Coaching Parents to Coach Children © Martyn Carruthers
We offer help and training on family therapy,
codependence, parent coaching and relationship skills.
When coaching people to coach children and adolescents, we explore what motivates the children, NOT so much the parents! To interact better with children, we strive to understand their family lives, their interests, personality, sports, hobbies and skills. We show that we care! Watching, listening and talking are more important than telling.
Coaching children is challenging and rewarding, whether the coaching is to improve sport, schoolwork, music or relationships. Some challenges of coaching children are:
- to treat each child as a person
- to avoid favoring children who have exceptional abilities
- to accept children who have attachment disorders or learning disabilities
A 1989 survey showed that children value the following
| 1. Improving their skills
2. Playing, using their skills
3. Good relationship with a coach
4. Being selected for a team
5. Competing and trying to win
| 6. Having exciting, close games
7. Being with friends
8. Wearing a correct uniform
9. Beating opponents
10. Receiving medals or trophies
You can coach children to improve their skills, change their beliefs, and develop their sense of identity. As children need adult models, good coaching can foster a sense of belonging and a base from which children deal with many life challenges. Children from chaotic family backgrounds can model a coach.
You can coach children to develop relationship and emotional intelligence, academic ability and effective thinking. You can coach children to practice and develop leadership, academic skills, decision-making and responsibility as well as adventures and fun. You can help create an environment in which children not only succeed but develop emotional maturity.
When parents ask us to coach their children … we usually insist on coaching the parents first! We often find that when the parents sort out their own issues … the children’s issues may seem to vanish or evaporate!
Other aspects of coaching children involve dealing with personal crisis (accidents or illness), family crisis (divorce, death or serious disease of the parents) and moving home (leaving friends).
Why don’t you …? Yes but …
Many children (and immature adults) will answer many of your questions with, “Yes – but …“. Avoid playing what we call Yes But ping pong, and explore and change their underlying habits.
Although much client abuse is between male coaches and female clients, if you coach children, there is a risk that you may be called a child abuser!
If you coach children or young adults, you may be wise to exaggerate
your professional relationship with slightly paranoid behavior, especially
if you are male. Ignoring this can result in heavy consequences.
Although helping professionals are rarely predators – some few have molested children. Insist that a parent stays ideally in or at least close to the coaching location when coaching their children.
You can offer a written policy that describes your definitions of sexual harassment and that includes that you will not involve yourself in non-coaching relationships with young clients. For example, you may commit that you:
- won’t buy presents for young clients
- won’t make phone calls to young clients
- won’t visit young clients without a parent present
You can educate clients about why these actions are inappropriate for a coach and your fear of being accused of child abuse. This can happen. Children who were previously sexually molested, for example, may believe this happens to every child … and expect it from you. Nobody else may have taken the time to explain appropriate relationship behavior.
Many coaches we have talked to express anger and embarrassment about this topic – and they avoid it. They know that they are good people – they feel so bad about child abuse that they may not discuss it.
We have met competent, ethical coaches who will not coach children nor teenagers –
they fear accusations that could destroy their reputation. Be professional and be cautious!
Avoid being alone with children, teenagers or child-like adults. Have a parent or another coach present at least most of the time. A spouse, a friend or another coach can eliminate your being alone with children … or with child-like adults.
Another difficult possibility is that a child prefers you to a parent. This can lead to one or both parents becoming upset with you because you are too good at building trusting relationships!
Emotionally unstable children, teenagers or immature adults may
make false accusations if they feel that you rejected or abandoned them!
- Avoid being alone in a car with a child or teenager.
- Avoid personal communications and keep copies of all letters or e-mails.
- Avoid transporting children except in emergency or unusual situations when a parent agrees.
- Avoid gifts … it’s better to ask parents whether about gifts, and give a gift to the parents and ask the parents give it to the child if they wish. Don’t give gifts to children directly.
- Be alert if a child shows particular fondness for you. If a child shows inappropriate interest in you, seems to want to hang around you or tells you how special you are, set boundaries and avoid spending more time with that child than you would with any other child.
- A child who is dependent and emotionally unstable may make a false accusation, if that child feels rejected. If a child says about you, ‘He/she did something to me,’ you may find yourself in very deep trouble!
Build trust, do good and maintain professional relationships!