A few months ago, an Australian reporter called me to ask what I thought about life coaching for kids. She said, “There is now a growing trend of parents taking their children to a life coach. Isn’t that ridiculous? I mean, putting such pressure on kids from such a young age to perform… I see that you offer life coaching for kids. What do you think about this trend?”
Apparently, this topic had been mentioned on one of the morning shows on TV and the reporter cleverly turned it into a debate. She started her article with “Children as young as five are being taken to ‘life coaches’ by concerned parents pushing their youngsters to get their little lives on track”, which immediately set a confrontational tone to the discussion.
The article was then syndicated to other papers and read by other media outlets, which got me on radio a couple of times, in another paper and nearly on TV (we shot the piece with actual clients of ours, but another channel beat “us” to air and it was never shown). The whole hullabaloo was fueled by the inflammatory tone of all those interviews along the way.
So really, do parents “send” their kids to life coaches? Is that a form of performance pressure from the parents? Is it good for the children to see a life coach? How old is old enough for kids coaching? What do they get out of it? Is this something you should consider for your own child?
Mother knows best
Every doctor knows that when a mother says something is wrong with her baby, then something is wrong. Mothers just know these things about their babies. Doctors who ignore this risk the baby’s health and possibly their job.
Similarly, parents (mothers and/or fathers, depending on the family situation) are the closest people to their kids and pick up when the vibes change. They are also aware of their kids’ circumstances and have the continuity of experience to notice where things seem to be headed.
The most common thing we hear from parents looking for kids coaching is “My son/daughter is struggling and I feel bad for them. They used to be so happy until <something changed> and I just want them to be happy again, but I can’t help them myself”.
Further discussion reveals that these parents try everything in their personal parenting arsenal for a long time before they look for help, that they care deeply for their children’s emotional wellbeing and that they feel helpless.
And that is good enough for me.
Who’s your daddy?
Parents do not actually “send” their kids to a life coach. They want to know about the program beforehand, keep up to date with progress and find out what they can do before, during and after the coaching to support their precious darling on their journey from misery to happiness and from struggle to empowerment.
They drive their kids to sessions, walk them to the door, shake our hand, exchange some words to set the scene, wait outside, come to the door, greet their child happily, ask about their feeling and how successful the session has been for them and then take them back home.
With the view that parents’ emotional skills are crucial for their kids (“Happy parents raise happy kids”, remember?), we always ask inquiring parents if they are sure it is their child who needs coaching. We gently offer parent coaching as an alternative, saying it would benefit the parents themselves and their entire family, not just the child in question.
We find that parents give this question serious consideration and take up parent coaching instead in some cases. Ultimately, those parents who stick to their choice of kids coaching believe they have good parenting skills and they need help with one particular child for some reason. They believe that once that child is back to “normal”, they can take over with confidence.
And that is good enough for me.
Setting them up for life
Our personal experience with young kids being brought in for coaching is that there are special circumstances. Ronit is a special education teacher as well as a life coach and the younger kids typically face some learning difficulty in their first years of school.
Given the choice between getting stuck on some learning difficulty, being labeled and ignored by your teachers and learning how to work around your problem and succeed, what would you choose?
Young children are extremely vulnerable, because their world is controlled by grownups. They grow up believing what they are told by these magnificent, all-knowing creatures around them and these beliefs stick for life. Getting rid of them and replacing them with more realistic beliefs at the age of 40 can be as painful as pulling teeth.
The son of Napoleon Hill (author of Think and Grow Rich) was born deaf. Napoleon Hill talked to him just like he would to anyone else and forced him to view himself as strong and capable. Eventually, his son used this confident position in life to succeed where many other deaf people would give up and blame their handicap.
So sorting things out at a young age is actually a pretty good idea, because it sets the kids up for the best life they can have, regardless of their circumstances. Social challenges, a misunderstood communication style, vision or hearing problems and many other problems can be identified and solved or circumvented, giving the young person years and years of happiness. When the child has unhealthy beliefs, like “Math is not my strong subject”, “Reading is too hard for me”, “I’m ugly/fat” or “Nobody wants to be my friend”, it is better to eliminate them early, before they grow deep roots.
And that is good enough for me.
What will people say?
Obviously, the press has an opinion about parents who give their kids the benefit of life coaching early in life. Despite quoting some people who have had a good outcome for their kids, there is always the fear others might think badly of these parents for not accepting their children as they are and for appearing to push them.
So again, I give you a choice. Would you rather see your child struggle, turn from a happy little bouncing bundle into a miserable mop, but keep your neighbors’ approval or would you move to a new neighborhood and take your child to a life coach if it meant they could be happy?
Reading this parenting blog is a good start. Attending a parenting course to acquire better skills is even better, but if a child of yours needs more help, I say the hell with the neighbors. I am taking my child to kids coaching.
Is that good enough for you?