Life Coaching Tips For Busy Parents

Are you a great parent?  Most people are not quite sure if they have “the right stuff” when it comes to raising children, but researchers and family relationship experts have identified several important qualities.  In this article, we’ll use a life coaching technique called modeling to look at seven of these essential qualities and discover why it is that they are so important to your family.

Of course, there is no such thing as the “perfect” parent or the “absolute” recipe for parenting success, so as you read along please don’t be alarmed if you find something that is different from what you already do.  Chances are you are doing just fine, so take the information in this article and apply in whatever way is appropriate for you and your family.

Let’s get started, then, and uncover seven key attributes that experts say are indicators of great parents.

#1 Be the parent

Did your parents ever use the phrase “because I said so” to explain why you had to do something?  As cliché as it sounds, this phrase is actually a very important part of fulfilling your role as parent.  There are times when what you say – whether giving directions, enforcing a rule, stating an expectation, etc. – should be accepted and obeyed without further discussion.  The trick is to apply this principle only when it is appropriate, not just when it is convenient, and start teaching your children to respect this principle when they are toddlers.

Now don’t expect your child to like this.  In fact, her or she will probably hate it (and maybe be angry with your for a bit) and try to continue arguing but you can’t allow that to happen.  You are the parent, you make the final decision, and you have the right (some would say responsibility) to expect your child to abide by your decision.  If this sounds too harsh then maybe you’re worried that your child will not “like” you when you do this.  Get over it, because it is not your job to get your child to like you; it is your job to be the parent and raise your child according to your family rules and standards.

The power you have to lay down the law and expect it to be obeyed is extremely strong, though, so be careful when and how you use it.  Remember that your household is not a kingdom or empire where you are the absolute ruler; rather, it is a “benevolent dictatorship”, where everyone is treated with respect, discussion and compromise are practiced, but you retain the final decision making authority.

#2 Be a great listener

One of the key principles in life coaching is the importance and value of listening, and particularly active listening. Your children need you to be a great listener.  This means you take the time to let them talk to you and express their thoughts in their own way and at their own pace.  The goal is not to “fix” their problems or “correct” their opinions, but to teach them how to express themselves and think through whatever issue is on their mind.  Be a great listener by asking open-ended questions and letting your child respond.  Avoid the temptation to finish his or her sentences or suggest a particular thought or feeling.  Just let your child talk and focus on soaking up what he or she is saying.

Give your kids permission to ask for your attention when they need to talk.  Establish a family rule that any family member can say a simple phrase such as “Mom/Dad, I’d like to talk to you” and you will stop what you are doing to sit down and listen.  This is extremely important so it’s worth emphasizing again:  when your child asks to talk with you, stop what you are doing and give him or her your full attention.  When you do this, your child receives a very powerful message – “you are important to me”, “you have my full attention”, and “your need is my #1 priority”.

You can start doing this when your kids are very young, but it is never too late to start no matter the age of your child.  Older children and especially teenagers may take a while to feel comfortable asking you to listen, but if you consistently show them – not just tell them – you are available then over time they will become more comfortable.  It is a process of building trust so that your kids learn you can be trusted to listen and treat them with respect.  Get into the habit of creating situations where your kids will open up and talk will emerge.  Eat dinner together, go for a walk, run errands together, or make a point of “checking in” with each other at the end of the day.

Life coaching can help you become a better listener and as a result a better parent as well.

#3 Set high expectations

Children will nearly always rise to whatever reasonable standards and expectations you set, so set them as high as possible.  Instead of hoping your child will be kind to others, for example, make it an expectation.  Teach your child what it means to be kind and reinforce those behaviors through recognition and praise when they occur and correction or consequences when they don’t occur.

Always ensure your expectations are reasonable, but that doesn’t mean they have to be easy.  In fact, they should be somewhat challenging so that your children have to put at least some effort into reaching them.  When they have to “work for it” a bit, the end result is more rewarding and more memorable, which in turn increases the likelihood that the result will be repeated in the future.  For instance, you can set the expectation that children must pick up their toys when they are done playing but adapt it for different ages.  A two year old can be expected to clean up with you in the room to offer direction and guidance, but a twelve year old can be expected to clean up without you having to be right there.

You can set expectations for just about anything – behavior, schoolwork, chores, honesty, play, kindness, etc.  The key is to communicate your expectations from the start, not after the fact.  If you expect your child to complete his or her chores every Saturday morning, make sure you communicate that expectation before you enforce it.  It would not be fair to correct your child for not getting chores done on time if you have failed to tell the child what “on time” means.

#4 Know when to be flexible

Just because you have rules and expectations does not mean you should not be flexible.  There are times when the best way to deal with a child’s mistake is to use it as a teaching opportunity and grant a second chance.  Some parents refer to this as a “get out of jail free” tactic, but it is more like a “get out of jail and try again” tactic because the child does not get away with something.  Rather, the child learns from a mistake and has an opportunity to try again and do better next time.

For instance, if your child comes to you very upset and says she was running in the house and broke a vase, pause for a moment before taking action.  Consider the courage it took to come forward honestly instead of trying to cover up the situation, even though she knows the family rule about not running in the house.  Praise her honesty and lighten up on the consequence, making sure she understands you are being flexible because she was honest.  Let her know what the consequence would have been if she had not been honest, so she clearly understands how honesty had a positive impact.  In this way, you can uphold your family rules while also reinforcing an important value.

If this concept seems strange to you, think back for a moment to when you were a child.  Was there a time when your parent was flexible about something and it had a great impact on you?  Was there a time when your parent was not flexible and you think he or she should have been?  Remember, growing up is hard and children make mistakes because that is how they learn.  Know when to be flexible and give a “second chance” to your child.

#5 Know when to be firm

On the flip side, many parents today spend too much time being flexible and not enough time being firm.  A rule, standard, or expectation loses its meaning if it is always being altered, excused, just not enforced.  You must be firm about your standards, clearly communicate the consequences of not meeting them, and then follow through if they are not met.  This teaches your children that it is important to follow your rules and that they will face consequences if they break those rules.

When you are firm with your children, you teach them accountability.  For instance, if your child forgets his lunch and calls you to bring it to him at school it’s probably okay to do it the first time the situation occurs, but also to remind him that it is his responsibility to pick up his lunch before leaving the house.  Let him know that the next time he forgets you will not bring it to him and he will instead have to eat school lunch.  And the next time it happens?  Follow through on what you told him and do not take him his lunch.  He’ll learn more about responsibility and accountability by experiencing the consequence than he would if you continue to take him his lunch every time he forgets it.

It’s hard to be firm because your kids don’t like it.  They want you to give in, they want to avoid accountability and consequences, and they may be angry with you when they don’t get their way.  Let them be angry (as long as they remain respectful) but don’t give in or the next time you will face an even bigger hurdle to overcome.  This is especially true with teenagers, because they just naturally challenge nearly everything you say and do.  Despite their bluster on the outside, what they are really looking for is reassurance about boundaries and expectations.

#6 Learn as much as you can

Learn as much as you can about each child and the issues he or she faces.  Read articles about different stages and different ages, understand the varying pressures faced by girls vs. boys, and even do some reading about the effect of birth order on a child.  If you’ve never had a teenager before then do yourself a favor and read up on what to expect.  If you’ve already lived through one teenager and now have another one coming along, don’t rely solely on what you learned from the first one.  Brush up on your reading about teenagers, and remember that every child is different.  You may need to adjust your style from one child to another depending on their individual personality and needs.

You should also learn as much as you can about the world your child lives in.  Computers, MP3 players, and cell phones are just a few examples of things you probably never had to deal with when you were a child.  Make a point of learning about the latest technology and the kinds of social pressures your children face in the modern world.  It will help you a great deal when it comes to making parenting decisions.

Of course, some things don’t change much from generation to generation.  Kids still form cliques, they still label others as “jocks”, “geeks”, or “weirdos”, and they still experience the challenges of friendships, crushes, and dealing with the neighborhood bully.  Help your children through these rites of passage as best you can, drawing on your own experiences and what you wish you had done differently.

#7 Remember your most important job

Never forget that your most important job as a parent is to prepare your children to be capable, self-sufficient adults.  They begin their lives helpless and completely dependent on you, and then gradually gain new skills and abilities as they learn how to be independent.  It is not a smooth process by any means; your children will go through phases of moving back and forth between different levels of ability.  The phrase “two steps forward and one step back” is a perfect way to describe the evolution your children will go through.

Through it all, you need to keep one eye on the big picture of parenting.  Teach your children what they will need to know as adults, whether it is honesty, study habits, doing laundry, or writing a proper thank you note.  Guide your children through their development, sometimes stepping in to help and other time stepping back to let them learn something for themselves.  Parenting is a huge responsibility and nobody ever gets it exactly right, but you do the best you can.  Model the kind of behaviors you want your children to have because they learn far more from what you do than from what you say.

Most of all let your children see what it means to be a human being.  Praise them frequently so they develop confidence, and acknowledge your own mistakes so they learn honesty and integrity.  When you treat your children with respect and firmness, you give them the tools they need to become healthy, effective adults.

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