to other things.

Feel the fizz of a battery on a wet finger and discuss how much more power there is in the light socket.

Lessons learned this way are quickly and efficiently absorbed, much faster than just saying ‘No, don’t play with that, it’s dangerous’.


The important thing for you as a parent to remember is to think ‘Well, OK, why not?’, rather than ‘Oh no, it will be so messy’.

Clothes and children can be washed and floors can be cleaned. And once you’re involved, the issue is ‘Ask, don’t tell’. By all means suggest an activity, or what to look out for, but your role is chiefly to ask the questions that will guide their thinking, not to tell them the answers.

Good coaching questions include:

  • “What happens when you do x?”
  • “How does it feel when you try y?”
  • “What do you think will happen if you do z? Try it and see”.

And it’s not just physical experimentation, either. Young children are also exploring the world of emotions, albeit not always smoothly. A coaching approach can help them to think through how others felt about something that they did or said:

  • “How would you have felt if he/she had done that to you?”
  • “How do you think he/she feels?”

A Coaching Approach with Teenagers and Adults

As children grow up, it’s even more important to give them the space to make their own mistakes.

Young people who have grown up with a coaching approach will understand that things don’t always work the way that they expect. They’ll have developed more resilience from this. But there will still be events and people that knock them back.

As a parent, you’ll need to have the confidence in them to encourage them to find their own solutions, talked over with you in advance if they wish.

At this stage, key questions could include:

What do you think you could have done differently?
How might you approach this? And what effect do you think that will have?
How do you think that will make him/her feel?

You can use the same approach to how they’re going to manage their school work, revision, and university or job applications.

Open-ended questions that ask how they’re proposing to do it, and whether they believe that approach will be effective, including whether they have considered all the issues (“And is there anything else that might affect that?”) will help them to understand that you have confidence in their abilities, but that you are there to support them through the process.

It works with adults too!


Everyone likes to have others believe in them. A coaching approach demonstrates that you do.

If you’re worried that asking questions will mean that you don’t sound like you believe in them, try starting with something like:

I know that you can do this, but I’d be a bit more comfortable with the process if I was clearer on how you’re planning to do it, and particularly what I can do to help you.

This puts it firmly in the ‘support’ camp and well away from ‘nagging’, but means that you can discuss any concerns.


Self-Coaching

Being able to take a coaching approach with yourself can be important for your personal development and help to boost your confidence.

Probably the most important part of self-coaching is giving yourself the option to fail.

It is easy to fall into the trap of not trying something new, or different, because you are worried you will fail. Try to be open-minded and prepared to try things out, treating them as positive learning opportunities even if they don’t work out in quite the way that you expected or wanted.

To make sure that you do this, you might find it useful to remember these ‘top tips’:

  • Be curious – keep wondering where you want to go, and what you want to achieve.
  • Set goals for yourself, and make them specific and positive. For more on this, have a look at our pages on Strategic Thinking and Action Planning.
  • Listen to yourself. See how you talk about where you are, or what you want to achieve, and challenge your language. Do you think in terms of ‘I would have liked to, but…’, or are you more positive? Decide if your language is helping you to achieve or not and, if not, change it.
  • Set yourself challenges and see what happens. Treat them as learning opportunities and chances to get some feedback.
  • Give yourself time for reflection. See our page on Reflective Practice for more.
  • Put yourself in the position of others and see the world from a different perspective. Ask yourself ‘How might they feel about this?’ See our page: What is Empathy?
  • Seek and accept support from others. Sometimes it’s hard to reach out and ask for help, but look at our page on Transactional Analysis for more about adult-adult interactions that offer support in a ‘grown-up’, reciprocal way.
  • Believe in yourself. See our page on Self-Motivation for more.
  • Remember that you're in control. Nobody else controls you. Give yourself permission to take charge of your own life.

Think of yourself as CEO of your own life.


Ask yourself how much power you have given your shareholders (which might include children, partner, boss, and others) compared with the power that you have yourself.

Consider whether that is the right balance, or whether you want to take some of the power back.

As the CEO, you have the ability to do that if you want.


Conclusion

A coaching approach is an incredibly powerful way to work with yourself and others.

Developing a real belief in the abilities of those around you, and in yourself, is a very positive way to face the world and will genuinely be reflected in how others relate to you.

By giving yourself the opportunity to try things out, without worrying about whether they ‘succeed’ but only whether you learn from them, will help you face the world more confidently.

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